The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

This book is ubiquitous in bookstores. It has very eye-catching cover art – black background, white text. The title font is great. Unfortunately, the online font identifiers are failing me. The name is also concise but intriguing. Most of all, it’s a potential fantasy juggernaut written by a Chinese American who went to Harvard and now lives in MA. How can I not read this?

1) “But if you waited patiently, eventually the common dross and dregs would settle to the bottom, where they belonged, and the clear water would allow the light through, the noble and the pure.”

Time is the best judge.

2) “‘Strange that a poison and its antidote would grow so close together.'” – Kuni

Don’t be toxic, find your antidote. I’ll find mine.

3) “Once all the children had been educated under one standard script and one standard dialect, the local scholars no longer could dictate what thoughts could spread within their realm of influence.”

Education really is so powerful. If you win education, you win the mind and you win, period.

4) “‘Emperor, king, general, duke. These are just labels. Climb up the family tree of any of them high enough and you’ll find a commoner who dared to take a chance.'” – Kuni

Same logic applies to immigration.

5) “‘The lottery is only a cover for something better. You see, people won’t be purchasing their lottery tickets directly. Instead, they’ll get them only when shopping, as a kind of receipt. For each silver piece they spend, they obtain from the vendor a lottery ticket for free. The more they spend shopping, the more tickets they get.'” – Cogzy

When I read this, I vaguely remembered I’d heard of it before. It’s Taiwan (and also other countries). I shouldn’t have thrown out all my Taiwan receipts.

6) “‘The people offer up their treasure and labor and maintain all of us in luxury with the single expectation that we will protect them in times of danger.'” – King Jizu

Are taxes just an insurance premium?

7) “‘Being compassionate to one’s enemies means being cruel to one’s own soldiers.'” – Mata

I’m not sure if this is an Asian proverb, but I’ve only heard it in context of Asian things.

8) “These theatrical outbursts were exactly what he had expected – these men had no ideas of their own, but they were ready to shoot down others’ proposals.”

Because criticizing is one of the easiest things to do.

9) “It is how actions are seen that matters, not what was intended.”

Career advice 101. Life advice 101.

10) “‘Would you stop drinking medicine after a week when it takes ten days to show results?'” – the doctor

Yes, sometimes I do.

They are definitely going to try and make a movie out of this. It’s quite convoluted though, and sometimes characters just die with no real explanations. Also, the plot has a lot of Chinese elements. It felt a bit like a TVB drama at times. I probably won’t read the sequel for now, but I’m paying attention to this author.

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