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Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Babel combines history and fantasy in a thrilling read on the British Empire


A historical fantasy wrought in vivid tones: Set in the early 19th century, R. F. Kuang’s Babel: An Arcane History weaves strands of magic into the history of the British Empire as it interrogates the ways in which knowledge serves power, and whether violence is ever justified in resisting it. The novel follows Robin Swift, a Chinese boy raised in Britain by the mysterious Professor Lovell after he loses his family to cholera. Lovell trains Robin in languages for years to get him into Babel, Oxford University’s prestigious (and fictional) translation institute. But when he gets there, Swift soon realizes the institute has been using dark arts to serve the colonialist aims of the British Empire. When Britain goes to war with China, Robin is forced to choose whether he will abandon his ancestral ties or join a plot to sabotage the Empire. This New York Times bestseller flits between history and fantasy, keeping you on the edge of your seat while also making you think.

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