A review by audreading
Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang

adventurous challenging dark emotional inspiring mysterious reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Such a beautiful book. I started out expecting dark academia with some social commentary and was taken on a journey so much further than that. I’ve rarely loved a protagonist so much as I loved Robin. My heartstrings were tugged in every direction.

Despite being about language and often delving into etymology, the book is in no way pretentious. It’s quite the opposite. Accessible literature is the key to liberation and Kuang shows us that with both the character’s journey and with the book itself. At times I did wish some footnotes were simply in the text above, as I lost my place every time I checked one. However, the footnotes did bring an even more intimate touch to the book and were sometimes helpful.

SpoilerIf I really scrape my brain to find anything not to like about the book, it is only in lack of setup for some key plot points. First, Letty. That witch. I’m not going to say I didn’t expect her to turn on them. Of course I did. But I felt it would have been more in character for her to simply turn them over to the police or call her dad and never show her face until the end. Killing Ramy??? (cried forever btw) I get she was in love with him, but she just doesn’t seem like she’d have it in her to directly do it. I mean that to say she’d take the cowardly way, but still betray them by turning them in. Even with that being said, I 100% agree with hammering in the point of the privileged white woman who will do anything to look like the victim while destroying others.

The other part I felt needed a better setup was Robin and Victoire’s storm on Babel. It felt a little underwhelming and to be honest I don’t think so many people would be so easily convinced to go along with occupying the building, especially not Craft who we had never heard express discontent with Babel before, even though she knew everything they were doing. And I didn’t really get why they were so protected from the police. I know why they couldn’t kill them, but why couldn’t they enter the building? Not questioning the plot at ALL here. I think it’s so important to show strikers as the assets they are. Just commenting on some things I felt were a little confusing. All in all, these comments are just me coming up with the only tiny complaints I possibly could! The book is incredible!

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