Cover Image: Kingdom of Without

Kingdom of Without

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Member Reviews

In the alternate history of this dystopian tale, the Beiyang government took control of Beijing in 1915 and has ruled for 150 years through violence and strict class stratification, represented by the “Rings” of the city – the higher the number, the more disadvantaged the neighborhood. Sixth Ring barkeep and sometime thief Ning’er struggles to get by, often resorting to selling off her prosthetic arm and leg to survive. When her father steals her rent money to feed his addiction to the drug Complacency, Ning’er is desperate enough to take on a suicide mission proposed by a band of revolutionaries, led by the Robin Hood-like Red Yaksha. They want her to break into a top-secret lab run by a corporation with strong ties to the government, not to steal a formula or equipment, but to rescue a person: the Lark, a young woman who once led a somewhat successful populist uprising. Although more cyberpunk than fantasy, the fast-paced action, strong worldbuilding, and found-family themes of Kingdom of Without will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.

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"Kingdom of Without" delivers an exhilarating narrative, skillfully blending the captivating atmospheres of "Six of Crows" with the immersive backdrop of a cyberpunk world. The heist plotline adds an exciting layer to the story, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat with a well-paced build-up. The characters are a standout feature, each uniquely crafted and authentically individual, contributing to the story's depth. The romance woven into the narrative is both heartwarming and charming, providing a delightful contrast to the high-stakes heist. In essence, "Kingdom of Without" is a thrilling and well-crafted tale that successfully marries elements of fantasy and cyberpunk, making it a highly recommended read for those seeking a dynamic and engaging adventure.

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Tang's Kingdom of Without was a great ride. I really like Full Metal Alchemist so I was intrigued by the summary. Unfortunately, besides the prosthetics and the missing limbs, I found the comparison a stretch. However, I really enjoyed the build up to the "heist" and how different and unique each character was, including our FMC. I probably could have done without the romance, as it didn't seem to fit at times and felt forced.

Overall a good choice for grades 9+. Would be hesitant to shelve this for 7th graders.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC. The above reflects my honest opinion.

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Kingdom of Without is pitched as a crossover of Full Metal Alchemist and Les Misérables for fans of Six of Crows which are all immediate buzzwords that piqued my interest. Set in a futuristic Beijing where society is divided into class rings, we follow Zhong Ning'er, a Sixth-Ring thief, who takes a job that sets her in the heart of a revolution that stems on freeing a former rebel leader inside a secret lab.

For a novel that's just shy of 300 pages, Kingdom of Without utilizes every single page to deliver a high-stakes story that doesn't pause to catch its breath. From the start, we are exposed to the clear divides of societal class wealth as Ning'er sells her artificial limbs to make her next month's rent. When she's introduced to a job with the notorious Red Yaksha, Beijing's vigilante hero, she finds herself working with a crew of young rebels bent on exposing the corruption of Beijing. Kingdom of Without tackles the tensions of political corruption with the hopes of a better future through rebellion and at its heart brings to life a group of characters that quickly come to feel like family.

The heist plot doesn't occur till the later half of the novel and gets less page time than I had originally anticipated. This contributes to the fast-paced nature because once the main plan took off there was no going back. I appreciated the author's dedication to not only the heist itself but to spending time developing each character's motive. Ning'er spends the first part of the story torn between not wanting to involve herself and growing to realize the possibilities of a better future if their plan succeeds. The Red Yaksha himself represents the juxtaposition of wealth and a bright future with a passion for the people. The rest of crew with Zhenyi, Zian, Feifei, and even Ge Rong all join the Red Yaksha because they believe a better future is possible - and it's impossible not to root for them.

The world of Kingdom of Without has so many intricacies and opens up so many questions for the future of this alternate Beijing. On its own, this novel perfectly captures the hope of a younger generation bent on overthrowing political corruption, a theme that is timeless and constantly reflected in our modern society today.

