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BABEL

OR THE NECESSITY OF VIOLENCE: AN ARCANE HISTORY OF THE OXFORD TRANSLATORS' REVOLUTION

Dark academia as it should be.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2022


  • New York Times Bestseller

Can the British Empire, built on the power of foreign languages and magic, maintain its grip on the globe?

In 1829, professor Richard Lovell brings a young Chinese boy now known as Robin Swift from his home in Canton to England. Saved from the cholera outbreak that claimed the rest of his family, Robin has the chance to begin a new, comfortable life at professor Lovell's estate. In exchange for food and lodging, he will spend years studying Latin, Greek, and Mandarin to prepare himself to enter Oxford’s Royal Institute of Translation, known as Babel. In Oxford, Robin meets other students who are not so different from him: young people brought to England from other countries to maintain the empire. Britain has built its power upon silver bars and the magical powers imparted to them by translation, but in order to maintain that power, Britain needs foreigners and their languages. Though Robin and his friends are met with racism, they also find true joy in their studies and the heady business of translation. Soon, Robin learns of the secretive Hermes Society, a group working against the hegemony of the Royal Institute of Translation. As Robin’s studies continue, he begins to question the colonial machine from which he can’t seem to break free. Kuang draws a keen parallel between extracting knowledge and extracting resources, examining the terrible power of systems built on inequality and the uncomfortable experiences of the marginalized within those systems, whether due to race or gender. While occasionally hampered by rather self-aware critiques of colonialism, in general this is an expansive, sympathetic, and nevertheless scathing critique of Western imperialism and how individuals are forced to make their peace with the system and survive or to fight back and face the consequences. It's ambitious and powerful while displaying a deep love of language and literature.

Dark academia as it should be.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-302142-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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