Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution

eBook, 641 pages

English language

Published Aug. 31, 2022 by HarperCollins UK.

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5 stars (2 reviews)

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?

2 editions

My favorite book of 2022

5 stars

Babel was my favorite book in 2022. It's technically a fantasy, because it's both alternate history in a world with magic, but it touches on so many real-world issues that it's an unusual fantasy. Babel takes places in the early 1800s and an elite group of translators can use silver bars to create magical enchantments that do all sorts of things: heal illness, help with construction projects, and so much more. The translators are trained at a special college at Oxford called the Babel (after the Tower of Babel). The story focuses on four students who are studying at the prestigious school. One young man is from China and one from India. The other two students are women, one from Haiti and one from England. Woven throughout the story of why they were chosen to study at Babel and what their experiences are like are issues of colonialism, racism, misogyny, …

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4 stars


  • Fantasy
  • Historical Fiction
  • Languages
  • Colonialism