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Rating: 4.5 stars

What I love about Andrea Tang is that she writes YA sci-fi with all the usual tropes and expected elements but does it in a really unexpected and interesting way. She has a way of putting just enough of a twist on the typical conventions of the genre, so that it’s both familiar and fresh. Tang has a way of perfectly capturing the whole “teens trying to start a revolution” thing but makes it more grounded and realistic (or as realistic as flying robot dragons and android guards can be.) Her stories aren’t about these Chosen Ones who are the cleverest and brightest in the world of incompetent and useless adults. Tang’s teenage protagonists are brilliant, but they’re also teenagers. They’re imperfect and flawed, and they just make the story that much more believable. There’s just something so clever and original about the way she crafts her books that’s really underappreciated.

Now onto Kingdom of Without. This is definitely a personal preference thing, but the more I read, the more disinclined I am toward stories that rely heavily on plot rather than character development. More and more, I find myself needing to feel things in my soul to enjoy a book, so the books that resonate with me more tend to be more character-centric or at least have stories that I can connect with emotionally.

Kingdom of Without is primarily focused on the story rather than the individual characters, so I was surprised by how many different feelings Tang was able to evoke. It’s a pretty action-driven plot that moves as a clipped pace, so while you’d expect it to be entertaining, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be super emotionally invested. But I was definitely in my feelings I was while reading it.

I have mixed feelings about the pacing. This could just be my personal preference, but objectively, I do think you can make an argument the pacing is a touch too fast especially once we get past the midpoint. The heist that we all signed up for is crammed into a handful of chapters, and I really just needed Tang to slow down for a minute so I could catch my breath.

On the other hand, the fast pace makes for an incredible page-turner. Kingdom of Without is so addicting. There were a lot of things stacked against this book. I’m a big mood reader, and I picked up Kingdom of Without when I was sick and most definitely not in the mood for a depressing steampunk world. But I’d gotten it in the mail and really need to read it before the tour, so I started it, thinking I’d read a chapter or two and then maybe take a nap to recover (from my illness, not the book.)

I read it in a single sitting.

I’m like reading about this fictional addictive drug called Complacency, and the whole time I was reading, I was like “am I on Complacency?” because I was devouring the book so quickly I felt like an addict. I couldn’t put it down.

“A wily young thief must use her wits to survive futuristic, alternate history Beijing in this Les Misérables–inspired young adult cyberpunk that is perfect for fans of Six of Crows and Fullmetal Alchemist.”

One thing I do have to say, though, is that the Six of Crows comp is a little misleading. I don’t think the comparison is necessarily wrong; it’s just not the most accurate. The comp actually makes sense. There’s a crew of five people (six, if you squint,) and there’s a heist. The problem is, Kingdom of Without is much more plot-driven, whereas SoC is heavily character-driven, and the heist doesn’t actually happen until the latter end of the book. So if you’re coming specifically for the Six of Crows vibes, you may need to tailor your expectations.

Kingdom of Without might not fit the SoC vibe check perfectly, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Despite being more plot-centric, Kingdom of Without still has relatively fleshed out characters that I love. If you’re looking for a band-of-misfits, slightly dysfunctional found family vibe, you’ll still get that. It just won’t be as strong as something with alternating POVs like Six of Crows.

Do I wish we had even more time to delve into the character development and spend more time with the crew? Yes, but I’m also a character-driven kind of a reader, so I almost always want that. That being said, I wasn’t dissatisfied with what we got from in Kingdom of Without.

Now let’s talk about the heist. Thanks to Leigh Barudgo, Ally Carter, and that one time I randomly binge watched the Oceans trilogy, I will basically read anything that has the word “heist” in its synopsis. And while there is a heist in Kingdom of Without, the bulk of the book is actually spent building up to and preparing for the heist instead of doing any actual heisting. When the heist does happen, it’s action-packed and heart pounding; it’s rushed, but it’s entertaining. But Kingdom of Without is more like Portrait of a Thief where the heist is one of the tools to tell the story but not the focal point. Again, not a bad thing, but just know what you’re signing up for and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Like the heist, the romance is not a huge focus of the story, but I have to say, it was one of my favorite parts. It’s a little more subtle–told in soft, tender moments instead of loud passionate declarations–but that kind of romance is right up my alley. I’m a slow-burn kind of a girl, so the fact Tang doesn’t give us an in-your-face, instalove-y kind of a romance is a relief. (For you Rebelwing readers, I’d say there’s more romance in Kingdom of Without but less than what you’d normally find in a traditional YA SFF like Legend or Divergent.)

