Book Review – The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The blurb says:

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.

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.

The fact that this is a fantasy based on Chinese history and legends reminded me of Long Price Quartet, but there really isn’t that much similarity.

For a long time in this book I wondered who the main character was, because there are a lot of point-of view characters.  Sometimes new points of view are added, often they die and sometimes this all happens in the same chapter.  After a good portion of the book I concluded that there was no main character and that this was more of a concept book than a character book.  Then later in the book the points of view got fewer and it became clear that there were two main characters and then it came down to one.  I don’t really mind the author playing with the points of view etc. but I don’t think the book was helped by it being unclear what kind of story it was.

Along with the large number of points-of-view, the many unfamiliar names made it difficult at times to know what was going on.

Somewhere in the middle of the book when I had concluded that this was a concept book, I thought I’d figured out what the concept was.  Then when at the end of the book it became clear that this was a more conventional story about the one character it was a bit of a letdown because the concept ending I’d imagined was better.

Speaking of the ending, although a huge amount of stuff happens in the book and everything is wrapped up pretty neatly, it did leave the door open for the rest of the books in the series, which made wonder anew as to what the arc of the story is supposed to be.