Book Review: “Babel” By R.F. Kuang

2023 is starting off a lot slower than I would have hoped. This will be only the second book I have read so far and January is practically over! I have two other books that I am currently reading and I really hope to finish them over the next few days, my fingers are crossed.

“If we push in the right spots – then we’ve moved things to the breaking point. The the future becomes fluid, and change is possible. History isn’t a premed tapestry that we’ve got to suffer, a closed world with no exit. We can form it. Make it. We just have to choose to make it.”

 R.F. Kuang, Babel

About The Book

Author: R.F. Kuang

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Published Date: August 23, 2022

Page Count: 545 Pages

Main Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

GoodReads Rating: 4.35

Format: Audio

“She learned revolution is, in fact, always unimaginable. It shatters the world you know. The future is unwritten, brimming with potential. The colonizers have no idea what is coming, and that makes them panic. It terrifies them.

 R.F. Kuang, Babel


Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver working—the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars—has made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empire’s quest for colonization.

For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide…

Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence?

Synopsis From GoodReads

“A lie was not a lie if it was never uttered; questions that were never asked did not need answers. They would both remain perfectly content to linger in the liminal, endless space between truth and denial.”

 R.F. Kuang, Babel


Rating: 4 out of 5.

“No one’s focused on how we’re all connected. We only think about how we suffer, individually. The poor and middle-class of this country don’t realize they have more in common with us than they do with Westminster.”

 R.F. Kuang, Babel


This is a book that made it on almost everyone’s 2022 top 10 lists so I knew I needed to pick it up and see what all they hype was about. Honestly, I really struggled at first because I felt almost to dumb to be reading it. But the mor ethe story progressed the more I fell in love with it.

I would have died for the majority of these characters! The relationships built throughout the book really tugged at your heart and made you want what was best for the characters and their relationships. I feel like in most books where you have a fairly large cast of characters it can be hard to grow any kind of connection to the majority of them but with this book that just wasn’t the case. Their relationships with each other were a very important part of the book and if the character building wasn’t done well then the book would have fallen flat.

This book talks about some really important topics, the biggest two to me were race and social classism. These are things that our world was built around and this book really dives deep into how we as a world need to come together and make some much needed changes as these are two huge issues in todays society.

Something that really stuck out to me is that even if the world is unwilling to change YOU are capable of changing and making your own small impact to make this world a better place.

With all of that said I would highly recommend this book especially on audio. The audio book was amazing because a second voice would read the footnotes to you as they were happening and even help with pronunciations. I hope this makes you want to give this book a chance because it will change your outlook on the world.

“That’s just what translation is, I think. That’s all speaking is. Listening to the other and trying to see past your own biases to glimpse what they’re trying to say. Showing yourself to the world, and hoping someone else understands.”

 R.F. Kuang, Babel

QOTD: What are some good books about Race, Classism and Feminism?

“Be selfish,” he whispered. “Be brave.”

 R.F. Kuang, Babel