• Books and Bookish

Babel by R.F. Kuang: A Stunning Masterpiece



I've been keeping this review in my drafts since the day I wrote it and a day after I collected my thoughts after reading Babel. This is a long post, so if you'd like a summary, see my review in letterboxd-style below (I lifted this review from my letterbxd diary on Hulu's Normal People; and yes, this is how i write film reviews because it's fun!).




Carry on if you have the time to read my thoughts on, possibly, my favorite book of the year:


I have been consuming fantasy books since I was a child; have been devouring fantasy media like my lifeline depends on it, because when done right, there is no better escapism than being transported into otherworldly realms that I deemed impossible. But what makes a book or piece of fantasy media great isn't only dependent on its ability to take you to magical places, but rather challenging your beliefs, ideals, and choices through a narrative that walks us through a world similar to our reality yet wholly different --- this is what makes Babel by R.F. Kuang such an intricate reading experience.


Babel delves into the magic of language, and literal magic itself. To say it is an astounding and well-researched period piece feels too short to describe the grandeur of the masterpiece that Kuang wrote. There is so much honesty in the way she depicted the realities of academia for non-white, maginalized Oxford students; frequently did the context made me uncomfortable but that's what art does: it shows snippets of reality often ignored.


The prose is beautiful; the writing, world-building, and history --- an incredible feat that showed Rebecca just outdid herself from her previous work, The Poppy War Trilogy. You can truly feel her passion on the academics through the transformative power of her words in this book; and such passion is translated into a message that paints Babel as a story not only about dark academia, but a narrative that examines topics on colonialism, racism, and how much we lose our culture when we take in another's as a result of oppression and prejudice.


Babel is, by far, the most ambitious work of fantasy I've read this year and there is nothing more than I can thank Rebecca for voicing out topics rarely tackled with such depth in this particular genre.


Kudos to such a brilliant piece of work! 5 stars, and a 10/10 for being such a book worth my time.


Thank you to Harper Collins for the gifted review copy in exchange for a review!