Arc Review: Babel by R.F. Kuang

Title: Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ to maybe a ⭐⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.
Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.
Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?” (Goodreads)

I was really looking forward to this one since I really enjoyed The Poppy War trilogy. I’d say that it is one of my top fantasy series. It’s just that good! I knew that this book would be a bit different since it deals more with academia and language. Can’t say that I have read a book about language, but also haven’t really dabbled in the academia genre either. There were aspects that I liked about this new novel, but also parts that bogged it down. As an anticipated read I would say that it was a bit disappointing. I do have hopes for the sequel since this is just the beginning.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views but mostly the book is about Robin Swift. He has been given a chance to learn at Oxford, but most importantly Babel. It’s all about the languages. This chance of a lifetime does come at a price and it’s one Robin isn’t sure he wants to pay.

I did like learning about Robin because he has an interesting background of coming from nothing to living with the rich but also never feeling like he fitted in to high society. His new life isn’t what it is cracked up to be and neither is the professor he lives with. Can’t say that I ever liked that professor. Robin is a character who falls under the morally gray spectrum. He has good intentions but his means of doing things can be questionable. Not everyone agrees with the way he handles things. I will say that his actions felt very genuine and I could see him being a real character because of it.

There are a lot of characters in this book, some with bigger roles and other with a smaller one, but each one still adds to the plot in a way. I do have a few I liked more than others and I am actually quite curious who will show up in book two as well as what their plot lines will entail. Robin does find a found family and they each understand one another. I liked seeing them interact together and it’s also one of my favorite tropes.

Even though I liked a majority of the characters, I can’t say that the plot twists that involved a few were really shocking. I know I didn’t connect fully with the characters, no fault to them, and so maybe that is why.

The book’s plot does talk a lot about colonialism, racism, and xenophobia. I thought that the conversation was done really well and had me thinking a lot about how it relates to our own world. The things that some of these characters are told or have had done to them because of those things is just heartbreaking.

Now that I have mentioned the good, let’s get to the aspects I wasn’t a fan of. The beginning of the book did reel me in right away but it didn’t take long for it to slow down and kind of drag on with a lot of info-dumping. I understand why it had to be done since it is the beginning of a series as well as having an academic setting that involves language. There is a lot to discuss. I just wish it didn’t feel like a chore to get through at times. There are also some time jumps where they are just starting and then all of a sudden they are in their second or third year (can’t remember exactly). It wasn’t a terrible jump but I just wasn’t a fan of the transition.

Overall, it was a fine book. This author is a great writer and I will always enjoy that about her. I’m hoping that with a lot of the info-dump out of the way book two will be better when it comes to pacing. I am still curious and will continue to read on but with lower expectations. I know that others may not have the same issues as me and so I would say go ahead and read it to see if it is the right fit!

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Book Review: The Burning God (The Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang

Title: The Burning God (The Poppy War #3)
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead. 

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation. 

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?” (Goodreads)

The Poppy War Review / The Dragon Republic Review

When I started this book, I never thought that it would rip my heart out by the end.

War is such a heavy topic and with it comes many triggering things. As with the first two books there are talks of the atrocities and now there are more as the people try to survive by any means necessary on both sides. I’m not going to lie, there were times my stomach was rolling from what I was reading but each book in this trilogy is always so impactful and thought provoking. It’s hard to put it down even when it gets intense.

It’s hard to put into words what I feel for these characters. The journey has been long for Rin and those who follow her. At times I see growth in her, especially when it comes to calling the phoenix, but I also see her weaknesses but that’s also what makes her human. We can’t ever know the right answer even with a guy like Kitay around. It’s hard to make the right choice when each option feels like a loss. This leads to her being very morally grey but that always makes for the best realistic characters in my opinion. She is still determined as ever to get the job done and rid the provinces of the Hesperians no matter the cost.

I’ve enjoyed Kitay throughout the books as well. He is the voice of reason for Rin and keeps her grounded for the most part. Even though it hasn’t always been easy, he has remained loyal and they have a bond that is unbreakable.

New characters have come to add more to the plot and a few really intrigued me. There are also older characters that have come back and a couple I was really happy to see! One thing I did notice is that the author loves to reel you in with the characters only to make you question everything about them and their loyalty. It really added to the shock of the plot twists.

The ending is one I know I will never forget. It’s raw and made me cry a lot. It’s not the direction I had thought it would go but after sitting on it for a few hours it does make sense for the characters and I understand their choices.

I know my review will never do this book justice. I also did leave it spoiler-free because it’s one of those books you need to go in blind for. This was the best out of the trilogy for me and I can’t wait for whatever this author writes next. She is definitely an insta-buy author.

Book Review: The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

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Title: The Dragon Republic
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: Aug. 6th, 2019
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own. I have also read this again on my own accord.

“The searing follow-up to 2018’s most celebrated fantasy debut – THE POPPY WAR.

In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.

The sequel to R.F. Kuang’s acclaimed debut THE POPPY WAR, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC combines the history of 20th-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating effect.” (Goodreads)

Sometimes it is hard for sequels to live up to the first book. I had high hopes for this book because I fell in love with the characters and the writing of the author. Let me tell you, this book exceeded my expectations!

Rin finds herself in the aftermath of war. She is filled with emotions because of it and at times those emotions lead her to make some poor decisions. Grief and loss are powerful things to deal with. Throughout the book she is developing more and more because of what she has gone through and the knowledge she comes to know. It makes her a stronger person and helps her create bonds with the ones who have always been at her side.

Characters from the first book come back and new characters are also introduced. I loved the development of some that didn’t get much page time in the first. I also enjoyed Vaisra who at times becomes the voice of reason for Rin.

As for the plot, it is dark, bloody, and full of battles on land and sea. It is heartbreaking, raw, and draws you in. I wouldn’t expect anything else from this series. It takes a lot to get through but it is such a thought provoking series that I think everyone should read.

I will be anxiously waiting for the third book in the series. If you haven’t picked up The Poppy War yet, go read it so you can pick up The Dragon Republic!

Goodreads Monday (8/3/20)

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Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

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45857086._SY475_Title: The Burning God (The Poppy War #3)
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Voyager

synopsis header
The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?” (Goodreads)

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I am so excited to finish up this trilogy! The first book was one I didn’t know if I would be interested but I am so glad I gave it a chance because this trilogy has been amazing!

Does this one sound like something you would read?

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-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)