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The Grace of Kings (1) (The Dandelion Dynasty) Paperback – August 9, 2016
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Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. Hailed as one of the best books of 2015 by NPR.
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.
Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.
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"Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings — a magnificent fantasy epic. Liu is building a dynasty." -- Amal El-Mohtar ― NPR Books
"The Grace of Kings is an ambitious, astonishing, and sublime work, one that both exemplifies and diverges from what one might think of when it comes to epic fantasy. It should rank amongst the genre's best works." -- Andrew Liptak ― io9
"Told in Liu’s graceful, intelligent, and literate prose, the novel is a sumptuous Epic feast." -- Rob Bedford ― SFF World
"The epic fantasy genre can only be enriched by more novels drawing from non-Western traditions. Liu’s ambitious work expertly blends mythology, history, military tactics, and technological innovation (airships and submarines). " ― Kirkus Reviews
"The Grace of Kings is a fantasy, with petty meddling gods, odd mechanized inventions, and a sense that mystical powers lurk around the corner. It is nothing if not epic." -- Justin Landon ― Tor.com
"Liu’s combination of elements from China, Polynesia and beyond, told in an epic style, is the kind of Silk Road Fantasy that I’ve always wanted to read, and love all the more now that I have." -- Paul Weimer ― SF Signal
"The Grace of Kings is grand, mythic and epic, but Liu’s “silk-punk” world of trickster gods and giant horned whales is also a delight." ― Relentless Reading
About the Author
- Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press; Reprint edition (August 9, 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 656 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1481424289
- ISBN-13 : 978-1481424288
- Item Weight : 1.25 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #83,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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I found better political fantasy writing from K.J. Parker ("Devices and Desires", "The Folding Knife", and others).
I found more enthralling fantasy set in a Chinese millieu from Guy Gavriel Kay ("River of Stars", "Under Heaven")
Instead, I downloaded it to my Kindle and read most of it on the plane home. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the second book in the series before I finished reading the first.
This is an epic novel / series, worthy of mention along with Lord of the Rings, the Dune sagas, and Game of Thrones. The world is so imaginative, yet so seemingly familiar to anyone that likes a tale of Asia. The huge cast of characters are all drawn as unique individuals, recognizable enough that you don’t even need the “Kuni said” or ‘Mata replied” to know who is talking.
As a woman, I appreciate that our side of the story is told with the care and emotional depth one generally expects from women authors. Oh, and yay for realism, understanding, and for a really nice change a world where different sexual orientations are celebrated, not reviled.
I can’t wait for the next one to come out.
I don't want to diminish my praise by giving myself qualifiers, but as an Asian American and fan of sweeping epics, science fiction and fantasy, I am so appreciative of this book. The story felt familiar and close to home, but also so imaginative and new. I am so happy to have this in my collection.
I bought this after stumbling upon Ken Liu's collection of short stories, Paper Menagerie. I saw some elements from those stories here and was delighted. I was a fan after the short stories. After Grace of Kings, Ken Liu is nearing the top of my list of favorite authors.
And he does—and not just in plot or setting. For better or worse, The Grace of Kings upends epic fantasy expectations with pacing and tone too—the book reads more like a collection of fables, or a (recorded) oral history, than a typical novel. Light-hearted, spanning many years, featuring characters a little too extreme to be believed, one almost feels the tale comes with the mythological veneer of a second-or third-hand telling, something passed down rather than spun fresh from the author’s brain.
The pacing and scope stand out most in this book. Where we usually expect just one beginning, middle and end, and the deep insight into character that only fiction offers, Liu gives us many characters in light detail, and a story that spans many years and climaxes of action. Economy of words shouldn’t be surprising from an author of so many (wonderful) short stories—it’s second nature to such authors (see Mary Robinette Kowal). But Liu declines the opportunity of a longer word count to get deeper into his character’s heads, opting instead for a sort of saga of sketches, an epic of vignettes that together form a broader tale than we expect from a single novel (really, the characters and plots would be fodder for a trilogy from most authors).
That’s not to say Liu’s debut novel is without depth. Though the characters are sketched rather than illustrated in great detail...read the full review (and more!) at topnewfantasy.com
Top reviews from other countries
Let’s start with saying that I undeniably enjoyed it. With a background drawn from Eastern history rather than European it gave it a different feel and a freshness that worked well.
The story itself is a group of lands, islands, think Japan and the warlords vying to rule them. Each land has traditionally been ruled by a king, but things have changed, one has risen who would call himself Emperor and despite his conquest of the lands there are those who would see him fall. In some ways the book is a study of what it is to rule, to desire to do something good and how what one may perceive as good another may see as tyrannical.
In that context there is a lot of good material as we see men forced into positions they did not expect, men climbing social ladders in a way that they would have seen impossible at the start; there are loves, compromises, friendships and broken hearts. It is a fast paced read that is very different to anything else that I have read recently in the fantasy genre, all of which stand it in good stead to be something really special, and yet…
A long time ago now author Janny Wurts produced a novel called Master of Whitestorm. It had all the trademarks of an epic fantasy, but it was all about the main character, so when there was a long journey the book cut it out. This made it fast paced but it felt somehow lighter, and this is the case with Grace of Kings.
