The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This second novel is superior to the first. It's an easy comparison. The characters and the plot development just WORK.
So, what? The previous novel had irritating characters? hmmm... well, they weren't all bad but some did irritate me. Portrayals of women, for one. But this new novel had none of that. Indeed, we have lots of great female characters. Leads that are smart, fascinating, and also RUTHLESS. :)
This Silkpunk fantasy straddles the line between fantasy (in beasts) and science fiction (airships, electromagnetism) firmly couched in the epic fantasy world (such worldbuilding!) brought to us in the first Dandelion Dynasty.
I really loved how much of this was devoted to learning, research, and the politics surrounding it. The battles and the invasion later were also fantastic, but for a long time, the primary feel of the book was a good YA, or rather, a brilliant student and a brilliant teacher. What happens later is tragic and glorious, but for any fan of Eastern-style fantasies, this is an old and well-respected tradition. :)
And I cried a little. :)
These are huge books. It's impossible to comment on any but a few aspects, but if you love super-rich worldbuilding, epic sweeps of time and history in an Asian-like empire filled with fire-breathing beasts, lightning-wielding airships, and an almost-impossible-to-navigate wall of storms separating vast reaches of the world, then you can't go wrong with this. Seriously. It's tons better than the first book. :)
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