Babel Review

Hello, all!

Something about the fall screams "dark academia," so I was very excited to pick up Babel by R. F. Kuang.

Pub Date: 8-23-22
Adult - Historical Fantasy

After the death of his mother from cholera, orphaned Robin Swift is brought from Canton to London by the curious Professor Lovell. Here, Robin learns Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, in the hopes of enrolling in Oxford's prestigious translation institute, known as Babel. Not only is it the world's center for translation, but it's also known for the magical art of silver-working, or manifesting meanings lost in translation.

When Robin arrives in Oxford, he is amazed at the wealth of knowledge available at his fingertips. Soon, Robin realizes that with that knowledge comes a power that, inevitably, will be turned against people just like him. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself torn between Babel and a shadowy secret organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working plans for colonization. With a war between Britain and China on the horizon, Robin must decide what side of the fight he's on and what he's willing to sacrifice for what's right.

Ok, listen. Was this story impactful? Yes. Was the writing stunning? Absolutely. Did it confront the darker side of academia? A million percent. Then why didn't I enjoy this more? I never found myself invested in the story, and it came down to one simple reason: I didn't feel intelligent enough to read this. It might sound silly, but it's true. I don't feel like I fully grasped all the nuances and intricacies Kuang wove throughout it. I appreciated all the representation and the dynamic between the characters. I thought the world-building was rich and well done, and I genuinely think it's a brilliant book. All the hype surrounding this book is more than warranted, but it just didn't work as well for me.

Rating: 3/5


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