November 14, 2022 7:58 AM EST

Dark academia gets the revolutionary treatment in R.F. Kuang’s fantastically rendered novel Babel. After being orphaned in early-1800s Canton as a child, Robin is shipped to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, Robin is trained for many years in multiple languages in the hopes that one day he will attend Oxford University’s Royal Institute of Translation, colloquially referred to as Babel, where translation also manifests in dark magic. But Robin faces a dilemma: his skills will be used in service of British imperialism, an allegiance he can’t abide by. As the nation pursues war on his homeland, Robin must decide what to do, leading him to consider the purpose of institutional reform and revolution, and the necessity of violence. —Cady Lang

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