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By R. F. Kuang
Babel by R. F. Kuang digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller from the author of The Poppy War  

“Absolutely phenomenal. One of the most brilliant, razor-sharp books I've had the pleasure of reading that isn't just an alternative fantastical history, but an interrogative one; one that grabs colonial history and the Industrial Revolution, turns it over, and shakes it out.” -- Shannon Chakraborty, bestselling author of The City of Brass

From award-winning author R. F. Kuang comes Babel, a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal retort to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell that grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tool of the British empire.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel.

Babel is the world's center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver working—the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars—has made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empire’s quest for colonization.

For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide…

Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? 

841 Reviews

Surprised Face with Open Mouth“I was deciding between 2.5 and 3 stars all while reading this. I found this book to be EXTREMELY boring until the 75% mark. It's super long and over explains everything. The characters are also pretty predictable and one-dimensional. Reasons why I didn't give it 1 star: It made me feel something and the ending was pretty good! VOCABULARY! And it still managed to be immersive despite all of the reasons I didn't love it. Overall, I'd still suggest reading this if you like Super drawn out books 🙂”
Characters change and growDiverse charactersImmersive settingThought-provokingMisogynyRacismViolenceUnengaging characters
Thinking Face“Starting with the only negative: This book was sooooo long, I had to take a whole star away because it was hard to keep reading at some points. BUT the characters were incredible, the magic system was interesting, and it had very pertinent parallels to the world today.”
Diverse charactersBeautifully writtenThought-provoking
Anxious Face with sweat“Wow this book was very long and very intense! The author is extremely articulate and approaches complex/difficult themes through masterful writing skill and extensive research. A certain amount of critical thinking and investment is required to get the most of of a book like this. It's no penny dreadful; if you want a totally worthwhile, immensely challenging, dramatic, allegorical novel, I recommend this highly!”
Multi-layered charactersBeautifully writtenDescriptive writingDark settingMagical settingThought-provoking
Loudly Crying Face“Reading this book is like going on a journey. Readers are confronted by racism and colonialism, Kuang didn’t even flinch when she poured the cruelty on us, you’re unable to look away because of discomfort. It was my honour to read such a book. One thing I would say is that this is a very realistic setting, and the fantasy element felt very minimal (to keep it close to reality?) albeit understandable because of the structure and the plot. Petition for prequels pls (Lovell/Griffin cohort)”
Characters change and growMulti-layered charactersBeautifully writtenOriginal writingAddictiveTwistyRealistic settingHeartbreakingRacismViolence
Anxious Face with sweat“Well I certainly questioned my reading comprehension at multiple points. Unfortunately I think the bar was set too high for this book and it just wasn’t what I had anticipated. Definitely not an easy read for me but I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. I wish Ramy and Robin would have had their moment. 💔”
Diverse charactersDescriptive writingHeartbreakingBigotryRacism

About R. F. Kuang

Rebecca F. Kuang is the #1 New York Times and #1 Sunday Times bestselling author of the Poppy War trilogy, Babel: An Arcane History, and Yellowface. Her work has won the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, and British Book Awards. A Marshall Scholar, she has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford. She is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale, where she studies diaspora, contemporary Sinophone literature, and Asian American literature.

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