Okay, this part’s going to be a little confusing because I just mentioned slow-burn and now I’m going to say that the romance feels a little bit rushed, but only because the overall story is pretty fast-paced. Basically, the love story developed in small, slow burn-y moments, but because of the nature of the story and overall pacing, those moments felt closer together than I would’ve liked. So overall consensus: loved the romance, wish we had a little more and that it was more developed. But again, I’m a secret romantic, so I will always want those things.

I’m really mad that I didn’t catch the Les Mis comp until after I finished because that would’ve maybe prepared me for some of the pain Andrea Tang was going to inflict. On the other hand, I’m glad I didn’t because I was able to read this without any preconceived notions (sorry to any readers I’ve ruined this for.) Even before I realized it, I did get some Les Mis vibes, so can confirm the “Les Misérables-inspired” part of the pitch is accurate (with the caveat that everything I know about Les Mis comes from the Broadway musical.) If you’re looking for a little angst with your revolution, go grab Kingdom of Without and get ready to be a little miserable.

In conclusion (idk why I’m writing this like it’s a fifth-grade essay all of a sudden,) I am a fan of Andrea Tang. I was a fan of Andrea Tang after reading Rebelwing, and I continue to be a fan of Andrea Tang after finishing Kingdom of Without. When I’d finished her debut, I remembered wondering “why aren’t more people talking about this book?” After finishing Kingdom of Without, I am once again asking “why don’t more people talk about Andrea Tang?” It’s my personal opinion that Tang is one of the more underrated authors in YA who deserves more attention in love. So go read some Andrea Tang! Especially if you’re a fan of YA sci-fi but are tired of the sea of sameness of formulaic plots and clichéd characters and looking for something a little more original.

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Thank you so much to Colored Pages Book Tours, the publisher and the author for an ARC of this book!
[ 4/5 ⭐️ ]
“Kingdom of Without” is like a perfect blend of my favorite fantasy book with unique aspects of its own. The setting was one of my favorite parts of the book : the book takes place in a class-divided, futuristic Beijing, overwhelmed with riots and protests. I loved the city setting, and the class division aspect was also really interesting and relating to today’s society as well.

As always, what I absolutely loved in this book were the characters. The dynamics between Ning’er and her heist partners were amazing, and the romance subplot had me hooked from the start. (I must admit at first I wasn’t too sure who the love interest was, I thought there’d be a love triangle but thankfully there wasn’t haha)
The romance is not a big part of the book but the slow burn and the depth of their relationship had me screaming <3 The found family, among many other things, reminded me a lot of my favorite book ever, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, which I obviously loved. The character development and the way they grow to love and care about each other in the friend group is something I always love in books, and that this one did perfectly.

I really enjoyed the heist plot as well, the book is quite fast-paced and not too long so if you’re looking for a quick fantasy read that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat at all times, this is it! I didn’t see the plot twist coming and the ending is beautifully written— it made me want to read more about these characters but gave me the closure I wanted 🫶🏻

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After reading and loving Andrea Tang’s first two books, I couldn’t wait to read her next release! Much like many others, I am always a sucker for a heist, and I love her cast of characters. High-stakes and intense, Kingdom of Without tells a story of rebellion and freedom.

Zhong Ning’er is at her breaking point when she decides to take one more job as a thief. There, she meets her crew, including the leader Cheng Yun, the government’s propaganda poster boy who has a secret life as the Red Yaksha, and learns of their goal: to break out a former rebel leader who disappeared five years ago. Along the way, Ning’er must decide what she’s willing to do for what’s right—and for the people she loves.

The characters were my favorite part of this book. Ning’er is headstrong and tenacious. She’s suffered a lot of hardships in life—including her father selling two of her limbs for his next hit of a drug called Complacency—but she’s worked hard to carve out a life for herself. This heist job is the last thing she wanted to accept, but she can’t help but become enamored with this group of revolutionaries and their cause.

