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Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
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Under Heaven (edition 2011)

by Guy Gavriel Kay

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,320925,899 (4.13)192
Member:wagner.sarah35
Title:Under Heaven
Authors:Guy Gavriel Kay
Info:Roc Trade (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fantasy, China, Tang Dynasty, alternative history, horses, war, epic, 2012

Work details

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Recently added bybob12, MarkusV, Jim.Shine, martinb1, private library, Cibra33, dracoling, Adilinaria
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    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.
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» See also 192 mentions

English (90)  Norwegian (1)  All (91)
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
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 |
I read through this wonderful, large volume incredibly quickly. I love Kay's writing style. He writes sweeping, dramatic, stirring, epic tales, full of poetry and metaphor, exquisite description, words as clear and shining as crystal. He is master at creating books you won't want to put down - oh so very good at dropping hints and then moving on without being completely clear, and you just have to keep reading to find out what happens next.

Under Heaven is another beautiful example of this. Possibly the least fantastic, and most realistic, of his historical fantasy volumes, this one evokes Tang Dynasty China, with all the courtly intrigue, silk-robed courtesans, black-robed warriors, wandering poets, heavenly horses, and jade-and-gold splendor that go with that era. I loved many of the characters and cared what happened to the them. I disliked others, as I was supposed to. I was kept on the edge of my seat and savored my way through the novel.

I gave it 4.5 because there were some things at the end that didn't jive - were too out of the blue. Some I liked, some I didn't. ( )
  chavala | Dec 28, 2016 |
Under Heaven is my first read of a Kay novel. It’s quite a beautiful work, rendering a convincing, captivating account of ancient China. Some would call this historical fantasy, but the fantasy elements were so subtle that I am as comfortable calling it a work of historical fiction. The writing was lovely and sure, the protagonist a man worthy of respect and love. By the end numerous critiques had reduced to quibbles, fairly insignificant in the face of the pleasure I took in this world. I was immersed in the Tang Dynasty with minimal disruption from sharp or irksome authorial missteps. When I tried to start a new book, I found I was not yet ready to enter a new fictional realm. I'm still living with this one. ( )
  stellarexplorer | Dec 27, 2016 |
[This review originally appeared at RevolutionSf.com]

Under Heaven is the story of Shen Tai, second son of a famous Kitan general, who mourns his father's death by traveling to the site of his father's greatest battle and burying the dead of both sides. For two years he puts the ghosts to rest, then he gets a gift to cement a treaty: 250 of the finest horses. One would be an honor. Five would be worthy of a gift to the Emperor. 250 is life-changing.

Shen Tai must head back to his former life to try and dispose of his great gift before he's killed for it. His travels bring him into contact with Kanlin warriors, warrior/poets, and eventually the Kitan court, where intrigue and treason is the name of the game. Shen Tai must pick his way carefully between the factions, all the while obeying the rigid rules of the Kitan court.

Kitan is based on Tang-dynasty China, and you don't have to look too hard to see Shaolin monks and Mongol warriors among the parade of characters. Kay has clearly done his homework, and the world he has created feels completely real.

He is equally strong with characters, putting together wildly varied people whose actions always make sense in the context of their world. You feel for these people, and I don't just mean the good guys.

Kay also shines in depicting the intricacies of the Kitan court, from the bureaucratic mandarins jockeying for power and position to the Precious Consort, a young girl wielding unimaginable power because an aging Emperor is besotted with her.

Kay skillfully weaves all of these threads together, creating a huge tapestry of a story that rarely drags. Whether you prefer sword fights, romance, or intrigue, you'll find something to enjoy in Under Heaven. ( )
1 vote Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
4.5 / 5 ( )
  Amanda105 | Sep 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (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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Epigraph
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.
—LI SHIMIN, TANK EMPEROR TAIZONG
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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