Reviews

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang

glennau's review against another edition

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5.0

This book destroyed me in the best way. This is the type of academic/magic setting I love. The insight from the students from colonized countries, now in Oxford gives an insight not always told, but so necessary to hear and understand. The subject matter is as relevant to colonialism today as it was in the set time period.
I would absolutely love to read another book set in this universe!

carg24's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

5.0

bubblybelle's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional informative reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

this is a beautiful and powerful book. the magic system is very unique and well developed. as a language nerd, i really enjoyed all of the interwoven etymology lessons. my biggest critique is that the pacing felt a bit off at times, especially in the first half. 

Expand filter menu Content Warnings

rena_reads87's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional reflective tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

5.0

This is such a well written book. Character development, atmosphere, tone and pacing are all done brilliantly. 
I loved the friendship of Robin, Ramy and Victoire. felt like you were a part of that group and feeling everything they were feeling. Came to despise Lettie in the end. 

andromedial's review against another edition

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emotional reflective sad medium-paced

5.0

mjwhitlock18's review against another edition

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5.0

Kuang gutted me completely from the inside out, and I loved every second of it. This detailed historical fantasy has multifaceted nuanced characters and probably my favorite magic system I’ve ever read. It hinges on the manifestation of those details lost in translation between languages, utilizing silver metal bars to do so. These characters of color experience cultural loss at the hands of colonizers, unwittingly drawn into the ivory tower of academia to be used by the Empire of England, and they have to decide if the system is redeemable through revolution. At times, the anti imperialist commentary is strongly obvious, but I’m not mad at it. It displays the predatory harm done by colonialism, including weakening of language and destruction of culture. At times, this book made me enraged, heartbroken, horrified, bereft, and hopeful. It is a commitment of a read at 543 pages, but it’s an epic journey and I’m honestly still processing it. 

baileeliz_'s review against another edition

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adventurous emotional informative inspiring reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.5

monzillareads's review against another edition

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5.0

This is a one two punch of a novel. Kuang beautifully writes a historical fantasy, dark academia narrative that focuses on translations and translators exploited and monopolized by the British Empire.

She does not. hold. back.

The characterizations, the plot, and the brilliantly tied-in linguistic and historical references are all conduits for damning commentary on colonialism, capitalism, institutionalized racism, intellectual elitism, and industrialization. The setting is early 19th century Oxford but the message is very much relevant to the here and now. I’d like to think Babel is the kind of novel that will wake you up if you’re somehow still sleeping.

tarian's review against another edition

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adventurous dark emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.5

victoria_tsonos's review against another edition

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slow-paced

3.5