Synopses & Reviews
In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty. Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north. Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has. In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.
"Historical fantasist Kay (Ysabel) delivers an exquisitely detailed vision of Kitan, a land much like Tang Dynasty China. Shen Tai's father died leading troops in battle, so he spends his mourning year burying the bones of soldiers on both sides, laying their ghosts to rest. He attracts the attention of Cheng-wan, a princess of his people sent to wed one of the enemy. As her gifts make Shen Tai wealthy, an assassin kills his best friend. Shen Tai hires a bodyguard, Wei Song, to keep him alive while he figures out what to do with his riches and who wants him dead. Kay writes deftly of women who are sexually suborned by their societies, neither minimizing their constraints nor denying their agency, and the complex intrigues of poets, prostitutes, ministers, and soldiers evolve into a fascinating, sometimes bloody, and entirely believable tale." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I loved, loved, loved UNDER HEAVEN. It had everything in it that made me such a fan of Guy Kay in the first place. I thought the new one was perfect."
-Nancy Pearl, Book Commentator NPR "Morning Edition"
"A magnificent epic, flawlessly crafted, that draws the reader in like a whirlwind and doesn't let go."
-The Huffington Post
"Guy Gavriel Kay's fictional rendition of the Tang dynasty of ancient China in Under Heaven reads almost as a historical document. For anyone who enjoys a smart political thriller, a historical recreation or a good ghost story, this novel offers all three in an immensely readable union."
"Guy Gavriel Kay, hunting in the twilight zone between fact and dream, has written a shimmering novel, a fantasia on T'ang China, the epitome of Chinese civilization, as beautiful and as alien as the rings of Saturn... a beautiful, compulsive read..."
"Under Heaven is virtually everything a reader could want in a book: a thrilling adventure, a love story, a coming-of-age tale, a military chronicle, a court-intrigue drama, a tragedy and on and on. It is a sumptuous feast of storytelling, a beautifully written tale with a beating, breaking heart at its core that will have readers in tears by its final pages."
-Globe and Mail (Canada)
Praise for Under Heaven “Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven isn’t quite historical fiction, nor is it quite fantasy. It’s set in a slightly reimagined Tang dynasty China, sometimes seems reminiscent of films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and depicts the unimaginable consequences of a single generous gift. Most important of all, it is the novel you’ll want for your summer vacation.” —The Washington Post “Guy Gavriel Kay is peerless in plucking elements from history and using them to weave a wholly fantastical tale that feels like a translation of some freshly unearthed scroll from a time we have yet to discover.”—The Miami Herald “Completely transporting… combines the best of historical and fantasy novels to create a great read where you don't know what could happen next.”—Laura Miller, Salon Book Reviewer
“From whatever angle you approach it, River of Stars
is a major accomplishment, the work of a master novelist in full command of his subject. It deserves the largest possible audience.”—Washington Post
“Kay has the uncanny ability to depict the grand sweep of historical events through the eyes of those living through them…Whats even more amazing is how through his careful rendering of character and environments we are drawn into this history…River of Stars is an exceptional piece of work.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“With River of Stars, Kay transports readers to a dazzling court and the ravages of war, with language almost impossibly multilayered in its nuance and tone, offering a series of insights that exquisitely build on each other. Even more than in previous books, each sentence seems shaped to further enhance the books themes, recalling the craftsmanship of the man-made peony blossom that is a recurring image throughout. Here, too, emotional intensity is amped up more than ever, the shattering catharsis even more complete... one of Kays richest creations to date.”—Huffington Post
“River of Stars is the sort of novel one disappears into, emerging shaken, if not outright changed. A novel of destiny, and the role of individuals within the march of history, it is touched with magic and graced with a keen humanity.”—Globe and Mail
“Guy Gavriel Kays exquisite Asian-inspired epic fantasy offers a fresh twist on intrigue and adventure...Here youll find all the scheming and skullduggery that give Game of Thrones its zest, refined to the subtlest of arts.”—Salon.com “Listener” column by Laura Miller
View our feature on Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven. In his latest innovative novel, the award-winning author evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power.
Inspired by the glory and power of Tang dynasty China, Guy Gavriel Kay has created a masterpiece.
It begins simply. Shen Tai, son of an illustrious general serving the Emperor of Kitai, has spent two years honoring the memory of his late father by burying the bones of the dead from both armies at the site of one of his father's last great battles. In recognition of his labors and his filial piety, an unlikely source has sent him a dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses.
You give a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.
Wisely, the gift comes with the stipulation that Tai must claim the horses in person. Otherwise he would probably be dead already...
In his latest innovative work, an award-winning author evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power.
An innovative story of honor and power from the award-winning author of Ysabel.
In Under Heaven, Kay tells a story of honor and power, this time in a setting that evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of eighth-century China.
In recognition of his service to the Emperor of Kitai, Shen Tai has been sent a mysterious and dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses. Wisely the gift comes with the stipulation that the horses must be claimed in person. Otherwise, he would probably be dead already.
About the Author
Guy Gavriel Kay is the internationally bestselling author of twelve novels. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in the literature of the fantastic, is a two-time winner of the Aurora Award, and won the World Fantasy Award for Ysabel in 2008. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.