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The King's Last Song

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  312 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews

“Sweeping and beautiful. . . . The complex story tears the veil from a hidden world.”—The Sunday Times

“Inordinately readable . . . extraordinary in its detail, color and brutality.”—The Independent

“Another masterpiece by one of the greatest fiction writers of our time.”—Kim Stanley Robinson

Archeologist Luc Andrade discovers an ancient Cambodian manuscript inscribed on g

Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Small Beer Press (first published January 3rd 2007)
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Apr 12, 2009 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favourites
I've only ever written (e-mailed) three fan letters, and they've all been to fantasy writers. My husband says he always wants to meet people he admires, because he has this fantasy that he'll be able to come up with something witty and brilliant to say that will impress them and make him memorable. The only time I've ever handed an author I loved a book to be autographed, I just stood there beaming like a slightly backward three-year-old after one too many trips to the sundae bar until she clear ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
The King's Last Song tells two parallel stories, the first set predominantly in 2004 (with flashbacks to the 60s and 80s) around a great find at an archeological dig at Angkor Wat: a book of golden leaves, a hundred and fifty-five leaves of gold inscribed with the personal story and history of one of Cambodia's greatest kings: Jayavarman VII, a Buddhist who brought the Path to all levels of Cambodian society, built great temples and other structures, and treated the lowliest of categories (caste ...more
Sep 05, 2008 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The King's Last Song at first blush looks like another entry in the "Da Vinci Code" genre: protagonists make important historical find, setting off contest between those who wish to expose it, and those who wish to hide it. But the book really brings home the tragedy of modern Cambodia by contrasting it with its ancient history - I found it moving and beautifully written
Zen Cho
Jun 07, 2008 Zen Cho rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mainstream, asia
Good book. Annoyed by Jayavarman's several wives -- I know, I know, historical fact and all that, but the imbalance of this sort of thing always annoys me. Liked Map.
Feb 21, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Geoff Ryman is a fantastic writer and this book is no exception. I am loving it.
Mar 15, 2017 Concertgebouw93 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un intreccio di tre storie, ambientate una nel 2004, una durante il perido dei Khmer Rossi e quella di Jayavarman VII, il re a cui si devono molti degli edifici di Angkor e la diffusione del buddhismo.
Colta nel segno la descrizione dei Cambogiani
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 06, 2008 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
I loved this novel.

In this novel, Geoff Ryman moves between the 12th century life and times of Cambodia’s King Jayavarman VII (c 1120 – c1215) and the 20th century lives of Luc, Map and William.
When archaeologists discover an ancient book written on gold leaves at Angkor Wat, everyone wants to be involved.

‘The gold leaves have slept for a thousand years.’

The precious artefact is stolen and its guardian, Professor Luc Andrade is kidnapped with it. The search for Luc and the precious book brings
Sep 12, 2011 Natasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took a couple of chapters to get used to the writing style in this book. There are two parallel story lines told here, one of Map and William in modern Cambodia (in the 90's anyway), and one of Jayavarman VII and his wives in the 12th century. The story of Jayavarman is loosely based on the bas-reliefs found in temples, it is sometimes fairy-tale like, sometimes disjointed, but pretty interesting none-the-less. I think the story of Map really is the heart of this novel . He, more than any oth ...more
This is a double book, both taking place in Cambodia. The main one deals with Jayavarman, king on the XIIth century. The supporting one (though it could be accepted it is the opposite way round, but that is my own view) presents Cambodia as it enters the XXIst century, after the horrors of the previous century.

I find the present better handled than the past, as the style and language are not different enough from the present, and some concerns are also quite modern.

The background is superb, as
Kim Fay
Oct 30, 2010 Kim Fay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to save this book to read until I finished writing my own novel about the Cambodian temples---I was afraid of being influenced. Wow! What a great book about Cambodia. The story travels back and forth between the modern day (2004) and the reign of King Jayavarman VII. The connecting link is the king's diary, written then, discoveredd now. But what struck me about this book is the author's imagination. I have read much about ancient Cambodia, and Ryman has put all of the many fragmented piec ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Charlyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So a couple of days ago I started reading this 400+ pages novel that I purchased In Siem Reap Cambodia. It is a story that weaves 2 separate timeliness simultaneously, one set in 1100+ AD during the time of the Jayavarman the Khmer Universal King, and the other set in modern times with the effects of the Khmer Rouge shadowing it. Surprisingly it was a hard book to read, having being transported back and forth from the different timelines. However, I can appreciate how everything ties in together ...more
Solid 3.5 stars for me. I bogged a bit about 3/4 through otherwise would have been a 4 or 4.5 star.

Two stories, once set in the 1100's and one in the early 2000's in Cambodia. Many parallels although the two stories are quite different. I did like the linkages between the two stories and how history does (perhaps especially in the case of Cambodia) repeat itself.

I liked how slowly characters were revealed and we got a much better understanding of them.

Quite good and would recommend to my friend
Lorina Stephens
Apr 22, 2010 Lorina Stephens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ryman's novel, The King's Last Song has to be one of the best novels I've read in some time. Beautiful, spare language married to skilled character development and impeccable historical research all converge in a tragic, desperate telling of Cambodia's ancient and modern history. Here is an author, and a novel, worthy of awards, proof that small presses throughout the world are publishing jewels overlooked by the giants. And this novel certainly is a jewel. If you haven't read The King's Last So ...more
Sep 30, 2013 Travis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book! I picked it up from a kid on the street in Angkor Wat. It had everything in a book I want. The book is two stories. One: A adventure involving a stolen golden book. 2nd: The story of King Jayavarman VII, the Buddhist ruler who united Cambodia in the 12th century.

