About the Book
In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.
Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.
But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.
This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu is the second book in The Dandelion Dynasty series. It is absolutely, 100% essential that you read the first book (The Grace of Kings) before you read this one. The books are long, but oh-so-worth-it.
The Wall of Storms takes off a few years after The Grace of Kings ends. Things have progressed, and the new dynasty seems to be doing pretty well. There are wives and kids and politics, but everything seems pretty par for the course at the start of the novel. It’s a delightful slow buildup to the many real issues that the novel hinges on. Slowly readers are introduced to the way that things have evolved over the gap between the two novels. You get to see familiar characters, while getting introduced to new ones.
Not every story is a happy one. It quickly becomes apparent that things are brewing beneath the surface, and politics aren’t quite as stable and wonderful as it all seems at first. Some characters from the previous novel have taken turns for the worst, and some have understandable vendettas and agendas. While on the flip side, the royal family seems to be doing okay, but likewise there are issues there as well. The two wives have their own plans and ideas. Kuni, like usual, also has his own plans. Then insert some children in there and you have plenty of subtle issues tugging the empire here and there, and motivating people in some really unexpected ways.
The world felt a little larger in this novel, and the cultures were explored a little more, and in some different ways. There are a lot of situations where the novel felt like a huge melting pot, and the characters had to figure out how to navigate these interesting cultural currents. Not only did these situations help build the world and add all those little details that I love. It also added an interesting unpredictability to the novel that I really enjoyed. It’s hard to determine which direction things will go when all of the characters come from such diverse backgrounds, and there are so many political and social issues brewing alongside those delectable personal motivations.
So, this book is hugely unpredictable. It’s also incredibly layered, and brimming full of politics (as one would expect). This is one of those books that you really, really have to pay attention to, and follow closely. It doesn’t come easy, and sometimes those books that make you work for it are the best ones. This is a perfect example of that. Everything that I loved about The Grace of Kings was expanded on here, elaborated on. There is a ton of action, but it’s not all surface action (while there is a ton of that). So much of this book happens on those deeper, more subtle levels, and that’s the part that you need to pay attention to. The action is wonderful, but the real meat of the book happens on those quiet, personal levels and sometimes it is hard to navigate them.
The writing is absolutely fantastic, and while the world building never ends – they are, after all, creating and defending an empire – all of the world building and character development that happened on the first book allows Liu to focus on other aspects of the world and characters in this novel. I can honestly say the characters leapt off the page, and the world seemed just about as real as the world I live in. You can read this book just to enjoy those two aspects, if for no other reason, because wow. Just wow.
The Wall of Storms is relentless in just about every possible way. It’s unexpected, unpredictable, and almost painfully absorbing. So far this is probably the best book I’ve read this year, hands down. Liu is a dominating force in speculative fiction. He’s rewriting the genre, and redefining the rules, and it’s a delight to witness.