I’m not sure where to begin with this novel. It was good but it didn’t grab the way The Poppy Wars did. I would have to say this is much more of a slow burner for me. I was almost half way through before I truly got interested in Robin’s story and wanting to know how it would end. From a young age, Robin was taken to England from China under the guardianship of Professor Lovell. Despite the fact his family was poor, they always had a lived in tutor to teach him English. He soon discovers that it Lovell who had been paying for her. When he is brought to England, he is immediately put to work to study languages as the end goal was for him to go to Oxford and join Babel, the translation school that controls all the silver in the world. England has found a way to use language to power silver and to expand their Empire. Robin goes on a journey of discovering who he is and how he has been essentially been weaponized against his own country. It’s not an easy read as Robin questions ourselves we also must question our own culpability. Like in the Poppy Wars, R.F. Kuang is unflinching when she comes to describing the effects of colonization on the world but also to people of color who live with their on colonizers. On the one hand, Robin is very lucky to be taken out of poverty and given the opportunities to be learn at Oxford and live a comfortable life but he was also taken from his family and his homeland without much of a choice and forced to learn what his guardian wanted him to learn. It’s an allusion of freedom. For me one of the most effective characters is Letty. She is in Robin’s cohort at Oxford and the only white student. She is the perfect example of white privilege and not understanding her privilege. She is the daughter of an admiral. Raised on the aristocracy but because she is a woman she has always been looked down or given much thought even though she was always a bright. If she was a boy, she would have been seen as the genius that she was but since she wasn’t she was raised to be the perfect wife and mother one day. She resents the privileges that she saw her brother waste and when she is given the opportunity to take his place in Oxford she grabs it. But even there she has to have a man vouch for her to take out a book at the library. She has to live off campus and has to deal with sexist comments. She felt she finally found people who could relate with her POC classmates but being white she will never truly understand their struggles. So when they start to rebel against the nation that she feels has given so much instead of them being grateful she feels betrayed. As if they have personally offended her. Even though she helps to cover up the same crime she is spared any of the backlash because again she is white and still she doesn’t understand why they have right to be angry. I can see why Letty as a character would upset many readers because we have to confront our own privilege and that’s not a comfortable thing. So If you are looking for a challenging book, give this a try.
Tag Archives: Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives
What I’m Reading Now: Babel by R.F. Kuang
I remember this being big on Booktok last summer and how many men did not like it and and that just made it more interesting to me. After starting this, I feel like this is also up Kate’s alley too.
Quick Review: Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye
Sloane is a scion in a world that has tried to erase them. She has powers believe to come from one of her people’s Gods but all traces of their heritage have been all but erased by a Colonial like authoritarian regime that has taken over her country. To make matters worst she has been drafted into a child’s army in service of her oppressors. She has to hide who she is while trying to survive basic training. This book is not for the faint of heart. It does have a trigger warning because the topics of Child Army, sexual assault and violence and doesn’t shy aware from any of these things. The very first chapter there is an attempted Rape. The death count in this novel is very high. Al I can say is don’t get too attached to any characters. As a hard of a read to get through, I found myself spellbound by it. I had to know what Sloane was going to do next and hope that things would work out for her. Well, that’s yet to pan out and this is only the first book in the series. I didn’t know that when I started it. The sequel can not come out soon enough.
What I’m Reading Now: Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye
I bought this book on a whim and so far it has been very good. Brutal but good.
Review: Legendborn and Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn
What can I say about this series that the internet hasn’t already said? It’s great! Amazing! Spellbinding! I truly love it and there better be a third novel. I read that it was conceived as trilogy but I have yet to read any announcement of when the next book will be released. So crosses fingers!
Bree has just lost her mother in a car accident and is grieving in when her and her best friend, Alice start classes at Early college program at University of North Carolina. Bree immediately starts noticing strange things around campus and can’t help but think it might be connected to her mother’s death. With the help of Nicolas, the boy who is supposed to mentor her, work together to infiltrate a secret society based around King Arthur and Round Table and well things are more than what she bargained for.
