Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution

R. F. Kuang     Recommended by Luka    

Oxford, 1836. It is the centre of all progress & knowledge in the world. And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation—the great tower from which all the power of the Empire flows. Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by a mysterious guardian, Babel seemed like paradise to Robin Swift. Until it became a prison…

This has swept in as the best novel I have read this year. A standalone offering, Babel has been largely marketed as a ‘dark-fantasy-academia’ novel, but this pigeonhole falls tragically short! It is deeply complex, overflowing with historical allusions and linguistic passion – grounded in a fascinating magic system based on translation. I would personally call it speculative historical fiction before anything else; Kuang’s background in Chinese military history is evident. Babel is a novel about exploitation & empire, language, and the competing of histories. Although these ideas are big, it still has a tender, character-driven heart.

After writing her previously bestselling trilogy, The Poppy War, before she had turned 20(!), Babel has asserted Kuang once and for all as a force of contemporary fantasy; her voice is unique and masterful. Highly recommend for those seeking a bold & subversive fantasy read. – Luka

Join the mailing list Sign up for the latest news, releases & specials.