Despite the backdrop this book just lagged and lagged... It took a real effort to finish this book...
Mar 04, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
an interesting dual timeline story. I do not know much history of Cambodia other than the headline-grabbing pieces. I did visit the Siep Reap/Angkor area in 2003 so I have that visual in my head. I enjoyed the stories, it would have helped me locate the action if the book had contained some geographical maps of the SE Asia of Jayavarman VII's time & the Cambodia of today. Some timelines might also have helped me stay focussed. I relied on my guidebooks for much factual information.
Oct 14, 2010 Jafar rated it really liked it
This was a very good novel for a book and an author that I didn’t know what to expect from. In one half of the story you get a glimpse into the history of Cambodia around the time when Angkor Wat was built. The other half deals with the contemporary Cambodia and its recent brush with the genocidal Khmer Rouge. The writing is not the best, but the great plot and the background insight into Cambodia that it provides make up for it.
Steve Woods
I really enjoyed this story. Life was given to the mysterious character of Jayavarman VI, a man who is essentially still much a mystery. Lots of artistic license, but also much of the sense of what Cambodia is and the way Cambodians often think and behave is captured here. Part of my enjoyment no doubt comes from the considerable time I have spent there myself and the time and favour I feel happy to give to Cambodians. A great yarn.
Aug 27, 2008 Jillian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jillian by: H.N.
The writing style of this book is very nonoriginal - after reading lots of nifty creative brilliant books it is kind of an intellectual downer. The plot is good though. It was especially cool to read this book after having visited Angkor Wat - I could picture a lot of the scenes that occurred in ancient and modern Cambodia with striking clarity. I'm not sure if it's really worth reading if one lacks an emotional tie to the region though.
Oct 03, 2010 Jenne rated it really liked it
This was pretty amazing. Not at all the kind of thing I usually read but I loved his other books so I picked this one up despite the lack of sciencefictional elements.
Half of it takes place in modern-day Cambodia, and half is about 800 years ago. I really didn't know much about Cambodia before, so it was cool to learn a bit about it. Also, his writing as usual is evocative and compassionate. I definitely recommend!
Feb 14, 2009 Rhiannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, historical
Tells a fictionalized story of King Jayavarman VII of Cambodia, and about an archaeologist who discovers a gold book that tells Jayavarman's story, and is subsequently kidnapped with his find. His friends Map, an ex-Khmer Rouge, and William, a boy who grew up after the Pol Pot era, set out to find him.

Really nicely done - manages to convey a great amount about Cambodian history by focusing on some compelling characters who have lived through different parts of it.
This brilliantly written novel portrays two Cambodias, separated by 800 years, but in fact barely different. It is a sobering look at what unifies or breaks up a country, how and why people go to war, and what happens when greedy self-servers are in power. For South East Asia or Cambodia lovers, this is a must-read. For others, this is a discovery into South East Asia... its fragilities, its beauties.
May 19, 2016 Louisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two stories, one of Cambodia in current times as seen through the eyes of a motodop driver, and the other story that plays during the time of Angkor Wat and King Jayavarman, are connected when an ancient book is found, written on leaves of gold. The King's Last Song gives an interesting view into the Khmer culture and lives of Cambodians now and in the past. I loved reading this.
May 12, 2014 Mawgojzeta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What a wonderful book! Such rich characters. One of the things I liked very much is after the story ends, the author writes about how he put it together, where he deviated from known history, why he made the choices he made, and even where his limitations were. This will move to the top of my list as a favorite.
Lindsay Jovanovich
Anyone interested in Cambodia should give this a read. The novel is fictional, but it gives you a taste of both Cambodia's ancient history (the time period when Angkor Wat was built), the time period when the Khmer Rouge was in power, and the current state of the country. Ryman has obviously spent a lot of time in Cambodia and understands the culture and people.
Joel A.
Jul 26, 2011 Joel A. rated it really liked it
everything Ryman does I love, so no surprise here. Fascinating historical and modern political fiction. Good quote: "Books grow out of people, and if you have the people first, the books will trail after them."
Feb 17, 2014 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-fiction, 1
I reread this book, which I don't often do, but it provides very interesting perspectives on several different time periods in Kampuchea/Cambodia. For travellers to the region it's especially interesting. It's frequently brutal, which is inevitable.
Feb 02, 2015 Diane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to love this book as much as I loved Cambodia and the magic of Angkor. And I did enjoy some very evocative passages. But I struggled so much with the structure, and to some extent, the language as well. It's not that this is a 2 star book, it's just that it was a 2 star read for me.
Linda Slonksnes
May 21, 2014 Linda Slonksnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good mix of historic fiction and modern day fiction giving some background on Cambodia. Good story! Great characters! Occasionally long in parts, but worth it.
Jane Routley
Aug 12, 2013 Jane Routley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bought this in Cambodia and dicovered only later that it was a pirate copy. A great story though. Ryman always visits the less travelled roads in writing and I love him for it.
Dec 03, 2009 Pratima rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in Cambodia, parallel narratives set in 13th century Cambodia, and post Cambodia war. Beautifully written, poignant and evocative.
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Geoffrey Charles Ryman (born 1951) is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and slipstream fiction. He was born in Canada, and has lived most of his life in England.

His science fiction and fantasy works include The Warrior Who Carried Life (1985), the novella The Unconquered Country (1986) (winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the World Fantasy Award), and The Child Garden (1989) (winner
More about Geoff Ryman...

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“William has learned in his bones that survival takes the form of other people. They must know you, and for that to happen you must know them. Speak with them, charm them, and remember them.” 1 likes
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