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Under Heaven
by Guy Gavriel Kay
573 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Historical

Let me say first: READ IT NOW, if you are a Kay fan. Or a historical fantasy fan. Or a lyrical-writing fan. Or a Chinaphile (great references to follow-up in the Acknowledgements). Or a GRRM fan, because this reminded me of his epics. One similarity they share: what do you say in summary, when so much has happened?

In the beginning, this is the tale of a minor-aristocratic man in imperial Kitai who mourns his father's death by burying the dead of a great battle by a long-haunted lake. In honor of his travails, after two years, Shen Tai receives an outrageous gift from the White Jade Princess who married into foreign Tagura: 250 Sardian horses, Heavenly Horses from the far west, so very rare in Kitai. And so Tai is thrust unwillingly into a world of dance and music, of words and blades, of beauty and sorrow and love.

More than that, you must read for yourself--the journey is awe-inspiring. Though he does not shied from violence, Kay manages to evoke a sweeping epic feel without quite as much bloodshed as George R.R. Martin. There is beauty in Martin's story, too, but what I love about Kay--what shines in all of his novels, but especially this one and in Tigana--is the brief lingerings on significant minor characters, or insignificant major characters, and their paths decreed by the twin whims of fate and will.

Okay, I'll stop waxing now, I promise. Under Heaven ranks with Tigana and the Sarantine Mosaic duology in being one of my favorites of Kay's work. So go READ IT NOW.


keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)

January 2011


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