I just finished Ken Liu’s epic, The Grace of Kings. I have some thoughts and we’re gonna get kinda nerdy.
I will put a read more in where spoilers start.
The short version. This is a silkpunk gigantic beautiful creation. There is an excerpt here and I highly recommend checking it out.
What I enjoy about this novel is the scope. I have the deepest admiration for writers in whatever genre who can create these huge worlds and do it with a fine enough eye to not lose the reader but still maintain the beauty of a new world.
I love the prose. Love it. The ease of the language that is unfamiliar is really well done. One of the things I am a huge fan of is when an author an take language that is all their own creation and make it seamless within the narrative. This from the glossary is one of my favorite things:
-tika: suffix expressing endearment among family members.
This is not an easy book. There are a lot of things to keep track of and people who aren’t fans of lots of background and detail won’t be fans. There are histories, poems, social information. It is a lot.
Personally, I love that sort of thing so it is right up my alley.
Overall, it is an intense and a lovely read. Totally immersive, almost to the point of distraction for me, but still very enjoyable. I did take a few issues, but there are spoilers, so read further at your own peril.
So one of the issues I have with many narratives that are totally spun out of the author’s imagination is women. There are not that many women in this book and I was just disappointed.
When we meet Kuni’s wife Jia, my immediate impression is Manic Pixie Dream Girl like whoa. Who is also kinda magical. Hates her boring lady life, etc etc. I actually heaved a sigh and really hoped there would be more.
She exists to further Kuni.
The women in this book are lenses for the male characters just like in regular life. Get married, make babies, don’t fight in war, OMG WIMMINS IS FIGHTIN IN THE WAR- I just find that so tiring.
I guess it’s the same disappointment I have with a lot of books that take place in imaginary worlds because okay, you can make up fantastical animals and get all into that silkpunk tech, can’t’ we have more than one woman with a non regular world woman role?
We get one woman who through adopting the persona of a man survives. We’ve seen it. She’s always redeemed in some way by returning to womanhood and fucking a dude.
This is not a complaint specific to Ken’s work just one of those things that happens in a lot of not here type Earth (fantasy, horror etc) and it just makes me tired.
I think I bring some of the disappointment on myself. As a reader, I tend to get really hyped when I’m craving different different, but only get a taste of it.
I’ve probably said it a billion times, but can we do something else?
If these beautiful worlds and whole cultures can be created, do they have to mimic what we already have?
Other than that I do find The Grace of Kings to be gorgeous. The depth of the mythos and gods and the politics among the gods is superb.
I can feel the influences and see them in a very concrete way and that’s just gorgeous.
Overall, I will absolutely read more of his work. I do find it to be really lovely and well written in enough ways to satisfy my needs. I think there will be more of this story and I do hope there is some development in the women department because most of the important female characters have the potential for interest beyond how their lives or deaths further the plotlines of male characters.
Coming soon, I’ll review Daniel Jose Older’s Midnight Taxi Tango: A Bone Street Rumba Novel which I’m about halfway done with. Shortish answer- fuck yes. Goddamn I fuckin love this dude.
That’s it lovers. Exciting news this week. I’ll talk about reading at AWP with some stellar women, about Patreon and a few other things.
Also come check out a thing I posted up at Medium about going low key viralish and not getting paid.