This is Carl's Brain
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

I was hooked in by The Grace of Kings right from the start.  There is a lot to like in this novel.  I liked this novel because it had the feel of an epic fantasy novel but was written in a very different style.  It had a clear Far Eastern influence to it which made it stand apart from many other fantasy novels that I have read.  I also liked the mixture of science along with the fantasy as seen by the steampunk style airships featured in the novel as well as other scientific developments, including a crude type of submarine that was introduced.

 

The characters were also good.  There were so many characters that some of them either blended together with other characters or were not particularly notable enough that by the end of the novel, I had no real remembrance of them and what they did. But there were a great many interesting and memorable characters.  What I especially liked was that even the villain characters were well crafted and interesting.  The ultimate villain in the novel is Mata Zyndu, who starts off as a heroic characters and friend to Kuni Garo, the main protagonist.  Although Mata goes off the rails and eventually turns into a tyrant and bloodthirsty killer, there is a clear nobility to the character, and Mata is the hero of his own story.  He is convinced that his way is right and just.  Even the Emperor at the beginning is convinced that his vision is a good one.  In some ways he was correct, although he was clearly misguided.

 

There were comparisons of this novel to Game of Thrones, but I wasn’t seeing it early since it has a more lighthearted tone and didn’t have all of the palace intrigue as Game of Thrones, but as it went along, I saw that there was quite a bit of deceit and backstabbing, even if it was lighthearted.  The only real drawback is that I thought the novel could have used some definite editing.  It was overly long in spots, and it dragged in a couple of others, but on balance this was a compelling, well written, well crafted and enjoyable novel.