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The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1)
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BotM Discussion - FANTASY > The Grace of Kings / Overall discussion / ***SPOILERS***

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message 1: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 1 star

Roger | 2031 comments Mod
Good god what a mess this book is, I made it 168 pages in before I just couldn't handle the disorganization of the book. The POV jumps all over the place. In a handful of short chapters (there is a few different chapters in between as well) we get the introduction and minor backstory of five different characters, one an account turned Grand Marshall, another a retired General being unretired, and a third is a descendent of the line of rulers who becomes a new puppet ruler (the other two are the rulers behind the scene in charge of the emperor). All of this to set up a confrontation of between the general and puppet king, which ends with the puppet king burning himself alive for this subjects and the general gathering up the string pullers of the king to take back and "make an example" of them.

It's just all over the place, we learn that one of the guys pulling the strings of the emperor is power hungry, but bored, and the only reason he is power hungry is because he thinks he has been snubbed and not recognized at the best philosopher in the world. (The author does introduce us to the "best philosopher" in a hurried backstory to explain the life story of the first guy. This all happens in about five pages and then the first guy poisons the second guy so he can become the "best philosopher".

It reads like TLDR summary of each character for a good solid 50 pages just to push the plot ahead in one or two minor points.


Alan | 158 comments Roger wrote: "Good god what a mess this book is, I made it 168 pages in before I just couldn't handle the disorganization of the book. The POV jumps all over the place. In a handful of short chapters (there is a..."

I'm about 100 pages in and am also finding this to be the case, unfortunately. ): I really thought I would love this, but there's so much clunky exposition, often inserted awkwardly into dialogue.

I LOVE backstory, and I love slow builds and long fantasies with elaborate and well-developed worlds, but this is handled almost . . . amateurishly? I wasn't expecting that. I was also expecting much more beautiful prose, based on reviews, but I'm not seeing that so far. I'm going to continue, but so far I'm very disappointed, and feel a bit bad for nominating it, haha.

Hopefully it gets better, D:


message 3: by Hope (new)

Hope | 62 comments I'm 83 pages in- a lot of info dumping going on here, but the story itself feels a lot like a combination of Game of Thrones and a history book.

It felt really familiar to me, so I pulled out my Early East Asia history book to double check- when was the Han dynasty again? (The author mentions it in his dedication). Lo and behold, the first emperor here is literally the First Emperor (he of the Terracotta statues) who united the smaller states to create the Qin dynasty- what we think of as China today. (view spoiler).

So, where A Song of Ice and Fire is the War of the Roses with dragons and ice zombies, this is the building of the Han dynasty, with airships and god statues that come to life and argue with each other, a la Mulan.

Realizing that makes me want to keep reading, but that's probably because I'm familiar with the historical basis and want to see what the author does with it!


Renata Riva | 14 comments I'm still at the beginning and proceeding very slowly. In general, I like this book, but I'm struggling with how fragmented the story is. There are many characters and we follow each of them for a short time before passing to another one. It's interesting, but, for me, also a bit frustrating.


Alan | 158 comments I'm about 300 pages in (just over) now, and it does get better, though I do wish there was more emphasis on characterization. When Liu gets it right with a character in a particular scene there's definitely some emotional weight, but it's never sustained.


Sandy | 1665 comments I listened to the book and boy I just could not keep the characters straight. I had the main characters ok, but all the side characters were lost. I think the book had way too many characters, it was too distracting. To me only the two main characters showed any depth of characterization, although the women started showing some toward later part of the book. Though maybe it wasn't too many characters, it was just that they were not all in the same area and interacting together. I think of Lord of the Rings with tons of characters but they were all together a lot of the time. That didn't bother me...

Thoughts?


message 7: by Lel (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1997 comments Im glad others are struggling with this one. I about 60% through and feel that there may be a great ending if I keep reading, but like a lot of others, I'm struggling with the multiple characters and all the different plots. Its hard enough keeping track of who's in charge there are that many assassinations going on.
Has anyone got to the end? Is it worth it?

Sandy I think this one has more characters than LOTR. At least in that there were two/three main groups but this one seems to have at least 6. I agree though, the fact that they interacted more in LOTR helped a great deal. I also think that the characters in LOTR are stronger. Other than Kuni, i'm not really bothered by any of the characters in TGOK


Alan | 158 comments I'm almost done now (page 539 of 600), and it definitely gets better (though "better" is very much relative). There's been a narrower focus on certain characters in the last fifty pages, and more nuanced and interesting characters have been introduced. That said, so far it's not enough for me to pick up the second volume. I think the novel is just too focused on the big picture of the plot for me, rather than on character.


Sandy | 1665 comments I had no idea this was a series. I do not think I will be reading on.


message 10: by Alan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alan | 158 comments I just finished this.

I'm so conflicted about this book. I feel some sympathy for Liu, because it became gradually more clear to me that he was aiming to write something with perhaps the feel of classical mythology and the Greek and Roman epics (at least, this book reminded me of those in places). That's a tall order though, and I'm not sure (if it was his intention) that it worked. Those stories work in part because of the poetry of them, and that was lacking here.

As an epic fantasy it didn't work for most of the novel for me, as I'm typically drawn to character-driven stories, and not enough time was spent really getting into the motivations and personalities/relationships of the characters for me to be invested. A few characters early in the book showed promise, being more conflicted and therefore interesting (Mapidere's two counselors come to mind, as well as Kikumi). Every time the narrative would zoom in on a character, however, it was usually to dispatch them, and their story would conclude just as I was getting invested.

