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The Grace of Kings

(The Dandelion Dynasty #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  12,617 ratings  ·  2,033 reviews
One of the Time 100 Best Fantasy Books Of All Time

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Saga Press
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Ken Liu No swearing. There is acknowledgment of sexuality but the sex is all "off screen" so to speak.…moreNo swearing. There is acknowledgment of sexuality but the sex is all "off screen" so to speak.(less)
Lisa Hello. This is Ken's wife, and I'm answering on his behalf. He says there isn't an ebook deal in Australia yet. Thank you for your interest!…moreHello. This is Ken's wife, and I'm answering on his behalf. He says there isn't an ebook deal in Australia yet. Thank you for your interest!(less)

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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Why two stars?:

*Women* - Where were they? For 400 pages we had one "main" female character, who ended up being treated way too much like a secondary character. The rest of the women were minor characters. And the main female character spent most of her story arc picking herbs, getting pregnant, having babies, encouraging her husband to take a second wife, and then becoming stereotypically jealous of the new woman in her man's life.
We were given one token female warrior character in the latter ha
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Apr 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1-star, year-2017
Actual Rating: 1.5 Stars


It's such a relief to have made it to the end of this book.

So let me start with the positive. I love the Asian influence in the story. We don't see a lot of High Fantasy series with such a rich historical element that are based outside of Europe. This is something I definitely appreciated.

But unfortunately I just could not connect to any other part of this story.

The first 40%-50% of this novel is an absolute jumble. It hops around from character to character tell
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Omg!!! This is one of those where you like no one because they either die or piss you off. Sigh.... it was still a 5 star for me!

Now I can't say my favorite character! *shakes fist*

I have the paperback but listened to the audio and realized it was Michael Kramer! I love his narrations so that explains why that was so good! I will be adding it to my Audible library as well!

Happy Reading Y'all!

Mel 🖤🐺🐾
Mogsy (MMOGC)
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

I was never a really good student of history. But my family background being Chinese, I’ve always been taught to embrace my heritage. I grew up listening and adoring the history and legendary tales of Ancient China told to me by my parents and grandparents, who have learned these things themselves when they were children. My great uncle was also fond of watching old Wuxia operas and historical dramas, and he used to record
DNF-ed at page 340.

Rating: 1 stars on principle of 'I don't think too highly on people passing their fanfics rip-offs as published novels/their own original creations'

Random Thoughts when reading the book: The opening scene does remind me of Records of the Grand Historian, and the Biographies of the Assassins.

Actual review starts here:

What I think should be the real title of this book: Chu-Han Contention, the Fanfic Rip-Off.

Edited@09/03/2021 But wait, to think about it more carefully, calling
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting tale, reminding me as I read it just how little I still know of Chinese history. I want to romance kingdoms and wallow in all the warring states, and yet, from everything I do know, this novel is and remains unique.

It borrows from the old histories to make a thoroughly modern fantasy epic.

And when I say epic, I mean epic rises to power and grand falls, with a few memorable characters (mostly women) and an absolutely huge supporting cast. Armies march from the start a
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2015 rated it liked it
An ambitious, epic fantasy... that at times felt more like reading a history than a novel.

I've become a fan of Liu's short stories, so was eager to read his debut long-form novel. (At over 600 pages, it is pretty long).

We're introduced to the archipelago of Dara, a collection of islands which seem to be constantly at war. The book follows a number of characters who plot coups, rise to power, form alliances, betray each other, and sometimes die miserably and violently.

It's a fantasy-with-not-much
Michael Finocchiaro
As, I suppose, many other readers of The Grace of Kings, I discovered Ken Liu due to his extraordinary translation of Cixin Liu's excellent The Three Body Problem and Death's End as well as his collection of marvelous short stories, The Paper Menagerie. Unlike all of those works, in this first volume of The Dandelion Dynasty series, we are treated to a fantasy universe with middle age technology, interfering gods, and a wonderful mashup stories and legends inspired by classical Chinese and Polyn ...more
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is AMAZING! A masterpiece. I have so many thoughts! This book had me thinking the whole time I read it. Not just about what would happen with the plot (so many twists! It was fantastic)! But also just with the way it touched on issues and ideas that we find in our own world.
It’s a slower read (to me it reads quite a bit like and old medieval epic) but it’s worth it in the end. Truly an astounding work
2ish stars.

