Friday Firsts: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu


Welcome to Friday Firsts – a new weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. New Book: First paragraphs. First impressions. New favourite?


| Friday Firsts: February 02 |

The Grace of Kings

Book One of The Dandelion Dynasty

by Ken Liu

Fantasy | 641 Pages | Published by Head of Zeus in 2015


| First Paragraphs |

A white bird hung still in the clear western sky and flapped its wings sporadically.

Perhaps it was a raptor that had left its nest on one of the soaring peaks of the Er-Mé Mountains a few miles away in search of prey. But this was not a good day for hunting—a raptor’s usual domain, this sun-parched section of the Porin Plains, had been taken over by people.

Thousands of spectators lined both sides of the wide road out of Zudi; they paid the bird no attention. They were here for the Imperial Procession.

They had gasped in awe as a fleet of giant Imperial airships passed overhead, shifting gracefully from one elegant formation to another. They had gawped in respectful silence as the heavy battle-carts rolled before them, thick bundles of ox sinew draping from the stone-throwing arms. They had praised the emperor’s foresight and generosity as his engineers sprayed the crowd with perfumed water from ice wagons, cool and refreshing in the hot sun and dusty air of northern Cocru. They had clapped and cheered the best dancers the six conquered Tiro states had to offer: five hundred Faça maidens who gyrated seductively in the veil dance, a sight once reserved for the royal court in Boama; four hundred Cocru sword twirlers who spun their blades into bright chrysanthemums of cold light that melded martial glory with lyrical grace; dozens of elegant, stately elephants from wild, sparsely settled Écofi Island, painted with the colors of the Seven States—the largest male draped in the whiteflag of Xana, as one would expect, while the others wore the rainbow colors of the conquered lands.

The elephants pulled a moving platform on which stood two hundred of the best singers all the Islands of Dara had to offer, a choir whose existence would have been impossible before the Xana Conquest. They sang a new song, a composition by the great imperial scholar Lügo Crupo to celebrate the occasion of the Imperial tour of the Islands:

To the north: Fruitful Faça, green as the eyes of kind Rufizo, Pastures ever kissed by sweet rain, craggy highlands shrouded in mist.

Soldiers walking next to the moving platform tossed trinkets into the crowd: Xana-style decorative knots made with bits of colorful string to represent the Seven States. The shapes of the knots were meant to evoke the logograms for “prosperity” and “luck.” Spectators scrambled and fought one another to catch a memento of this exciting day.

To the south: Castled Cocru, fields of sorghum and rice, both pale and dark, Red, for martial glory, white, like proud Rapa, black, as mournful Kana.

The crowd cheered especially loudly after this verse about their homeland.

To the west: Alluring Amu, the jewel of Tututika, Luminous elegance, filigreed cities surround two blue lakes.

To the east: Gleaming Gan, where Tazu’s trades and gambles glitter, Wealthy as the sea’s bounty, cultured like the scholars’ layered gray robes.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


| First Impressions |

The description detailed in these opening paragraphs brings a wealth of information in just a few words. The surrounding lands, their topography, their people and their cultures are etched out as the opening sequence sets the pace of the first chapter.

Intrigued? Definitely. However the writing style doesn’t quite hit the mark. Usually I am a great lover of descriptive worldbuilding but these opening paragraphs failed to instil any feeling in me whatsoever – perhaps there is just too much information from the get go to process.

I have heard great things about this book however so I’m determined to persevere and hopefully have my initial impressions proved absolutely wrong! I’d be intrigued to know how others felt about the opening of this book – please leave a comment!

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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5 thoughts on “Friday Firsts: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

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