Top critical review
Superb worldbuilding, but I didn't grow attached to the characters.
Reviewed in the United States on October 22, 2017
This is the second book in Ken Liu's epic fantasy series, "The Dandelion Dynasty." Like the first book, it is ambitious, imaginative, and original. There are wonderful, dramatic, epic events, particularly in the second half. The worldbuilding is superb. There are strong female characters, and discussions about the options open to women and to the poor. There are lengthy expository sections, but they are not clumsily expository, rather they are joyously expository, communicating a delight in technology that I associate much more with science fiction than with fantasy. (Nonetheless, this is unmistakably fantasy, not least because the large cast of characters includes gods.)
Thanks to these strengths, I read the first half of this book with interest, and read the second half with enjoyment. Had I liked the characters half as much as I liked the plot and the worldbuilding, I would have loved this wholeheartedly. But the alchemy that makes characters likable, an alchemy that depends not just on what the author has written but also on the reader's biases and preferences, failed for me. There are several characters--Zomi, Thera, Vadyu--whom I felt that I ought to have liked, that I was meant to have liked, and yet that I failed to like. I didn't dislike them, but an absence of dislike is not the same as fondness. With the exception of Luan Zya, I didn't grow attached to any of the main characters.
As a minor quibble, I noticed several incidences where information was pointedly withheld from the reader, a technique that I find irritating rather than suspenseful. It is, however, a well-established technique, and practiced by some of my favorite authors, such as Guy Gavriel Kay.
In conclusion, I'm glad that I read "The Wall of Storms," even though I didn't warm to its characters.