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Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven (edition 2011)

by Guy Gavriel Kay

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,463957,772 (4.14)206
Title:Under Heaven
Authors:Guy Gavriel Kay
Info:Roc (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 608 pages
Tags:box: 9, fantasy, asian-inspired fantasy

Work details

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

  1. 130
    The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (Anonymous user)
  2. 10
    Shogun by James Clavell (ajwseven)
  3. 10
    A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham (souloftherose)
  4. 32
    Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart (Cecrow, MyriadBooks)
    Cecrow: A more playful fantasy take on ancient China.
  5. 10
    The Court of the Lion: A Novel of the T'Ang Dynasty by Eleanor Cooney (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: A historical fiction novel of the Tang Dynasty, ably relating the same events upon which 'Under Heaven' is based but in their actual Chinese setting.
  6. 00
    The Paladin by C. J. Cherryh (Anonymous user)
  7. 00
    In Love with the Way: Chinese Poems of the Tang Dynasty (The Calligrapher's Notebooks) by François Cheng (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: A historical novel about a Tang poet and the poetry of the period. If you like one, you should try the other
  8. 02
    Wildfire by Sarah Micklem (lottpoet)
    lottpoet: I think these books have in common a person caught up in the machinations of a highly formal society.
  9. 36
    A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (axelsabro)
    axelsabro: alternate earth fantasy

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» See also 206 mentions

English (94)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
3.5 stars ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
Having hated Ysabel, I was very pleased to find Kay back to his usual excellence in Under Heaven. I've been reading him for many years and it has been interesting watching him mature as a writer (again, with the exception of Ysabel) from the Fionavar Tapestry days up to Last Light of the Sun and now this. Beautiful! ( )
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
I found the start to be slow and the narrative bogged down by excessive details at time, but overall the book kept me engaged enough to read through almost 600 pages in a few days. That is largely due to the compelling nature of the protagonist, Shen Tai. After his father, a celebrated general, dies, Shen decides to go a different path than most during his required mourning period. He ventures to a distant, isolated area where his father once fought a battle where thousands upon thousands died--and their ghosts linger there yet, howling each night over their unsettled, bleached bones. Shen spends two years burying the long-dead and setting ghosts at rest, and for that he's granted a surprising reward: 250 practically-divine horses. That sounds like a fine deal, except this comes from an enemy country, and his own country is on the verge of civil war. This gift could easily be a death sentence as people kill him for the horses or other, more personal reasons. But Shen is brilliant, and he surrounded by likewise smart, vivid characters.

There were some odd points in the book. The narrator sometimes takes on the point of view of a distant historian, which felt weird. There are many good, well-rounded women in the book, but they never get a chance to truly shine. Shen's sister goes through some major travails, but she mostly follows orders instead of acting on her own agency, and in the end her plot line peters off to nothing. The plot thread of Shen's true love is likewise important through much of the book, to also peter off into an info dump along the lines of "and this is what happened for the rest of her life." Really?

Shen's story is strong enough to save the book, even with the other annoyances. I was really loving the book through the middle, but those awkward resolutions at the end dampened my enthusiasm. ( )
  ladycato | Jan 28, 2018 |
Oh, the prose in this was lovely, as exquisite as the poems quoted by characters (I somewhat wish I had paid more attention in premodern Chinese lit- I recognized some of the names of the poets in the acknowledgements section, but alas. I do remember the symbolism behind a lonely goose, though, and something about the four major beauties). I picked this up because I've been meaning to read a GGK, and it's not often you come across a fantasy novel set in an Asian culture (though given the fantastic elements aren't front and center, this is about as low fantasy as ASoIaF- touches of it here and there, but not omnipresent). Ironically, one of the nonfiction books I read earlier this month mentioned real-life Tang dynasty emperor Taizong who loved horses, and the famed Ferghana horses who allegedly sweat blood.

There are action scenes, there is violence, but it feels subdued, perhaps because our perspective characters spend quite a bit of time thinking to themselves. Looks like the library has [b:River of Stars|15808474|River of Stars|Guy Gavriel Kay|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1356089847s/15808474.jpg|21451403] so I can move on swiftly! ( )
  Daumari | Dec 30, 2017 |
It's almost depressing how perfectly this book manages to encapsulate my life philosophy. I would stand by that stream in the orchard and let the world pass me by. I don't know whether I liked the story all that much, though. It was a bit lackluster.
  EmBot | Jan 11, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guy Gavriel Kayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Springett, MartinMapsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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With bronze as a mirror one can correct one's appearance; with history as a mirror, one can understand the rise and fall of a state; with good men as a mirror, one can distinguish right from wrong.
to Sybil,
with love
First words
Amid the ten thousand noises and the jade-and-gold and the whirling dust of Xinan, he had often stayed awake all night among friends, drinking spiced wine in the North District with the courtesans.
And it isn't worth hating. It really isn't. . . . You did need to decide what mattered, and concentrate on that. Otherwise your life force would be scattered to the five directions, and wasted.

He would be among them today. And he couldn't learn that rhythm, not in the time he had. So he wouldn't even try. He'd go another way, like a holy wanderer of the Sacred Path choosing at a fork in the road, following his own truth, a hermit laughing in the mountains.
Sometimes fear is proper. It is what we do that matters.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
An epic historical adventure set in a pseudo 8th century China, from the author of the 2008 World Fantasy winner, Ysabel. Under Heaven is a novel of heroes, assassins, concubines and emperors set against a majestic and unforgiving landscape.

For two long years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit at the edge of the Kitan Empire, next to a great lake where a terrible battle was fought between the Kitai and the neighbouring Tagurans years before; a battle for which his father - a great general - was honoured, but never recovered from, and where the bones of 40,000 soldiers still lie exposed. To assuage some of his dead father's regret over the battle, Tai begins to bury the dead. His supplies are replenished by his own people from a nearby fort, and also - now that peace has been bought with the bartering of an imperial princess - by the Tagurans, for his long service to their dead. His seclusion is disturbed by a letter from the bartered Princess Cheng-wan. It contains a poisoned chalice: Tai has been gifted 250 Sardian horses for his service to the Taguran dead - highly-prized animals, long-desired by the Kitans for their cavalry. The owner of such a vast number would instantly be bestowed with great power and wealth. The horses are being held for him to claim, but getting to them alive, will be tricky. And that isn't Tai's only problem. As he makes ready to leave, another visitor arrives; this time from Xinan, his home in the south. Yan, Tai's childhood carousing companion, has made the colossal journey north with only a hired Kanlin guard for safety. The soft-bellied poet has risked so much because the news he carries is urgent; but before he can so much as greet his old friend, Yan is slaughtered by his Kanlin guard, who then turns her swords towards a defenceless Tai. The Princess's generosity has made Tai a target, but who wanted to kill him even before news of her gift had spread?

(c) Harper Collins
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Award-winning author Guy Kay evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power.

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