This novel not only goes into the myth of Arthur but also the brutal of history of slavery and racism. This may be 21st century America but the legacy of Slavery is still far too close to us. Bree does what she has to do to fit in and has the right heritage but will never be fully accepted because of the color of her skin. It’s a complicated history that I can never do justice here. The other major theme of this series is Grief and generational trauma. Which seems to be a trend among popular media these days but that’s another essay. We begin the series with Bree being angry about her mother’s death and needs someone to blame for it and the society with all it’s money and trappings is the perfect target. She’s not entirely wrong for blaming them but not for the reason she thinks. This is really her journey to get herself through the trauma of it and coming out the other side. I highly recommend it for all fantasy fans looking for a new take a old story because it is a quite a ride.
What I’m Reading Now: BloodMarked by Tracy Deonn
BookTok has right. Legendborn was amazing. I had to immediately go out to get the sequel.
What I’m Reading Now: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
I’ve been hearing such good things about this book so I’m excited. Also this one of my purchases from NYCC this year.
Review: The Poppy War Trilogy by R.F. Kuang
This series is brutal and unflinching. It is a really a brutal read. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I truly understood what I was getting into when I started this last month. It was like the one book that people on Booktok seemed to all agree was a must read. I was intrigued that it was a fantasy that was based on East Asian history. Specifically Chinese history. I am not familiar with Chinese history but I definitely recognized the parallels from 20th century China and the Japanese occupation of some areas of the country and the attempted colonization from Western Nations. The Poppy War Trilogy tackles the trauma of colonialism, war, famine, sexual assault and racism. The Poppy War follows Rin, an orphan from a poor southern province of Nikara. Her guardians try to marry her off so she decides to take the test to get into the elite military school and not only passes it, she gets the highest score in her province. This shocks everyone and instead of celebrating it, she is accused of cheating. Things don’t get much better when she arrives at Sinegard. She is looked down for her poor upbringing and dark skin. She has to fight to prove hat she belongs and it isn’t easy. The first day, she makes the enemy of Nezha, the son of the Dragon lord but also make friends with Kitay, the son of a minister to the Empress. The Mugenese, who live on the island of the coast of Nikara, who has tried twice to conquer Nikara in the Previous Poppy wars. After a couple of years at Sinegard, the Mugenese invade and Rin and her schoolmates have to go to war. Rin discovers she is a Shaman and can channel the power of the Phoenix god and summon fire. With great power there are costs and Shamans don’t always have control of her minds. She is constantly fighting to keep her own mind while wanted to have the power. She likes the power it gives her. However, coming to grips with what she can do and how it effects others is hard to always come to terms with. To be clear, Rin does some unconscionable things in this series. There are at times, I just couldn’t justify her behavior but most of the time I could. The biggest criticism, I read about her online was how unlikable she was. And yeah, she’s not so great. She’s immature, stubborn, easy to manipulate and easy to rile up but even when she starts to spiral into madness, it made sense to me. When you factor all that she has been through. All that she had to endure in such short life, it made sense why she would act this way Yes, it is hard to justify but it rang true to who she was.
As the story progresses and we go further and further into the wars, the cost of war becomes evident and devasting. War effects the poor more than it does the rich. It’s not the rich that have to flee their homes or starve. It’s not usually their woman who are raped or their man forced into service. The depictions of all these things are unflinching. There is no shying away from the brutal results of war. It can be triggering. Just as the cruel depiction of colonialism and the trauma of being erased in your own country. The Mugenese were the first enemy but other outside enemy is the Hespira, who represented Western Nations who came in wanted to take advantage of the natural resources. I appreciate how religion played a huge role in the Hespirans plans to take control because often times the role of Christianity is downplayed or unmentioned when we talk about western colonialism. The Hespirans wanted to make Nikara more “civilized” and to do that meant making them more like them and that includes converted them to their religion.
I truly loved this series but it is not for everyone. It is not for everyone. As I mentioned, it does not shy away from the graphic depiction of violence of war, towards woman. Rin is own penchant for committing violence herself is no less jarring. All of this is necessary to telling the story and if you are willing to take it all in. It is worth the ride.
What I’m Reading Now: The Burning God by R.F. Kuang
Oh Rin. I sort of feel like this an only end one way and I am not prepared.
What I’m Reading Now: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
Okay, so Booktok was right. The Poppy Wars was amazing. I didn’t know it was a series, though!! Woohoo!