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The Grass King's Concubine

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  131 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Kari Sperring's first novel was a finalist for the Crawford Award, a Tiptree Award Honor Book, a LOCUS Recommended First Novel, and the winner of the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer. Now she returns to the same amazing and atmospheric world with an entirely new story set several hundred years after the earth-shaking events of Living With Ghosts.

When a wealthy youn
Paperback, 496 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by DAW
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Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am used to fantasy novels and Regency romances that star wealthy nobles and royals who have tragic pasts and presents and yet still, are afforded a great deal of respect by virture of their fortunate birth. And no one ever ponders where the money for noble Lord So&So's splendid balls, or feisty orphan Lady Such&Such's swashbuckling tour of the world, comes from. This book takes that subject head on, and delves even deeper, from a glittering steampunky world teetering on revolution into ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. This was an interesting story, with a world undergoing an industrial revolution, with all the attendant problems of pollution, abuse of workers, workers agitating for some respect and rights, an oblivious upper class, a young woman (Aude) from the upper class who doesn't conform to its expectations and who has a relationship with a guardsman (Jehan), who works for the rich. There is also a magical world that intersects with this world, but in a minimal way, into which the young woman, ...more
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This is a rather wonderful book. The heroine, Aude, rebelling against the arranged marriage prepared for her by her uncle, goes on a journey to seek her origins and a magical world (WorldBelow) that no-one in her own world quite believes in any more. Aude is a convincing and likeable character, fierce and honest; her companion, the guard Jehan, is subtly drawn, a decent and courageous man obliged to defend the elite of a decadent and unjust state and forced to choose between obedience and his co ...more
Joshua Palmatier
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it
I received an ARC of this book, which is why I can post about it before it's even been released. This book will hit the shelves on August 7th, 2012. You should preorder your copy today.

The Grass King's Concubine is Kari Sperring's second book and while it is NOT a sequel to her first, Living With Ghosts, it is set in the same world. However, this book is nothing like her first. It has some dark themes, but the overall atmosphere of The Grass King's Concubine is much lighter and the characters, i
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Aude, as a young girl, saw fairies dancing under a bush. She spends years covertly searching for them in her mundane life. Then, as an adult, she runs away with a guard from an industrial textile mill owned by her family. Travelling across the steppe with her new husband, she is kidnapped by -- not faeries, exactly.

It would be fair to call those sentences from completely unrelated novels; if I've made them sound like a smooth progression, I've done them an injustice. This book is what people cal
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
a final verdict: a gorgeous, lush, unhurried book, a darker fairytale that manages to avoid both being overwrought and drowning in edginess, populated with relatable, fascinating and lovely characters, both human and unhuman.

aude, the dissatisfied rich heiress, sets out to find the origins of her privilege and finds way, way more than she bargained for (i take back her alt!england origins, by the way, the worldbuilding is more interesting than i presumed). aude is determined and sheltered but
Katharine Kerr
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptionally well-written fantasy that offers something different from the usual themes and characters. Sperring's heroine, Aude, comes from the upper class of a society based on a sharp division between the rich and the poor. When her awakening social conscience drives her to discover the source of her family's wealth, she finds herself trapped in a strange and magic land, the WorldBelow. While her husband desperately searches for her, Aude must find the answers she seeks or stay tr ...more
Aug 14, 2012 marked it as to-read
So, when I saw "The.." I was like, uh-huh. And then "Grass..." And then I was like, uh, okay, grass. And then I saw "King.." and I was like, oooh, Medieval? And then I saw "concubine" and I was like, ahkodfajh;lfsdjflajfjassjfda I love the title omgggg. It just makes a want-to-read-er itch with curiosity. It looks really cool. I want to read.
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a book with several narrative strands: one in the present, where Aude, born to wealth, runs away and seeks to understand where her family’s fortune came from; and one in the past, where a man called Marcellan enters the Rice Palace, domain of the Grass King, the mythical being who embodies the earth and the harvest. In the present, Aude gets kidnapped by the Grass King’s bannermen, and taken to a deserted, devastated Rice Palace, where she is told she must fix what her ancestors broke…

Fran Jacobs
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Aude has long dreamed of a shining place, and wondered how her family came to be so wealthy. She has heard of a bargain with witches, and something about the steppes, but little more than that. So, she runs away from her pampered, controlled, sheltered life with her Jehan, her husband, a common soldier, to find the answers. But when they reach the steppes and Aude begins her investigation, she is kidnapped, carried away to the 'mythological' world below, because while her family grew wealthy and ...more
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sagging a bit in the middle but good worldbuilding and interesting characters. I'm still confused about connection between revolutionary theme of World Above and stolen stones. It's like a piece of this story got lost during the journey between the worlds.
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
my short verdict: this is a marxist manifesto that masquerades as a faerie fantasy

let's play a game. try to guess what items from the list below were not in the book:

- a lesmis arc, complete with riots of factory workers & debates over marxist alienation, leading naturally to sex in the slums that result in a touching mesalliance with a guy you unknowingly wrote letters to when you were five
- zombie apocalypse
- questionably sentient bees (jupiter ascending war flashbacks intensify)
- ferrets
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is something I feel like I could love. The prose is so lush in descriptors: faeryland; countrysides inhabited by woodland critters who are more than they appear; yellow miasmic fog of the industrial Brass City; vast and barren stony steppes... The visuals are absolutely intoxicating. And I think there is something so charming about these characters. Idealistic Aude, and the world-weary soldier who politely indulges her until he's so far deep in love with her he'll undertake a quest to ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, fantasy
I usually shy away from fantasy, as a genre, because it tends to be The Chosen One, and A Quest, and Tolkien Was Great, Wasn't He? That's not to dismiss Tolkien or anything, it's just not a story I'm usually interested in reading. (And I don't enjoy it enough to sort through the chaff looking for good ones; I am open to recommendations, but I am skeptical.)

