What a good book! A real tasty read. I enjoyed it so much!
You know, the word exotic is looked down upon these days, in some quarters, as some kind of insult, but to this gal, brought up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the setting of this epic story was very exotic to me. I kept thinking that it had a Samoan feel to it and what the hell do I know about Samoan culture or anything at all, but I think it was the islands that did it.
So this is Ken Liu's first book. What a talent! His work puts me in mind of Guy Gavriel Kay's work. Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan etc... The Grace of Kings is the story of rebellion and upheaval, heroes and villains, gods behaving badly at times and of how being a good man or woman is far from a clear-cut thing.
Liu has created a fascinating world for us to travel through. There are not a lot of what I'd call fantasy-trappings. There are a few odd creatures, meddling gods and maybe a trick or two but that's about it. We follow the story of the two main characters, the heroes of the story, Kuni and Mata, who are heart-breakingly real with their flaws and uncertainties. Indeed, all the characters are multi-dimensional, even the ones that only appear for a few pages. And the women are as deftly drawn as the men. Just when you think you know how a character is going to react, they surprise you and there are damned fine reasons for them to do what they do.
This is also a story that poses different questions through the narrative. Is a tyrant really a tyrant? Does the hero always do heroic things and indeed are these heroic things only heroic depending on which side of the fence you're on? And even the most basic, what is right and what is wrong. I will admit to having to refer to the cast of characters provided by the author at the beginning of the book in order to keep who was who straight at times. Again, I shall plead my brain not being used to the sound and look of them. I referred to the map as well, and I will say that it's the one drawback of reading on an ereader. The inability to flip back and forth easily. But that's nothing to do with the wonderfulness of the book. :)
A luscious book. Intriguing. Fascinating. And while it's the first of the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy (oh, the story of the Dandelion is WONDERFUL!!) I didn't feel as if the story left anything untold by the time I got to the end but I can't wait to read the next one! :)
Ken Liu. Remember that name.