BABEL by R. F. Kuang (Review)

Format Read: Hardback

Source: Owned

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Publication Date: 23rd August 2022

Synopsis/Blurb (Taken from Goodreads):

“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 of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports 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? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.”

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My Thoughts

Having loved The Poppy War series I was so excited to pick this one up. However, at the same time, I was a little worried I wouldn’t enjoy it as Dark Academia and hyped books can be very hit-and-miss with me.  But this one didn’t disappoint!!

The story had me gripped from start to finish. Yes it could have been shorter in places and the pacing could have been a little faster in others, but I was still hooked, I loved the setting, characters and of course the story. Both the story and characters were complex yet I still found them easy to follow throughout the book.

I had started listening to the audiobook before my copy arrived but I must admit I did struggle with the audiobook at first. The main reason was that the footnotes were being read out and it just felt confusing, even though a different narrator was reading the footnotes. However, once I started reading along physically everything fitted into place and started flowing. The Two narrators Chris Lew Kum Hoi (main narrator) and Billie Fulford-Brown (footnote narrator) did a brilliant job of bringing the story and characters to life.

This has been a difficult book to review and share my thoughts on but I absolutely loved it and can’t recommend it enough.

My Rating

💙💙💙💙 1/2

HaAve you read this book? What did you think? Leave a comment below and let’s have a chat.

Happy Reading!!!


You can also find me on: Twitter || Instagram ||Goodreads


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