I don’t know how I feel about this book. I’m giving it a four because I recognize it was well written, tons of detail, tons of world building, lots of history and lore and culture.
But I just didn’t connect to a single character which I find sort of problematic in a book of this length.
There were tons of interesting characters who I was getting excited about, but their entire life story was there and gone in a matter of pages, and that happens more than once. I feel like if it was more focused and organized I would have enjoyed this one a lot more. I actually put the book down for a bit and picked it back up with the audiobook since I love Michael Kramer. He did a really good job with it, and with the different voices it was easier for me to keep track of who was who. There are tons of characters in this book and many threads going at the same time.
Many people call this the Chinese Game of Thrones…. but honestly I don’t feel that way. I get the comparison, a civil war, lots of characters, lots of depth…. but I feel sucked into game of thrones not because of the plot so much, but because I love the characters and want to see more of them. I have gotten deeply attached to multiple characters in that book but didn’t find a single on in this one.
It takes about 1/4 – 1/3 of the book before you realize who the book is going to be about since there are so many characters coming and going at first. Kunni is one of the characters that really comes into focus and unfortunately I just didn’t care much for his story line or his wife. His wife was like “brooooo, get a second wife and shit” “UGH IM SO JEALOUS”. I really f’n hate love triangles, and this is one of the worst kinds for me. His wife is an herbalist and pretty smart, so I liked her at first, but her story line gets covered over with this multiple wife story line which would have been fine if it were done differently. It’s just annoying to read that someone is jealous when they were the one who pushed for the situation in the first place.
I did really like the politics in the book though, in that respect it was sort of like ASOIAF. There was a lot of warfare strategy, lots of advisers who are really back stabbers, within family fighting, old Houses fighting one another.
This world was pretty brutal and unforgiving, in the time of these emperors treason is considered a blood taint, and therefore if one person is guilty so is their whole family. Children, parents, aunts and uncles will all be put to death for one family members treason. There are lots of things like that, boys over 14 can be conscripted to work as slave labor, minor offenses can get you executed or put into slave labor for these huge infrastructure projects.
I really enjoyed the fact the gods are real, that adds so much to the depth of the world and the flow of the story.
The writing is very story-telling-esque which is what kept me going with this book, you feel sort of like someone is sitting there telling you a story – kind of like King Killer Chronicles… kind of.
Overall, I don’t regret reading the book, I don’t dislike it, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing on either.
Love triangles are a bugbear of mine too, although it’s usually the “Girl torn between Bad Boy & Nice Guy” variety (all too common in YA and Urban Fantasy) that rubs me the wrong way. The one you mentioned doesn’t sound like it would annoy me at all so it won’t put me off giving this book a chance.
i just have very little patience for people who put themselves into situations they dont like and then complain. ugghh
Many of the problems you mention with this book I have felt too. I wrote a review that is actually quite positive (https://jeroenthoughts.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/ken-liu-the-grace-of-kings-2015-review/) but thinking back on it, I definitely felt detached from it. I never had the desire to pick up the sequel.
Yeah it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that it hit me that I was reading for plot not characters. I don’t mind plot heavy books, but it’s weird for me to be so detached to the cast. I don’t even know why, it’s not like Kunni was a bad character, and you got to see his POV enough to be attached, I just didn’t. I will still rec this book where it applies though, I get why I see 5 stars for it just wasn’t totally my bag.
I’m struggling through this book for some of the very same reasons you have. It seemed like watching a very romanticized play–I think this is the style Liu was going for, a more distant style that allows you to see the plot from afar. I’m going to give this another shot with this in mind. The world and surroundings are totally my thing, and apparently the sequel improves a bit on the women and characterizations, so I really don’t want to miss out on that.
I may eventually pick up the second book, or I may just try another from Ken Liu. I do think the romanticized play was intentional and it worked pretty well to get me to keep reading, it sped me along nicely.