• Babel
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  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel
  • Babel

Babel: An Arcane History

Fiction & Poetry, Modern & Contemporary Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Hardback Published on: 01/09/2022
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Bookseller Reviews

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a fantastic historical fiction that uses fantasy to metaphorically explain British colonialism with the utmost prowess
R.F Kuang is no doubt exceptionally talented, and this Gothic, mid-19th century novel only proves that fact further. Robin Swift has been taken by a Briti... READ MORE
Ronnie, Bluewater Bookseller
Babel has made me so much more interested in language, translation and Orientalism (and made me miss studying Chinese!). Oxford was described so perfectly.... READ MORE
Best Fantasy of 2022
‘Be selfish,’ he whispered. ‘Be brave.’ It has been about a month since I finished Babel, and I still don’t think I’m capable of expressing my thoughts ... READ MORE
Enter Babel - the pinnacle of dark academia excellence.
Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal. Babel is a powerful, bold and ambitious, dark academia tale. An ode to language... READ MORE
Babel is simply stunning
Wow! It's incredibly rare that I am left awestruck and exhausted after finishing a book. Babel is simply stunning. Babel is a novel of intensity fr... READ MORE
Hannah Torres
My absolute favourite book of the year!
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Babel from the lovely people at Harper Collins, however, I have struggled to put my many thoughts about t... READ MORE
Kibrina Davey
Utterly Compelling
Like Philip Pullman for grown ups. Set in a Steampunk, alternate Britain in Victorian times, this is a book about power, language and colonialism and the ... READ MORE
Katy Wheatley
Empire of magic
A brilliant story that sees the British Empire held together through the magical alchemy of Babel, the centre of translation at Oxford University, where ma... READ MORE
Ben Richardson
2022’s best fantasy
Babel is magical, thought provoking and bold.
Megan  Metcalfe
An absolute delight and triumph
R.F. Kuang does NOT disappoint with Babel, her standalone novel following The Poppy War series. I loved the premise of the novel before I even read it, but... READ MORE
Chloe L
A Must Read!
I absolutely loved this book! Though be warned of the racial comments as I did feel myself needing to step away from the book a few times around them. ... READ MORE
Catherine Chan
Fiendishly addictive dark academia
I have mixed feelings about dark academia as a genre. It can often feel over explained, or dry, or boring. This is not those things. The plot is excitin... READ MORE
Angie at Blackpool
A challenging, confronting and brilliant read.
This is a slow, steady and detailed tome about an alternate Oxford of 1836. Students are invited from around the world to help with translations which powe... READ MORE
Poppy Flaxman
Bebel was enchanting with language-based magic. Conversations on race and the role of moving to and fitting into new societies, Kuang's fantasy had me hook... READ MORE
Beth at Andover
The best Dark Academia book I have ever read
Babel is not only one of my favourite reads of the year, but undoubtedly one of my favourite reads ever. Presenting the tedious yet the absolute obsessiven... READ MORE
Léa at Brighton
My Book of the Year
Enormous, unafraid and frighteningly relevant, Babel is just as gigantic as the Empires it dissects— both the British and the one of academia. A mix of ch... READ MORE
Chloë at Cheltenham Waterstones
What can I say? The most powerful and beautiful writing. A totally unique historical fantasy. I felt like I was back in Oxford (my home town), walking the... READ MORE
Perfect from start to finish
I devoured all 500 pages in a day, which goes a long way in showing just how addictive and wonderful this novel is. The book is meticulously researched, th... READ MORE
Chelsea Reid
Like nothing I’ve read before
Reading this book felt like a commitment of the best kind. It was spectacular. As a lover of language and etymology (thank you Susie Dent), I was thoroughl... READ MORE
Holly at Oldham
A genuine, clever epic
"Magnificent, isn't it?" Anthony sighed with satisfaction. "You never get used to the sight. Welcome to your home for the next four years, believe it or no... READ MORE
Selena Whitehead, Guildford
The best book I’ve ever read
This book changed me. It educated me and opened my eyes to the darker side of academia and the pursuit of knowledge. The impact of colonialism is a key fea... READ MORE
Katherine  Osgood
It may not go down as my favourite book ever, but it may well be the best and most important book I've ever read.
Set 1830s England, the book follows Robin Swift, a Chinese boy taken from his mother land to go to university in Oxford, where Britain's global economic an... READ MORE
Jimbo James


A new dark academic fantasy by the New York Times bestselling author of The Poppy War. Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal. Oxford, 1836. The city of dreaming spires. It is the centre of all knowledge and progress in the world. And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation. The tower from which all the power of the Empire flows. Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by a mysterious guardian, Babel seemed like paradise to Robin Swift. Until it became a prison... but can a student stand against an empire? An incendiary new novel from award-winning author R.F. Kuang about the power of language, the violence of colonialism, and the sacrifices of resistance.

