The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty #1 )

18952341 (1)The Grace of Kings really is a work of epic proportions.  A story of rebellion and war, victory and defeat, friend and foe and ultimately an incredibly poignant and sometimes sad look at friendships.  The story is dripping with issues of trust, deceit and betrayal whilst also telling some incredibly moving stories of love and loyalty.

I’ve only read one of Liu’s short stories before The Grace of Kings and on the strength of that was keen to read this and, yes, it is a book that takes time to read but its also a book that is definitely worth the time.

The main thrust of the story revolves around an uprising of the common people, driven to despair by despot rulers and seeking fairer rule.  At least on the face of it that’s what I would say this is about.  Of course, war very often has little to do with the common people and that is certainly the case here – even though very many of them will lose their lives fighting most of them could just as easily be on one side as the other, and, as the book itself acknowledges, perhaps the people with the differences should get together and fight it out between themselves!  Anyway, getting away from the main point.

The story revolves around two rebel leaders, Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu.  Kuni and Mata are completely different characters in virtually every respect.  Kuni’s life has been a life of crime, in fact he practically falls into the rebellion by chance and without much planning or forethought.  He’s a smooth talker and knows and understands people.  Mata is the deposed son of a Duke who has been raised with great expectations.  He has very fixed ideas on virtually everything and less experience of people.  Kuni is anything but a warrior, he’s more a talker, a thinker and a person who can run away fast.  Mata is a huge beast of a man, trained as a warrior with a firm code of honour.  He inspires followers with his roaring war cries and battlefield heroics.  And yet, in spite of their differences, they become firm friends and after a number of serious encounters where they succeed against the odds they declare themselves brothers.  If only everything was that simple.

There are a lot more characters in the story and I’m not going to elaborate on them all but give a snapshot of the ones I found most interesting.  We have a bunch of interfering Gods who seem to be playing their own games and frequently appear in disguise amongst the mortals to either dispense words of wisdom or cause confusion.  We have a number of women who play important roles in Kuni’s life.  His first wife Jia.  You could say that Jia sets Kuni off on his path to rebellion by giving him a strange herbal concoction that gives him a certain zest for life, they have a strong bond although it is going to be severely tested.  We have the Lady Risana who seems to be something of an illusionist – a very intriguing woman and I was fascinated by her background.  Soto, who spends time as Jia’s housekeeper and has her own secret past and, my absolute favourite, Gin Mazoti.  I’m not going to give anything away about Gin other than to say I loved this particular episode of the story and was absolutely captivated by her tale and loved what Liu managed to achieve with her.  A very compelling person to read about and a serious contender to steal the show!  Of course Gin’s particular element of the tale comes into force at a very interesting time when inventions and battles are becoming more and more creative.  The two main characters actually have a quite sad story arc and definitely bring to mind the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’.

I really admire the strength of writing.  There is such a lot going on here.  Many and varied characters, political maneuvering, sly intrigue, a wealth of background and history and multiple battle scenes.  Now, I can’t deny it, this isn’t a quick read.  Given everything that the author includes it was never going to be a book that you could race through.   It needs to be carefully considered in order to get to grips with all the characters and their different allegiances, I enjoyed savouring this though and coming to grips with everyone.  I think to race through this would be such a waste.  Seriously this book is worth the time.

The fantasy here is subtle.  Nobody is wielding firework type magic and dragons are not swooping out of the sky causing mayhem.  We have, of course, the meddling deities.  On top of this we have a wealth of wonderful creations and we have some huge and spectacular creatures.

This really is a monster book – you might want to stroke the spine to pacify it a little before you pick it up, but once you do you’ll be able to enjoy this wonderfully complex tale that is practically brimming over with plot and counter plot.  Given the proper chance you won’t be able to help yourself from becoming attached to these characters and watching them go through their exploits and wringing you out a little as they go!  Very intelligent, very thought provoking, very emotional.  I could say so very much more but I’m afraid of giving things away so I’m going to leave it there.

If you’re interested in a book that almost reads like a period of Chinese history but with inventions, gods and other slightly fantastical things thrown in then this could be just what you’re looking for.  I will definitely look forward to the next instalment.

I received a copy courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Review first published on The Speculative Herald

24 Responses to “The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty #1 )”

  1. proxyfish

    This sounds like a great read! Will definitely be keeping my eyes open for it!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s epic! I hope you enjoy it – I would like to know what you think of it.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Danya @ Fine Print

    You make the characters sound so interesting, Lynn! I may have to reconsider my decision to skip this one…and add it to the ever-growing TBR pile. 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I was unsure how I’d get on with this but I really liked it – it really is epic and it’s certainly a slow read because you need to take time to absorb things but it was very interesting.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Redhead

    I’ve been hearing great things about this book for what, a year now? Probably time I picked it up!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it, it’s very intriguing watching what the two main characters go through.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    One of my favorite reads of 2015. Very different from the epic fantasy I usually read, but the style really grew on me!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s not a flowery or descriptive book at all. Which is good because it would have doubled the size otherwise!
      Very intriguing though.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I have a copy of this from Netgalley too so a few months ago I started it. I just couldn’t get into it! I tried for a while, but eventually put it down for now. I was at the beginning of a reading slump though, so maybe that was it? I’m afraid to pick it up now, even though I hear such good things about it, like here! Your review makes me think I would enjoy it so much!

    Great review!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I can understand that to be honest. I enjoyed it but it took me quite a while to get through it. It’s quite a slow read because there’s so much going on and so many characters that you have to take a bit of time to absorb everything.
      Lynn 😀

      • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

        I think that was it! There were just so many characters and so much happening in different places that I was like: wait… what?

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yeah – and it does have a glossary of people at the start but reading on a kindle (like I was) wasn’t ideal for going back and forwards!
        Lynn 😀

      • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

        I agree! I’m reading on Kindle to and I just can’t be bothered to go to the back and my page again each time.

      • @lynnsbooks

        I actually really like reading on the kindle now but I find that particular element one of the drawbacks!
        Lynn 😀

  6. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The more I read about this book, the more I’m reminded of one of my favorite series, Daniel Abraham’s “Long Price Quartet”: it’s probably because of the eastern-like setting that’s quite different from the usual fantasy background.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’ve not heard of the Long Price Quartet – I should go and take a look.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I loved this, his style of story telling really lends a different feel to the book. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, he has quite a different way of telling a story and it is enjoyable.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Sharry

    Yes, yes, I want to stroke the spine of this monster-of-a-book 😀 Especially because it’s loosely set/inspired by a period of Chinese History that I know nothing about. I’m glad you found this one so enjoyable – I’m always a little hesitant to read thicker, more monstrous books, but the fact that you liked it has made me feel less tentative about it. Happy Holidays!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks – it is quite an epic saga for sure and it’s certainly not a book that you can race through but I really enjoyed it.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Maryam (@thecurioussffreader)

    Great review ! 😀 It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year but I still did not have the chance to read it even if I have a Netgally copy. I am hoping to read it earlier next year ! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I thought it was great – I just loved how difference it is, the whole culture and it really is epic.
      Lynn 😀

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