Cheng Yun is Tang’s typical pretty boy who wants more for his life than what others have decided for him. I’m always a sucker for this kind of character, and I liked reading his scenes with Ning’er. The other members of the crew, including Zi’an, Feifei, and Zhenyi, had a great dynamic and care a lot about each other.

The “heist” ended up taking a lot less of the plot than I anticipated though, with Tang setting up the motivations of the characters more heavily. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just one that I wanted to point out in case you were expecting a deeply involved heist!

Kingdom of Without was a thrilling book with an ending that had me gasping. I liked the characters and their dynamics. If you’re a fan of alternate history books about revolutionaries, you should check out Kingdom of Without!

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It's Les Miserables inspired, but subtle in case you're not wanting to read like five million pages. Where it counts in terms of class struggles, rebellion, and heroes who aren't sure if they should be heroes it delivers
Speaking of rebellion and heroes, we love a good heist and group crew dynamic. There's secrets - who would want a good crew without 'em - but there's also trust and wariness. I'll read anything cyberpunk at the moment. The world of Kingdom of Without feels gritty whether it be these bars watering down drinks, or the checkpoints we have to sneak in, or even the tech in our houses that promptly let us know we've been evicted.

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A alternative history Beijing with a touch of Les-Miserables, Six of Crows, and Fullmetal Alchemist? Say less. Set in a futuristic world, a young thief finds herself with a new job, a failed rebellion at hand, and a revolution brewing. Zhong Ning'er is a thief who needs money, and her latest job has her working with people she never imagined, from a sad eyed army boy who dreams of insurrection, a former rebel leader trapped inside a secret lab, and group of aspiring revolutionaries. Ning'er is hired to break out the Lark, a former rebel leader, and this job is going to start a revolution. She's never much cared for politics, having to focus on her own problems and cynicism, yet this new job has her questioning everything and possibly giving into hope for change. This was a mix of Les Miserables, sci-fi heists, and a touch of romance and revolution. It was definitely a unique story and the overall plot was interesting. I was kind of wishing there was more though, I adore Six of Crows and Fullmetal Alchemist and there were elements of both in this book yet I just kind of wish there was more. The ending was interesting and you could have a second book, but this one could also work as a standalone. Overall if you enjoy stories with heists, political revolutions, and a touch of romance, definitely give this one a go.

*Thanks Netgalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*

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A big thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Six of Crows but cyberpunk? GIVE IT TO ME NOW!

Kingdom of Without by Andrea Tang is a YA science fiction novel about a young thief. When Zhong Ning’er takes the job, she expects a smash-and-grab burglary she’s doing to make rent and help out a friend. What she doesn’t expect: a sad-eyed army boy who dreams of insurrection, a former rebel leader trapped inside a secret lab, a group of aspiring revolutionaries who are first collaborators, then compatriots, and then, perhaps, friends. But this is Beijing, nearly a hundred and fifty years after General Yuan Shikai successfully declared himself emperor in 1915. His descendants rule the country from their seat in the imperial city, their gendarmerie—the Beiyang Army—run the streets, aided by cyborgs and the Brocade Guard. Walls have risen, dividing the city into districts called Rings—nominally only by geography, but in truth by class. Earthquakes devastate the northern farmlands, crops drown in the southern typhoons, and all over the country people are hooked on a drug they call Complacency. As a Sixth Ring girl who watched previous uprisings crushed brutally by the court, Ning’er isn’t much of an optimist, and she’s certainly no revolutionary. But that might not be up to her—as the stakes get higher, the time for passivity is quickly running out, and she must decide if she wants to sit idly in her cynicism, or embrace the breathless, terrible possibility of hope.

I loved this book! The vibes were perfect, and I loved how it was standalone, so I didn't have to commit to a full series once again. Now I really just want to go rewatch Full Metal Alchemist.

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This was such an amazing read! I really enjoyed this book and was immediately swept in by the first chapter. I liked how the author carried the story in a way that wasn't slow or boring. I will be recommending this book to all my friends and family.

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