Ken Liu has written a book both sprawling and subtle here. Go get lost in it.
Liu consistently presents his characters with impossible choices. Sometimes they are true to the tendencies we have seen throughout, and sometimes they surprise us by doing the opposite of the expected. Either way, we get to see the consequences — both societal and personal — of their decisions play out over decades.
And boy howdy are there lots of characters. Lots of POV characters, no less. We see this world changing through the eyes of children, of soldiers, of kings, of mothers, of gods.
The Iliad seems to be a major influence here. Now and then we see the gods fighting over their favorites, or appearing in human form to nudge events a certain way. We don’t see glowy magic twirling around evil mustachioed advisers as the dark gods they have bought their powers from come to collect. We see a bald guy in a cape talking to someone in the street.
Magic is present, but no more than (some might say) it is in the real world. You know that story your aunt tells about the time she saw a ghost? Or the long-dead great-uncle who you’ve been told could pull any card from a deck just by thinking of it? We’re talking that level of magic here. Again, no glowing.
If you like your fantasy realistic (no oxymoron intended), heavy on the politics, and well-fleshed out, give this book a shot.