announcing BABEL

The wait is over! I can now share that my fourth novel, Babel, is out August 2022 from Harper Voyager.

Please meet the cohort: Robin, Victoire, Ramiz, and Letitia.

Art by Kimberly Jade McDonald

Now what’s it about?

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.

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

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports 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? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.

You can now add it on Goodreads here!

I’m also sending an essay to newsletter subscribers soon about the writing of Babel and its inspirations. It was supposed to go out last night, but I’ve received quite a lot of last minute sign-ups to the mailing list, so I’ll hold off on just a little bit to give everyone time! You can sign up here.

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