This, however, is Fantasy Done Right. No one is chosen, it's not familiar races or cosmology. It is instead a the story of a woman who believ
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Even knowing that this bore little resemblance to 'Living with Ghosts' I was disappointed by this novel. The last 80 pages or so were great, but too little too late. What I wanted was a) an epilogue and b) less of the middle parts.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A rich, creative, carefully constructed, and absorbing fantasy. A little slow to start, but I'm glad I struck with it.
Heather Jones
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I bought this book in hard copy two years ago and decided to move it up in the reading queue by means of re-buying it in e-book form earlier this month. Since I wasn’t reading it hard on the heels of release, I wasn’t distracted by the expectations of what other people were saying about it. Overall, this is the most enjoyable novel I read all year (setting aside the entirely separate category of “mind-blowing concept but impossibly turgid prose” into which The Adventures of Mademoiselle de Riche ...more
Catherine Sharp
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's hard to know where to start reviewing this novel. Maybe with a disclaimer: I know Kari, and I possibly wouldn't have read this novel if I didn't.

Which would have been a damn shame. This is exactly the sort of secondary-world fantasy I love. A clever, thoughtful setting which hints at so many more layers of history and geography and magic than are revealed; intelligently-written characters whose mistakes and triumphs drive the plot as much as the plot drives and manipulates the characters. A
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Victoria Phillips
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Grass King's Concubine by Kerri Sperring

This is a wonderful tale about adventure to the unknown as well as finding your roots. In this story a young girl gets a hint about a wonderful world. She then devotes the rest of her life to trying to find this wonderful place, her Shining Place, as well as trying to figure out where her wealth and family lineage comes from. However, she gets more than she bargains for when she realizes that not everything makes sense about her lineage. When she fina
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Set a few hundred years after the beautifully written 'Living with Ghosts' and in the same world, but a different part of it, Kari Sperring's second novel is a delight. Aude is from a wealthy family in the Silver City, rich on the proceeds of the sweat of the workers in the Brass City which has a very steampunky feel to it and is almost on the brink of revolution. She meets Jehan, a guard in the city torn between his duty and the just cause of the oppressed workers. He sets her straight on a few ...more
Alisa Hedden
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The main character of this story is someone searching for her roots. As such, this character is easy to relate with. Set in a culture that seems to be at a cross-road between migratory and settled, and where water rights mean everything. An intelligent young lady trapped in a very proper society where intelligence for women is not exactly a virtue.
Her intelligence and curiosity have led her to question such things as why the poor are rebelling and why does her family have so much when others
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, arc
The Review:

The first time I heard about this book was when Kari Sperring read from it at Eurocon in 2010. I have waited for it to be released ever since. Did it live up to my expectations? Yes.

The setting felt believable. In fact, at times it felt like I was reading a historical fantasy. Because while the Brass City is imagined,it reflects the uncertainities of life in the mid 1800's in European Cities. But it wasn't just that. It was the clear contrasts between the wealthy in the Silver City an
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I bought this after it was pointed out that I don’t read enough by fantasy by women writers by the author herself (it was a general admonishment on Twitter, not one personally directed at me, but I felt it was a fair comment). And I’m glad I did. I am not a huge fan of epic fantasies – I’ve read a fair number of them, and no longer find their tropes or stories interesting. Happily, The Grass King’s Concubine is nothing like an epic fantasy. Fantasy, yes; and a very cleverly done one. But not epi ...more
Deborah Ross
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Kari Sperring’s latest novel is the luscious The Grass King’s Concubine. If you haven’t read her debut novel, Living With Ghosts, drop what you’re doing and read it now. If you have, you know that her work is complex, thoughtful, compassionate and literate without the least pretentiousness. She has the uncanny ability to take five abrupt turns while maintaining the seamless integrity of the story. We go from a world that feels like pre-Revolutionary France (or Industrial Revolution England) to t ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Prelim Review: Here's the thing--I found this immensely engaging when Aude was young and trying so hard to find 'the bravest soldier' to help her on Marcellan's quest. I remember quite well the days when I was young and would draft anyone I could to help me poke in closets, wooded areas and drafty buildings, hoping to find Narnia (or Tir na nog or a doorway to the fairy world).

Things fell apart around the time Aude came to Brass City and her quest went from being about fulfilling the promise of
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
When a wealthy young woman, obsessed with a childhood vision of a magical Shining Palace, sets out with her true love to search for a legendary land, she discovers the devastated WorldBelow - the realm of the Grass King - and the terrifying Cadre, who take her prisoner, and demand she either restore the king's concubine... or replace her.

as with Living with Ghosts, Ms Sperring's previous book, The Grass King's Concubine starts slowly and only picks up the pace about half-to-2/3s in. this means t
N.A. Fedorak
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Highly irritating. It starts out very well, and has a believable young character, and then she develops (of course develops into a feisty young woman who wants to know more about the corrupt world! Like all other protagonists ever!). But then it reaches a downside about halfway through. She ends up in a dream-world sort of (and the mythology of the universe is actually interesting prior to them going to the mythology/dream world), and then it gets v. boring. She also gets pregnant, which is just ...more
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 24, 2015 10:31AM  
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Dr Kari Maund lectures and writes on the medieval history of the Celtic countries. As Kari Sperring, she also writes fiction.
More about Kari Sperring

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