Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu

Three Stars

“A bright, tenacious flower will not bloom in obscurity.”

Both the book and the author demonstrate the potential for greatness, as reflected by its winning several notable awards. However, despite being over six hundred pages, it feels rushed. Liu tries to create a world and fully develop all the players in a major turning point of history. He almost succeeds.

“All the works of men must be trivial in the fullness of time.”

Medieval culture on cusp of industrial revolution, geography like Japan though the culture seems more Chinese, I’ve heard it called silkpunk. As in Homer, the gods exist but don’t directly act. They meddle as forces of nature and impersonations of common people.

“Understanding nature is as close as man can get to understanding the gods.”

The underlying thesis is that conflicting views of reality, values, and perceptions lead inevitably to conflicts. Common enemies may produce common goals, but even those you love are subject to your misunderstanding their aims and motives.

“Actions may be interpreted multiple ways. And it is how they’re seen that matter, not what was intended.”

Liu is a competent storyteller, but my having to take three runs at this tome before finishing it indicates his works doesn’t draw the reader in. His culture feels fully developed–the book bears an epigram a page–but squeezed in.

“Do you always think the worst …?” “It’s the prudent thing to do.”

The tone is both cynical and romantic. Liu’s cast reject the norms of their culture, yet still yearn for peace, prosperity and happiness.

“For every pain we endure together, there will be a joy twice as great.”

Hard to believe there’s to be another volume of this. Oh, yes, he sowed the seeds of future conflict even as he buried most of his current cast. I’ll pass.

“The grace of kings is not the same as the morals governing individuals.”