An okay book that I recognize has many merits but that I must concede isn't for me.

This book is very well written. Ken Liu uses a very efficient, utilitarian style that somehow also manages to be quite poetic at times and it works well with this mythology-inspired content. I think my biggest issues are personal ones: this isn't what I expected and it's just not my thing.

I was expecting/hoping for fantasy and this really isn't that. As mentioned, there's some East Asia-inspired mytho
Wesley Chu
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved Ken's book so much I blurbed it as the wuxia Game of Thrones. Yes, I went there. ...more
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-heroic
The Grace of Kings is, in a word, stunning. Normally I try to avoid making comparisons with my reviews, but here it's fitting. Ken Liu's debut possesses all the epic grandeur, intelligence, and dignity of a Guy Gavriel Kay novel, accented by the complexities, intricacies, and smirking humor of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen. It's a huge, sprawling epic, with a cast of characters that are challenging, but so well-rounded and distinct as to be immediately memorable.

There's a little bi
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A few disjointed thoughts on the book, which I finished yesterday.
I like this book. I like this book a lot. It's a very important one--it's epic fantasy using Ancient China as its foundation. A cross between the Iliad, Three Kingdoms and Lord of the Rings. But it's also very adult and very modern in its handling of power--who gets it, who is worthy to handle it and how you cling to it. And very very cynical and dark in some ways (the violence is always drily factual, but I'd argue that makes it
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
King Réon of Xana conquered the seven kingdoms of Dara and forged them into The Xana Empire. With his new empire Réon gave himself a new name Emperor Mapidéré. The Emperor had grand plans for The Xana Empire and to accomplish them he plans to enslave many of the conquered men of Dara. As the years pass the people of Dara yearn to be free and two special men rebel against the empire. Kuni Garu an intelligent youth with little motivation and Mata Zyndu the giant last son of the Zyndu Clan fight ba ...more
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think most literary scholars would agree that it’s a good thing Achilles didn’t survive the Trojan War. Paris, sneaky little turd that he was, was at least a good enough shot to spare Ancient Greece the unenviable task of having to figure out what to do with a guy like Achilles in peacetime: a guy who lives only for blood and glory, who considers the ability to paralyze others with fear by his mere presence a cardinal virtue. The long and the short of it is: you want Achilles to fight your war ...more
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-sff-faves
I finally got around to picking this book up and I am so glad I did becuase I flipping loved it. It's kind of what I would describe as an Eastern version of Mage's Blood or Game of Thrones, and it's bloody brilliant!

I thought before going into this I would probably like it. It's by Ken Liu and I've read some of his short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and I loved that entire collection. This book is his debut novel, and it's such a strong book.

We follow lots of different characters so this is ce
Manuel Antão
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Intertextual SF: "The Grace of Kings" by Ken Liu

"Lord Garu, you compare yourself to a weed?” Cogo Yelu frowned.
“Not just any weed, Cogzy. A dandelion is a strong but misunderstood flower.” Remembering his courtship with Jia, Kuni felt his eyes grow warm. “It cannot be defeated: Just when a gardener thinks he has won and eradicated it from his lawn, a rain would bring the yellow florets right back. Yet it’s never arrogant: Its color an
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
It is hard to know where to start with this book. What was lovely about it (and redeemed it up to two stars), or the reason I will not be reading past book one of this series?

I suppose I'll start with what there is to glow about. Silkpunk!! I never knew how much I wanted to read Silkpunk until Liu wrote it. Beautiful. Adventurous. Complex. Thoughtfully crafted and researched. Wow do I love Liu's prose and ability to put together an epic, multi-threaded story. This lives up to all the promise we'
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I am somewhat conflicted by this book. On the one hand it has some fantastic world building and a fast paced story. On the other hand the characters felt very undeveloped and descriptions suffered from too much telling, not enough showing. In the end I decided on three stars for much the same reason I gave Name of the Wind: it felt like lots of yummy, but ultimately empty, calories (albeit with a much, much, much less aggravating protagonist).

So first the good, namely the world building. The wor
Alas. Grace of Kings breathes Chinese mythology into the modern epic fantasy -- a worthy cause. But for me, I found this book to be a mythology with no grandeur, and an epic with no gravity.

