Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this novel wildly. In fact, I think I loved it more than R. F. Kuang's The Poppy War or sequels. I certainly enjoyed it more than the majority of the more recent fantasy novels that have been written for years.
It has that perfect blend of great characters, depth of worldbuilding, true historical scholarship, and a great story all wrapped in one hard-hitting package.
Let me list the ways I loved this: I really loved the Poppy Wars for being an epic-fantasy rendition of the Opium Wars in a fantastical setting. Babel took the premise a step (or five steps) forward by laying its foundation in true English history with its colonizations, horrible trading practices, oblivious theoretical cultural superiority, and its labor practices that are basically slavery by any other name.
That's one part. The other part is the genuinely delicious YA aspect, the scholarship setting, and the deeply uneasy feeling of being set aside, used, unappreciated, and thrown away when all is said and done. This is the lot of anyone with a slightly different skin tone, after all, and this conflict was put into extremely sharp relief in a way I can't help but resonate with.
And then there is the love of language, meaning, and a translator's dream. This part was beautiful and mesmerizing and it brought so much depth to an already amazingly detailed historical fiction.
Am I a huge fan of this book? You better believe it. This is me raving about it. :)
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