Review: Babel by RF Kuang

Title: Babel

Author: RF Kuang

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.

Beautiful, heartbreaking, impressive and a totally amazing storyline. This book was so unique like nothing I’ve ever read and I really enjoyed it!

I really don’t know if I can do this masterpiece of a story justice so I’ll keep this simple and short!

The world that was built here was so utterly magnificent that you can lose yourself in it. The magic system simple yet effective.

The main character, Robin was so innocent, so eager to learn and what happened to him in each stage of this book broke my heart.

One thing that healed my heart a tad was the wonderful friendship between outsiders, Robin, Ramy, Victorie and even Letty.

I’m not going to say anything more about the plot because this historical fantasy mixed with dark academia read needs to experienced. Because it is an experience.


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