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The King's Last Song

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  398 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In the shadow of Angkor Wat archaeologists make an astonishing discovery: the memoir of Cambodia's greatest king, preserved on leaves of gold for centuries. When the treasure is stolen, two ordinary Cambodians, a young moto-boy and a middle-aged ex-Khmer Rouge, join forces to recover it. But the spectre of Cambodia's violent past threatens both their fragile relationship a ...more
Paperback, 434 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Not Avail
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  398 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Apr 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Geoff Ryman is a fantastic writer and this book is no exception. I am loving it.
Zen Cho
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, mainstream
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. ...more
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
On this second reading of this fine book, I was even more impressed how the author made history a story of individual lives - both royal and commoner. Set in both 21 century and 12th century Cambodia, dual tales of the builder of Angkor Watt and war- and war-impacted modern day soldier, bike driver, and archaeologist. I find few works of historical fiction about this very interesting part of the world and for anyone thinking of visiting Cambodia, this is truly a must read. Violent and earthy, ye ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I didn't think I'd love this book as much as I did, but it was moving, engaging, entertaining, and historical. I laughed aloud and even cried. A great read.

I read it while traveling in Myanmar and Loas, and while this story takes place in Cambodia, I was able to visualize the setting perfectly bases on my surroundings. The perfect book at the perfect time!
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long while since I've read a book that has become a favorite. I am saddened not to have heard of this book until now, and I am grateful and happy that the country which this book is about carried this title. Sometimes, you find books at the right place and at the right time.

The book, a historical fiction, jumps from the 12th century, during the time of Jayavarman, to the reign of Khmer Rouge, and to the present, when an archaeologist supposedly finds wrapped gold leaves with inscript
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was gifted to me by a friend who knew I was making a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam later this year. The author wrote about the years of turmoil, war and deprivation. The book is historical fiction and the author did portray the struggles and extreme brutality of the times. There was great information on the construction of many of the temples including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, Peak Nean and many more I will be visiting as well as noting how and why these same places suffered massive ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
ISpotted this in the airport at Siem Reap and thought it would be a perfect end to my vacation in Cambodia. I wanted to like this more than I did. I preferred the modern story - found the historical story so boring that every time I reached the end of a modern chapter I would stop reading because I dreaded the historical part. Very disappointing.
Michael Heath-Caldwell
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written book dealing with the aftermath of Cambodia's crazy long civil wars and the people from the various sides of it ending up having to get along and work together. ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 31, 2009 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Lorina Stephens
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jillian by: Heather James
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. ...more
Feb 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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.
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Oct 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Steve Woods
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
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...
Lindsay Jovanovich
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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. ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Joel Nichols
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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." ...more
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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

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