Ken Liu is one of the major names in modern short science fiction, and I’m a big fan. When I heard he had a novel out I jumped at the chance to buy it–only to be disappointed when I found out it was a fantasy novel instead of sci fi. But I got it anyway, and I’m glad I did.
The Grace of Kings is not your average fantasy novel. It feels almost like an alternate history novel, a realistic alternate world, with very few unexplainable happenings. That a pantheon of different gods and goddesses take part in the story does very little to detract from the realistic feel of it, and adds a lot to the charm and culture of the world Liu has created.
This is a large scale story that takes place over many years, with many characters and many places. Yet all of the characters and places, despite their number, manage to remain vivid and full and memorable.
One thing I really enjoyed, and what sort of seemed to be a theme in the novel, is the misinterpretation of intentions, and the importance of perceptions throughout the story. We get to see two opposing characters, both wanting to work together, but both misinterpreting the other so often that it becomes impossible.
The number of different opinions and ways of doing things between the characters in this novel makes the world feel real, even despite the mythical way the story is told.
If you are a fan of intrigue and politics and characters in stories like the Song of Fire and Ice series, but not so much a fan of the brutality of it, then you might enjoy this novel. If you enjoy stories with a historical feel to them–the stuff of legends, then you might enjoy this as well. If you just like plain good storytelling, you’ll like it to.
I’m a fan and hope to see more in the series soon–but Mr. Liu, please write a sci fi novel next!