Review: Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
Series: The Dandelion Dynasty #2
Also by this author: The Grace of Kings
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 4th 2016
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.
In Wall of Storms, Ken Liu continues to carry the epic tale that began with Grace of Kings. I am still in awe of his writing style, which adds to the legendary feel of the story. The story feels at once captivating and current, yet old and legendary. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, all I can say is give his books a read. His prose just feels unique, makes me think of old legends, yet the story is fresh and new. Once again, it is full of personal conflicts, motivations, history, technology, magic and politics. Oh, and a solid dose of war and foreign threats as well.
Wall of Storms is complex, has many moving parts and characters. The first part features the four children of Kuni (now Emperor). We get a look at their varied personalities as well as a bit of recap from Grace of Kings as they gather round to hear stories of old. There is drama between Kuni’s wives, and succession of his children. I have to confess, I was not thrilled with Jia’s storyline or actions in this book. (Jia is Kuni’s first wife, in case you need a refresher like I did). It’s not my story to tell, so I can’t fault it, but I also hated to see the ways she has changed.
Dara is still adjusting to the rule of Kuni as Emperor, with visible tensions as he tries to implement his plans and his people worry about their futures. It has been unstable, so is only natural that there is nervousness surrounding his rule and intentions. There is also a threat of invasion from Lyucu that takes focus in later parts of the book.
This book features a couple of great new female characters. First is Zomi. She is an incredibly bright scholar and student of Luan Zyu. As she takes the Grand Examination, we learn more about her through flashback scenes. I found her character a welcome addition, and enjoyed her perspective and story. Particularly her relationship with Luan Zyu, who took her under his wing when she she most needed help.
The second is Thera, daughter of Kuni. From the very beginning, we can she is incredibly bright and well suited for politics. In the beginning, she seems to be overlooked, and her brothers favored. But eventually, she gets her time to shine. Another character that I took an instant liking to.
The weakness of this book, for me anyway, is that at times it felt slow. And with a book pushing 900 pages, particularly one that features politics so heavily, I don’t know that that is unusual, but it can make the read more daunting. It is very much a book, that you just have to give into and have no expectations or guidelines for when to finish. Just go with the flow, take the story as it comes, and enjoy Liu’s writing along the way.