It also suffered from constant speedbumps, painstakingly recorded for your amusement and edification at the end of this review. But here's the overview:

It's a story of rebellion against a callous empire. And it's a story about power - who has it; how to get it; how to keep it; and at what price it will come.
There was so much to like about this book. Good writing, setting inspired by Chinese history with just a pinch of steampunk in mature low fantasy story and all that from author of masterful short story collection Paper menagerie and other stories.

Sadly turns out Liu is much better at short stories because while this book has flashes of his brilliance over the course of the book, The Grace of Kings shows some major flaws.

Pacing is all over the place and ranges from slow to frantic. Characters cha
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2018
This book straight up blew my mind.

Betrayals. Twists. Sacrifices. Honor. Love. Lust. Loss. This story has everything I could possibly want...

The Grace of Kings, hands down, has the greatest depiction of war i have ever read. Ken Liu is a genius at crafting war strategies, which are incredibly intricate and complex from every possible direction. The large scale battles are insane and seeing these different strategies play out is so intense. However, it's not only the war strategy that gets me, bu
Mike (the Paladin)
Look, this is a good book. I was "mostly" interested in it all the way through...mostly. The sad thing is that (and maybe I can start calling this the Robert Jordan syndrome as I've seen it before) the writer just has so much detail to relate about the world, the people, the geopolitical situation(s) and so on that he apparently can't bear to let any of it go.

Even if we already put it together from what we saw or heard through another character's viewpoint....we get it again from the current cha
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I'm still really not sure how I feel about this one. The rating may change later, after I've thought about it some more, and I'll have a review up later since I'm about to start work.

Tentative 3 stars - RTC! Been thinking about this more and honestly, the premise was INCREDIBLE, the writing was really lovely, but this one was thoroughly ruined for me via all of the gross sexist fantasy setting tropes, so... 2-2/5 stars.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction with a fantasy element.
“If blood for blood were all that mattered, history would be easy to write.”

I’m going to do something I rarely do, and state what I disliked about this book first.

The Writing Style

I’m a lawyer by profession. I spend my days reading summary judgements for various cases. The last thing I want to do is to read a summary of an epic fantasy tale based on historical China when reading the story would have been way more entertaining. And yet, this is what ‘The Grace of Kings’ was. This was not mere
Executive Summary: I enjoyed parts of this book a lot, but overall found it a bit to uneven and slow in places. It's another one that suffers from lack of half star ratings. It's a solid 3.5 star book, that I initially gave 4 stars, but on collecting my thoughts for this review decided to round down to 3 stars instead.

Audio book: Finding out Michael Kramer did the audio from this made it go from wait for a library copy to buy it on audio. I was initially underwhelmed. It's probably not his best
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh WOW. So The Grace of Kings. What an ENORMOUS REVIEW this is!

I am frankly surprised that the book has a less than 3.75 rating, but only a little. I've had it for a year, at least. But it had that long cast of characters in the front. And of course, it was over 600 pages long! Definitely a commitment equal to the time I'd need to read 2 or 3 other books.

But then life got a little messy, and it was difficult to focus on READING books. So I started to LISTEN to this one. And it was amazing. I li
David Katzman
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Brilliant in many ways yet in the end not my cup of tea. The Grace of Kings is the story of the overthrow of a king/tyrant. Yet the question remained, what was he being replaced with? Who and what? Many individuals in this story battled to become his replacement, but is the new boss same as the old boss? If the system does not change, do we only live better thanks to the grace of kings? Or queen as the case may be? Are we simply dependent on the generosity of the rich and powerful?

The Grace of K
Joanne Harris
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Airship skims the high clouds
Dandelion scatters
Chrysanthemum blooms.

Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Many fantasy authors have used history - events, wars, people - as inspiration (if not more) to write their books.

This is no different, based on the events surrounding the Tang Dynasty; it actually goes a bit further, also by using poems and retelling them in this book to adapt them to the story (for instance, the retelling of the Tang Dynasty “Ode to Chrysanthemum” by Huang Chao is transformed in the Mata Zyndu’s poem).

This is a story of rebellion against an unfair emperor - two men will shape
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Ken Liu ( is an American author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards, as well as top genre honors in Japan, Spain, and France, among other places.

Ken's debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty, in which engineers play the role of wizards. His debut collection, The Paper

Other books in the series

The Dandelion Dynasty (4 books)
  • The Wall of Storms (The Dandelion Dynasty, #2)
  • The Veiled Throne (The Dandelion Dynasty, #3)
  • Speaking Bones (The Dandelion Dynasty, #4)

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