The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu


Became a Faceless Man
Absolutely brilliant book in terms of prose,characters,story and setting. Definitely one of the best debuts of the year.

I give it a solid 9, or at worst, an's that good


Journeyed there and back again
I can only concur! A steep 9!

A stunning epic in the vain of the Iliad by Homer.
Extremely well usage of the omniscient perspective.
Leanly edited, fluently written and ambitious.

Contender for best book of 2015.
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Ser Pounce

Journeyed there and back again
Finished The Grace of Kings last night. I liked it, didn't love it. I think the book got better as it went along but it felt pretty uneven overall. My biggest gripe is that there weren't many characters to grow attached to. Kuni Garu was the closest. Mata was a complete idiot. What I really liked was the world and the different Gods related to the different parts of the world. Their interactions were fun to read and their attempts to interfere without interfering. It saved the book for me. The prose was pretty good but it sometimes felt abrupt and too simplistic. I definitely appreciate the ambition of this book and I'm very glad for the beautiful map and the list of Major Characters listed in the beginning, otherwise I probably would of been lost.

Now that Mata is out of the picture, it seems like the second book is going to focus on Kuni, and his wives, trying to keep peace throughout Dara. It has me intrigued.

For a ranking, I'd give it a 7.5. I'm hoping the characters get more fleshed out in the next book, I just hope they keep the character list in so I can actually remember some of them.
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In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
I didn't enjoy this book. 4/10
I'm gonna assume everything I write from now on is a spoiler, so I'm gonna treat it as such.

It's hard to like a book for me, where the characters are supposed to be the main thing about it, but in the end they are not. It's hard to like a book where one of two main characters is dumb as fuck. Maybe it's just me, but I can't ever cheer for, like or even pity dumbasses, fictional or real. I'm talking of Mata of course. Plus he stooped to a new low, when he wanted to murder the baby of his best friend he called a brother (now an enemy), he himself held in his hands not so long ago, all the way feeling righteous like the prick he is. Even goddamn Stannis the Menace has doubts for the awful things he does in GOT, but not Mata, who somehow feels that his own aristocracy saves him from having a conscience.
Why do I say this book is supposed to be character driven and yet it's not? Because among the menagerie of paper thin supporting characters there just isn't enough time or paper left for Ken Liu to focus on character development or to make anybody (aside from Kuni) stand out. So many pages is spent on these cardboard cut outs that serve only as tools to a weak plot. And it is this weak plot that drives the story, not Mata or Kuni, they just react to the situations. The plot is as follows, in the beginning we have an evil empire that conquered all other states. When the evil tyrannical emperor is killed by his own ministers for their own benefits, revolt starts among the conquered states and the two people that distinguish themselves are Mata and Kuni, a dumbass aristocrat and a gambler with a heart of gold. Forward few years later, and many battles after, Mata gets offended by a simple misunderstanding (no surprise there, being the unintelligent oaf that he is).....2/3 rds of the book has passed, Mata has won, and he banishes Kuni to a small island. But Kuni being the clever bastard he is, manages to collect enough resources and people and starts war again with Mata. So let me summarise the plot for you.
1st third: war against the evil empire
2nd third: war is won, but Mata is offended. Kuni lets Mata win, and Mata banishes him to a remote island
last third of the book: war against Mata, fought by Kuni because Mata is not much better than the evil emperor was
The book was too simplistic. On top of that we have a whole pantheon of gods, serving only as plot tools, basically stepping up to people, giving them daggers and telling them kill this person, or that person.
There's too many characters (generals, commanders, lieutenants, ministers, etc etc) that all kind of mush together after a while. The gods want to meddle because as far as I understood each of them rules over one state, so they pick their champions and that's as far as their motives go. The world is also simplistically described. You have a state of farmers, state of academics, state of warriors...that was a huge cliche, been there done that, lazy world building. You have inconsistencies, like the airships powered by gas, and on the other hand marine ships with paddles.

But let me put world building aside, the biggest tragedy in this book are the characters. Character development is almost non existent, and even the protagonists are way too passive for my taste, lacking in agency and simply reacting to things. There's little to no development to them, and a lot of them is one dimensional (Mata for one, evil emperor..etc etc).

The book is a epic for sure, more of an alternative history, than a fantasy one imo, but it's an epic for all the wrong reasons. 650 pages of battles, strategies, simplistic intrigues that surprised me none, without any real driving force that are the characters. Liu has a strong voice and his style is not bad, I liked it well enough, but his execution was severely lacking for me.

I have no intention of continuing this series.

Ryan W. Mueller

Journeyed there and back again
This was good, but it didn't blow me away. I felt that the narrative was too distant for my tastes. Liu did a good job with that narrative. It's just not my preference.


I probably enjoyed it a little less than that, but I gave it a bump because it is well-done.

Jon Snow

No Power in the Verse can stop me
Staff member
I loved the beginning of the book. I liked the prose and the fast paced action. It felt like reading the Japanese chapter of World War Z. However, after a few more chapters, the story just seemed to go in circles. No character development and essentially zero world building. The map tells you everything you need to know.

I pretty much agree with @Alucard in most sense. Everyone in this world just seemed so dumb. I don't understand a few parts like, how 2k of troops can win against 40k on essentially open ground with no tricks. Even if it was 40 thousand farmers with pitchforks vs 2k of armoured soldiers, the result still should end up on the 40K (open ground, no tactics).

Also, just imagine, a city's army, loyal (not a mercenary group) are taken over. The new commander tells them, they are allowed to loot their own city as a reward. This army, goes and pillages, rapes and destroys their own city. What madness is this?

Can you even imagine a platoon of American soldiers raping and raiding ANY American town?

I was about to give it a higher rating, but after typing this stuff out, I think it is like a 5.5

Only got that much because I actually got an ending that I kind of wanted and this book cost me $2 and not $10.


Knows how to pronounce Kvothe
I pretty much feel the same as the rest of you. Liked the start a lot and things got kind of circly and some characters made me mad with their motivations. But I enjoyed it a lot. Would definitely read more. I also liked Ken Liu's translation of Three Body Problem.

Jon Snow

No Power in the Verse can stop me
Staff member
I pretty much feel the same as the rest of you. Liked the start a lot and things got kind of circly and some characters made me mad with their motivations. But I enjoyed it a lot. Would definitely read more. I also liked Ken Liu's translation of Three Body Problem.
You got a rating out of 10?

Noor Al-Shanti

Dueled with Lord Voldemort
I really liked it. I think I would give it about 8 or 9 out of 10.

I actually found the parts where he pulled away from the individual characters to give us an overall picture of the state of the empire refreshing. A lot of fantasy gets stuck inside the 3rd person limited POV and then resorts to badly done monologues or awkward info-dump conversations to get the big picture across, but Ken Liu did a great job of using omniscient POV and using many different characters to give us that overall perspective. It was great. And it fit well since he was trying to tell the story of the empire, not just one hero.

I found all the scenes with the gods completely pointless and unnecessary. I'm glad he didn't try to integrate them more into the story, though, because then it would have made it annoying. This way, I was able to compartmentalize them and pretend they didn't happen.

Near the end some of the characters made some choices I found hard to believe or silly or just flat out anger-inducing coughairshipescapecough but this didn't necessarily ruin the story for me because I understand that the author was commenting on the effects that power has on people.

Not sure if I want to check out the next one because I'm afraid of what he'll do to the character I do sort of sympathize with and I'm afraid there will be a lot of "palace intrigue" which I sometimes find annoying. Will probably end up trying it, but not right away.