It feels light, as though a lot of the stuffing has been pulled from it. We see years fly by throughout the novel, and it does not feel like it. All the hard work put into world building and character building seems to be shortchanged by the fact it feels as though it happens so fast.
Liu jumps from event to event, telling some epic stories, but there is much of the detail missing of what happens in between, and for me this is where the novel is let down. It feels odd to say this about a book of 500+ pages, but there should have been a lot more of it. I want to feel the land suffer as the lord’s war over it, rather than skim the surface of a wondrously thought out lake and not see what lurks in the depths.
There is so much to recommend this book, but in the end it felt as though it were a casual easy read, something that will be enjoyable from the moment you pick up the book until you turn the last page, before being forgotten like a dandelion on a breeze, and that is what will stop it becoming a great of a genre.
(It might however trigger more work based on Eastern history, and that would be more than welcome.)
The Grace of Kings really is a work of epic proportions. A story of rebellion and war, victory and defeat, friend and foe and ultimately an incredibly poignant and sometimes sad look at friendships. The story is dripping with issues of trust, deceit and betrayal whilst also telling some incredibly moving stories of love and loyalty.
I’ve only read one of Liu’s short stories before The Grace of Kings and on the strength of that was keen to read this and, yes, it is a book that takes time to read but it's also a book that is definitely worth the time.
The main thrust of the story revolves around an uprising of the common people, driven to despair by despot rulers and seeking fairer rule. At least on the face of it that’s what I would say this is about. Of course, war very often has little to do with the common people and that is certainly the case here – even though very many of them will lose their lives fighting most of them could just as easily be on one side as the other, and, as the book itself acknowledges, perhaps the people with the differences should get together and fight it out between themselves! Anyway, getting away from the main point.
The story revolves around two rebel leaders, Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu. Kuni and Mata are completely different characters in virtually every respect and yet, in spite of their differences, they become firm friends and indeed after a number of serious encounters where they succeed against the odds they declare themselves brothers. If only everything was that simple.
There are a lot more characters in the story and I’m not going to elaborate on them all but give a snapshot of the ones I found most interesting. We have a bunch of interfering Gods who seem to be playing their own games and frequently appear in disguise amongst the mortals to either dispense words of wisdom or cause confusion. We have a number of women who play important roles in Kuni’s life. His first wife Jia. You could say that Jia sets Kuni off on his path to rebellion by giving him a strange herbal concoction that gives him a certain zest for life, they have a strong bond although it is going to be severely tested. We have the Lady Risana who seems to be something of an illusionist – a very intriguing woman and I was fascinated by her background. Soto, who spends time as Jia’s housekeeper and has her own secret past and, my absolute favourite, Gin Mazoti. I’m not going to give anything away about Gin other than to say I loved this particular episode of the story and was absolutely captivated by her tale and loved what Liu managed to achieve with her. A very compelling person to read about and a serious contender to steal the show! Of course Gin’s particular element of the tale comes into force at a very interesting time when inventions and battles are becoming more and more creative. The two main characters actually have a quite sad story arc and definitely bring to mind the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’.
I really admire the strength of writing. There is such a lot going on here. Many and varied characters, political maneuvering, sly intrigue, a wealth of background and history and multiple battle scenes. Now, I can’t deny it, this isn’t a quick read but I think to race through this would be such a waste as there is such a lot to take on and consider.
The fantasy here is subtle. Nobody is wielding firework type magic and dragons are not swooping out of the sky causing mayhem. We have, of course, the meddling deities. On top of this we have a wealth of wonderful creations and we have some huge and spectacular creatures.
This is a wonderfully complex tale that is practically brimming over with plot and counter plot. Very intelligent, very thought provoking, very emotional. I could say so very much more but I’m afraid of giving things away so I’m going to leave it there.
If you’re interested in a book that almost reads like a period of Chinese history but with inventions, gods and other slightly fantastical things thrown in then this could be just what you’re looking for. I will definitely look forward to the next instalment.
I received a copy courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
I normally avoid unfinished 'epic' sagas, as I have been burned by investing huge amounts of time the never ending Robert Jordan saga and several others that either never finish or become lousy. Happily this book, the first in a series, reaches a satisfactory conclusion and stands as wonderful tale in its own right.
Alas, the product disappointed. The setting lacked depth – none of the places he describes conjured any images in my mind. The characters felt like two-dimensional archetypes rather than as people. There’s the clever and morally flexible rogue, the noble but politically short-sighted warrior, the absolutist emperor, the violent brigand. All of them pursue their plotlines with all the spontaneity of clockwork, cuckooing their predictable dialogue on the hour. If the author had attended to the character development as much as he had to describing the different ways people would sit together, depending on their relative statuses and degrees of formality, it would have been entirely welcome.
I’d also have liked to see more and stronger women characters – even within the social constraints of a pseudo-historical China setting, they female roles felt neglected.
As with some of the other reviewers, I think Guy Gavriel Kay does it better in ‘Under Heaven’ and ‘River of Stars’.