Kuni and Mata were still pretty flat for me by the end of the book. At best I found them both obnoxious, despite what should have been a very rich conflict. Characters introduced or developed late like Luan Zya and Gin Mazoti were a lot more interesting, but it felt like too little too late, and I kept thinking the book would have been better served if it had begun later in the narrative so that more interesting characters could have driven the story.

Everything is very much told rather than shown. Scenes that should have emotional weight and which appear central to the plot (such as Jia's rescue at one point by Kuni's forces) are described in exposition in one sentence rather than zoomed in on for greater impact and tension. The addition of the gods' POVs was also a little awkward, and especially in the beginning their dialogue was clunky and full of info-dumping. Sometimes info-dumping is necessary, especially in epic fantasy, but if it has to be there, placing it in the mouths of the characters is one of the clumsiest ways to do it.

I'd heard completely conflicting opinions on the female characters in this book from diverse sources beforehand, and I understand both positions. For most of the novel there is one female character, and she's basically your bog-standard wife characters, whose purpose is to have babies and support her man. Kikumi had a lot more promise, but is basically told by a goddess that she should give in to the roles determined for her by men and be an evil sexy lady, and then of course she is killed so Mata can angst. Both Mira and Kuni's second wife are just there to flesh Kuni and Mata out and anticipate a stereotypical rivalry between Jia and Second Wife in the next book. Gin, however, is an excellent character, and I was genuinely invested in her storyline, as well as her interactions with Luan Zya. Again though, it felt like too little too late. It's so unfortunate, because reading Gin's backstory recounted in one chapter late in the novel I kept thinking that this should have been the book, and she should have been a main POV from the start.

Too much convoluted and ultimately not very interesting "plot" and not enough character for me. I'm vaguely curious about the second book thanks to Luan and GIn, and it seems like it might narrow its focus to Kuni's court and be more character-driven, but I'm wary of starting it if it's going to be written in the same style as this one. I really had to slog to read most of this, and I feel bad that that was the case, as it's clearly such an ambitious book, and should be the kind of thing that I love.


message 11: by Maria Hill (new) - added it

Maria Hill AKA MH Books (mariahilldublin) I think I may put this aside for now and take up an easier read as life is stressful and I need a simpler read as I have few functional brain cells .


message 12: by Lel (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lel (lelspear) | 1997 comments Finally finished. It was a struggle.

I think my ultimate conclusion to this book is, mer *imagine a big shoulder shrug*.

As with Steve, the writing was just too detached for me to really get into the story and the characters. I was really interested in the relationship between Kuni and Mata about half way through the book, but then they just became too flat and too focused on winning for me to like either of them.

The ultimate thread that flowed through the book, for me, was not to trust anyone really and that is pretty depressing. At some point in the book everyone ultimately looked out for themselves. Even Kuni and Jia's parting was staged self serving plots.

I really won't be reading more in this series. I would actually be pretty reluctant to pick up anything more from the author either unless it came with a few high recommendations.


message 13: by Alan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alan | 158 comments Lel wrote: "Finally finished. It was a struggle.

I think my ultimate conclusion to this book is, mer *imagine a big shoulder shrug*.

As with Steve, the writing was just too detached for me to really get int..."


I've heard excellent things about the short story collection that won him all the major awards (including from people who didn't like Grace of Kings), so I'd still be up for reading that. I also won't be reading on in this series though.


message 14: by Kaitlin (last edited Jul 24, 2018 11:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaitlin I read this book back in January (or December? I think January) so I'm a little fuzzier on the details, but unlike most of you it seems, I enjoyed it! I thought that the world was very interesting, and I do have a lot of patience for slow starts and complicated backstories, especially if I think it fleshes out the world. But I think for me the thing that came across was that in comparison to something like A Song of Ice and Fire, it really felt like the brutality was toned down and the characters in general were more sympathetic. It's just as complicated, but less cruel, in my opinion.

As for my context, reading it, I had previously read his translation of Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem, and that is also slow to start and kind of confusing for a long time, although it definitely has less characters, and I think that he provides the translation with a cadence that you wouldn't normally see in English, and so in The Grace of Kings I may have been more inclined to view his prose as more of a stylistic choice.


message 15: by Hope (last edited Jul 25, 2018 09:56AM) (new)

Hope | 62 comments I bailed on this book at the end of the second section. It read like a history book because it was, beat for beat, a history of the Qin/Han transition. As a result, there were too many characters and no focus on any protagonists. I kept asking myself, "Do I care?" and as the answer kept coming back as "No", I gave up.


Freya (freyafreya) I completely agree with the general sentiment here. The story was all over the place, and the pacing was way off for me. I really enjoy reading books where characters drive the narrative. The author took too much time out of the narrative to give backstory and context - and while sometimes interesting - it really meant that reading this book felt so jarring! I’ve put it down and picked it up so many times this month and only made it 25% of the way through..

I’d like to finish it! Someday..


message 17: by Wayland, Ernest Scribbler (new) - rated it 2 stars

Wayland Smith | 3050 comments Mod
Ugh. Just finished this mess. Gods, but no magic. Fantasy setting, but submarines and parachutes. Heroes are ok but they get turned into traitors by bad advice seems to be the message of the book.

Just.. ugh.

It was Asian flavored Game of Thrones but not as compelling.


Maximum Beans (maximumbeans) | 515 comments I finished this book, not because I wanted to, but because I started it. I'm driven to finish any book I begin, so the fact I didn't put it down doesn't mean anything really. I really did feel like just stopping though, and that would have made this only the second book I've DNF'd in my life. I wish I had put it down now, as I've got a bad book hangover and don't feel like reading another book right now. I will not be reading the sequel, and I'm glad I didn't buy the book. I'm also glad that I'm currently also listening to Becky Chambers' latest as it's a lovely fresh breeze blowing all the cobwebs out from struggling through this mess.


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