There is no secret to my readers that I am an epic fantasy junky but I also have an appreciation for classical cultures, particularly those of ancient China. I always wondered to myself, I wish an author could encapsulate the histories, traditions, religions, and family values of China and bring this to the fantasy genre. I have discovered the answer in Ken Liu as he has truly written a beautiful piece of literature in his epic fantasy debut The Grace of Kings. Written in 2015, Ken Liu has given epic fantasy a much-needed breath of fresh air and a novel that will expand the genre for years to come!
This novel follows several POV characters but primarily the story lines of Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu. The story takes place on the islands of Dara which were once divided into seven kingdoms. Each kingdom contains their own shifting alliances as well as diverse dialects and cultures. When the kingdoms are untied under a relentless king, people though the empire would be brought to peace and prosperity. Instead, the empire brought stagnation and suffering, the anger of the gods and a rebellion.
Kuni Garu is a wily bandit who is more concerned with how he is perceived by others than his affairs in the empire. This is all before he meets is wife Jia. Jia is a free-spirited daughter of a well respected family and she sees great things on the horizon for Kuni. Driven by Jia, Kuni sets out on a unlikely path to heroism and his goals may cause quiet a stir among the gods. Mata Zyndu, the last child of a family of generals, is favored by the gods in all respects. Standing over seven feet tall and with the family trait of being double-pupiled, Mata looks to be a hero out of ancient legends. Mata is determined to reclaim his stolen heritage and when he hears of a revolution, his journey begins to become Dara’s greatest warrior. Kuni and Mata meet up to become friends and plan to wage separate wars against the empire to win the rebellion.
Ken Liu takes you on a magical ride that you will not want to end. The world-building is very vast and epic that it will take the reader some time to understand, but it just adds layer upon layer to the legend of Dara. As you can probably tell the gods play a big role in this world, bickering amongst themselves on who to support, when, and how. Its very interesting how Ken Liu uses signs from the gods or omens throughout the story and it was something different he brought to the story. Ken Liu has described his debut fantasy novel as silk-punk, introducing kite-fighters, Asian inspired combat techniques, and even airships for the fun of it.
Each chapter flows to the next with never-ending excitement and anticipation. With book 3 The Veiled Throne set to be released next year, now is the time to be swept up in a world that will grab hold of you and not let go for some time. Ken Liu blew me away with his creativity, inspiration, history, and philosophy that shines bright in The Grace of Kings. I can’t wait for book 3 and for new readers to experience the joy of discovering this masterpiece in the making. Congratulations Ken Liu and I hope to read your stories for years to come!