Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marrillier
I’m not disappointed with the second book in this standalone series and is very glad to find out the backstory to Grim. Overall, a satisfying read for me, with the same blend of magic, intrigue and compelling character background as book 1. I have book 3 on my to-read list.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
I think it’s a solid work (and closely follow the historical events and main characters, at least in terms of archetype) but I think because I’m a Chinese and know of the historical context a bit better than potentially other readers, I have slightly different expectations of the book which turns out to be met. The main one was that I expected the book to somehow have both Kuni and Mata as main characters and focus on the conflict between the two. This was further complicated by the fact that my sympathy seemed entirely taken up with Mata at first (perhaps that’s because I never really liked the charming rogue archetype that’s Kuni and I was reading another novel at the same where Xiang Yu, the historical inspiration behind Mata, was the main character). That got corrected some way past the opening chapters. But then towards the end I still feel like I want a more nuanced Mata (that departs from the historical archetype) to make things harder for Kuni.
The other thing is that I feel like Kuni is a bit of a ‘weak’ main character in that he is often pushed into certain key events in the story by sidecasts. Perhaps this is an artifact of the story being an epic (which does tend to make sidecasts strong, something I’m used to) but I think I don’t really enjoy keeping track of the changes in all the key characters in this story so much. Perhaps, this is again due to me knowing the actual history and so it’s like reading a book crisscrossed with spoilers for me. Still, I do enjoy some of the historical bending in this story and I think they are what keeps the story engaging for me.