A white bird hung still in the clear western sky and flapping it wings sporadically.
While Kuni Garu is the main character of the book, the book shifts perspective many times throughout the 54 chapters of the book. A lot of characters are just there for a chapter or two while others show up quite a few times. Normally I am not a big fan of multiple viewpoints but Liu makes it work for me. I am not quite sure why that is. The story is made of lots of little moments that weave together a tapestry of a story. I like slice of life moments in my fiction, so this suits me quite well. Many people write that they had a problem with the many non-western names but for once I didn’t really have any problems following that. The characters are fascinating, especially Kuni Garu, who has such amazing character development.
The story is quite a slow build with the raising conflict slowly building, unfolding, building and unfolding. This is very much an epic fantasy story, though a low fantasy one. The slow build of the story makes it feel like reading a really good history book rather than a fantasy which I enjoyed. While the story do have meding gods, it has very little in terms of magic or strange creatures.
Because of the meandering and shifting points of view, we get to see all layers of society and how they react to what is going on. The story treats all of them with the same amount of empathy and dry wit. I think Lui does a particularly good job of showing the lower class people as people of agency:
“The empirical treasury might have paid their salary, but that didn’t mean that the soldiers forgot who they were.””
The story do have some problems with invisible women for much of the story, but it seems like Liu noticed that two-thirds though and fixed it for the latter part of the story. The pov women are fascinating and wonderful.
I listened to much of the story long drives which it was quite suited for.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was talking at everyone I got into contact with about how much I enjoyed it. So this is a strong recommendation. I will be very surprised if this does not turn up on awards list next year.
Published: 2015 by Simon & Schuster
Read: May 18 to July 02, 2015
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Length: 623 pages or 43 hours and 12 minutes
Author: Male, poc, USA
The protagonist: Kuni Garu, poc, son of a merchant, able bodied, male