  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • ISBN: 9780008501815
  • Number of pages: 560
  • Weight: 850g
  • Dimensions: 240 x 159 x 44 mm

Customer Reviews

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A good story but far too long!
I was sent a first proof copy of Babel by R.F. Kuang to read and review by NetGalley. This was a very interesting book regarding the intricacies of transl... READ MORE
A devastating portrait of the reality of revolution
5 stars ”Violence is the only language they understand, because their system of extraction is inherently violent. Violence shocks the system. And the sy... READ MORE
Fascinating, insightful, brilliant.
If Kuang's Poppy War trilogy was epic in its imagination (which it was), this is epic in its detail. You'd be forgiven for thinking pages of lectures about... READ MORE
Tom Midgley
Right, enough spoiling it all. It’s enjoyable and if you are not a language freak or genre nerd… Go ahead!
I have to admit I have seen this book reappear in various ads, and emails from bookshops, publishers, etc. I am still unsure why I did not look into this s... READ MORE
Such a good read
Such an interesting lot of characters. From the main character Robin to his school cohort. Their relationships from the start to the bonding they did toget... READ MORE
Bronwyn Alexander
A masterpiece.
'An act of translation is always an act of betrayal' — Babel, R. F. Kuang (2022). Babel was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022, and it didn't disapp... READ MORE
A Struggle To Get Through At Times
In the years to come, Robin would return so many times to this night. He was forever astonished by its mysterious alchemy, by how easily two badly socializ... READ MORE
Charlotte Watkins
Dark and powerful
Dark and spellbinding. This story resonates power. Brought from his life of poverty in Canton to the dreaming spires of Oxford, Robin finds himself thrust ... READ MORE
Gillian Frost
Babel is startling good!
When I was only a little way into it, a friend asked how I was finding it and I told her it was "Better than it has any right to be." At that point it was ... READ MORE
Liam James
The Dark Academia Masterpiece I NEEDED
“Language is just difference… And translation — a necessary endeavour, however futile, to move between them.” Thank you to RF Kuang, Harper Voyager and Ne... READ MORE
Emma Tueller Stone
One of the best books I've ever read
This book is a masterpiece. It is a fantasy with a familiar setting, with the addition of a few tweaks such as enchanted silver. The book begins in 1828 wh... READ MORE
One of the best books I've ever read and I learned so much
This book is a masterpiece. It is a fantasy with a familiar setting, with the addition of a few tweaks such as enchanted silver. The book begins in 1828 wh... READ MORE
Not for me
I feel like this was a very complex, multilayered and clever book which had a great deal to say, and I probably ought to have persisted with it since undou... READ MORE
Excellent dark academic historical fantasy
My thanks to HarperCollins U.K. Harper Voyager for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Babel Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translator... READ MORE
Vivienne O'Regan
Contender for Book of the Year
Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal. Oxford, 1836. The city of dreaming spires. It is the centre of all knowledge and... READ MORE
luke thrower
a brilliant read
Wow this was a fantastic read. I loved every minute of this book. It was amazing and so very unique like nothing I had ever read before. I listened to the ... READ MORE
What Is Happening In Oxford ?
Set in Oxford in the 1830's, a place of knowledge and learning. Standing tall is Babel tower, The Royal Institute of Translation, from which all the power ... READ MORE
Milton of Campsie  Annie
a promise of a revolution
I thought long and hard about whether I should review this book, if it was my place to do so. There is so much that has been said, more eloquent and poigna... READ MORE
Filipa Mendonca
Outside of my comfort zone and worth it
This is probably one of the most intimidating books that I’ve wanted to read and I am so happy that I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and gave it ... READ MORE
Sarah Waldron
Fantastic book, dealing with heavy themes and topics.
Michal Smigla
A new favourite
Wow! This is such an immersive and fantastic read. I flew through the last half! This book had everything I wanted, fantasty magic, grounded theory, captiv... READ MORE
Rachael Eley
I have a Love/Hate relationship with this book
Set in the early 1800s, Robin Swift is brought to London by Professor Lovell to train in Latin and Greek and eventually attend Oxford University, where he ... READ MORE
Laura McToal
heartbreaking good
R.F. Kuang never disappoints and with this story she really captured the unfair and heartbreaking reality non white people have to suffer and how much you ... READ MORE
Sandra Strömberg
Absolutely phenomenal!!!
Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution (Babel for short) is an impressively complex and ambitious boo... READ MORE
Best book of the years
This book was so good!  is one of those books you sit to read and when you stop you realise it hasn't been just 10 min but 5 hours, and you have to pee bad... READ MORE
Tatiana Donate Vioque
A must-read!
Wow. Babel was an incredible book to read from start to finish. It's a piece of literature that should be read by everyone to understand the importance of ... READ MORE
there hasn't been a day I haven't thought of this book
ever since I finished this book, it hasn't left my head, I am flat out obsessed with every page of it. it's so beautifully written and i noted done tons an... READ MORE
Annie Furness
A masterpiece of a tome.
A skillful fantasy that critiques and unravels empire, class and race through the power of words.
An incredible read
This was an incredible read! I’m not someone who usually reads dark academia, purely because I have read some of this genre before and never really lik... READ MORE
katie martin
It never occurred to Robin to run, not then, and not once in the weeks that followed.
It never occurred to Robin to run, not then, and not once in the weeks that followed. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 I loved this book and i have no words to describe ho... READ MORE
Anastasia Martynova