Babel : Or the Necessity of Violence: an Arcane History of the Oxford Translators Revolution
by Kuang, R. F.

A Chinese boy orphaned by cholera and raised in Britain is trained to work at Oxford's prestigious Royal Institute of Translation, the world's center for translation and magic through silver-working, where he must choose between competing loyalties.

*Starred Review* Kuang follows her award-winning Poppy War trilogy with an engaging fantasy about the magic of language. Her richly descriptive stand-alone novel about an ever-expanding, alternate-world empire powered by magically enhanced silver talismans scrutinizes linguistics, history, politics, and the social customs of Victorian-era Great Britain. Professor Richard Lovell, an expert in Asiatic languages, brings a young Chinese orphan home from Macau for the specific purpose of raising and training him to be a student at the Royal Institute of Translation, Oxford University's prized educational tower of Babel and storage vault for the largest supply of silver in the world. Although able to pass for white, Robin Swift comes to understand he will never be fully accepted into English society. But over time he becomes content with the comfortable life provided by the professor and his Oxford scholarship. Then one evening he stumbles across a group stealing from Babel-a group whose leader has a face exactly like his own. This encounter changes Robin as he learns of his own purpose in the insidiousness behind Babel and its ties to the expansionist designs of the British Empire. Fans of in-depth historical fantasy will be delighted with Kuang's latest. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

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. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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