River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

15808474

BLURB

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.

REVIEW

I am once again in awe. I have waxed enthusiastic praise on each of the five books I have previously read by this author. River of Stars now makes six. It is a masterpiece of compelling fiction; a narrative that grabs hold and propels the reader along the meandering path of the multi-faceted plot. It is breathtaking in it’s scope; the world created by the author; the characters who fit perfectly into it; the endless tale of court (political) intrigue, a tale worthy to be called a classic.

I read a lot of historical fiction books, a good portion of them are by request as it seems my humble blog of reviews has garnered some interest among authors. I have a backlog of books to read and review, but I also like to read just for the pure pleasure of it. The backlog be damned – there are more Guy Gavriel Kay books yet to be read.

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Under Heaven (Under Heaven #1) by Guy Gavriel Kay

9732865

BLURB

Award-winning author Guy Gavriel Kay evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in an masterful story of honor and power. 

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.

REVIEW

I know I should probably expect this, but once again I am blown away by Mr. Kay’s storytelling. After the death of his father, a famous general, Tai undertakes a Herculean task burying the dead on a distant and haunted battlefield. What results is a gift that changes everything, and forms the basis for an incredible tale. Like many, I suppose from a Western culture, I’ve always seen the East as mysterious and intriguing. Under Heaven showcases an Eastern empire, and the author has injected that sense of mystery and intrigue into a page turning wonder. The characters fit perfectly, the twists and turns of the plot flow seamlessly, the narrative has an atmospheric quality that pulls the reader into the pages. It is more than just a page turner. It is more like, “just one more chapter, I’ll skip breakfast in the morning.” 😊  5 stars

Lord of Emperors (The Sarantine Mosaic #2) by Guy Gavriel Kay

104091

BLURB

Beckoned by the Emperor Valerius, Crispin, a renowned mosaicist, has arrived in the fabled city of Sarantium. Here he seeks to fulfill his artistic ambitions and his destiny high upon a dome that will become the emperor’s magnificent sanctuary and legacy.

But the beauty and solitude of his work cannot protect his from Sarantium’s intrigue. Beneath him the city swirls with rumors of war and conspiracy, while otherworldly fires mysteriously flicker and disappear in the streets at night. Valerius is looking west to Crispin’s homeland to reunite an Empire — a plan that may have dire consequences for the loved ones Crispin left behind.

In Sarantium, however, loyalty is always complex, for Crispin’s fate has become entwined with that of Valerius and his Empress, as well as Queen Gisel, his own monarch exiled in Sarantium herself. And now another voyager — this time from the east — has arrived, a physician determined to make his mark amid the shifting, treacherous currents of passion and violence that will determine the empire’s fate.

REVIEW

An intricate tale, as I have come to expect from Mr. Kay, full of interwoven strands, ironic circumstances, and an amazing array of characters. The full range of personalities, ambitions, hopes and dreams permeate the pages beckoning the reader into the very souls of the players. Take it from this humble scribe, but Holy Jad, Guy Gavriel Kay can sure spin a yarn.  5 Stars

pro_reader_120

Sailing to Sarantium – The Sarantine Mosaic Book 1 by Guy Gavriel Kay

104097

I read a lot of fiction, mostly historical-fiction, but also some fantasy/historical-fiction; fiction that takes on the feel of history, events that could have happened, cultures and people that could have existed.  Such is Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay; a work that has the look and feel of a Roman/Byzantine world, but that also carries a look at contemporary issues such as religion and it’s hold on humanity through the ages.  An excellent example of this can be found in a discussion between an architect and the Patriarch concerning the proposed ideas for the dome of a new sanctuary, “Deference becomes you,” said Artibasos, mildly enough. “It might be worth cultivating.  It is customary – except perhaps among clerics – to have opinions preceded by knowledge.” I don’t know about you, my peeps and fellow travelers, but that speaks volumes to current affairs in 2018 America, if not the world.

I read a lot of different authors; a lot of different writing styles and strengths, some who move me with their descriptive abilities, others with the depth of their characters, or their grasp of fine dialogue.  What I have found in my reading of Mr. Kay is an author who moves me with all of those things, but especially the beauty of his narrative; his “way with words”.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I would read a passage, pause, reread, and then pause again to allow the flow of words to both fill me with wonder, and with just a smidgen of jealousy (I too, fancy myself as an author).

Sailing to Sarantium is a complex tale, filled with surprises; with the full range of human emotion, and human experiences – emotions and experiences that can be carried over to modern times – a time of wonder, but also a time of uncertainty. I can hardly wait to read the sequel.  5 Stars  – BTW the chariot race chapter is worth the price of admission.  🙂

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

lions_al rassan.jpg

Let me just state from the get-go…I fancy myself as an author given that I have written and published a novel (with more to come) but when I read someone like Guy Gavriel Kay, I ache to have just a little of his talent; just a little more ability to draw word pictures in his manner.  Lions is a complex story of love, loyalty, and devotion during a period of great upheaval; a period reminiscent of the Moorish-Christian competition to see whose God is best(sadly, still going on.)  If I get anything out of reading this tale it is this, that the genocidal insanity of religious domination in political affairs is quite possibly the saddest concept in human history.

Another aspect of Lions is the almost impossible situations some of the characters find themselves in; especially when it comes to love and loyalty…so many lines are crossed and in such a way that the differences between Jaddite-Asharite-Kindath pale in significance to the individuals involved.  The Kindath physician Jehane, the poet/warrior Ammar, the Jaddite warrior Rodrigo and many others, provide the reader with characters so fully developed as to make the story seem historical rather than a fantasy account.

So, my peeps and fellow travelers, prepare for an emotion filled, heart tugging tale from a master at his craft.  5 stars…or maybe two moons…or maybe just the Sun..read the book, you’ll get what I mean.  🙂

 

 

A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

arbonne

I actually started reading this book 20 years or so ago but for some undetermined and totally unfathomable reason I didn’t finish it.  Perhaps I was too busy being a parent helping to raise our three children.  Perhaps I was too involved in my career.  I’m sure those two reasons were part of it but I think that what really contributed the most was a real bad case of Muse envy.  My Muse was just beginning to awaken after a long dormant period and I was beginning to do a little writing around the time I was reading A Song for Arbonne and my Muse was so shaken by the immaculately flowing style of the author that she, through her envy, forced me to stop reading it.  Since then, however, my Muse has matured enough to admit that she will most likely never attain the high standards of Mr. Kay and the brilliant Muse who inspires him, so, it was okay to read the book.  This feeling was enhanced by a conversation, of the social media variety, with one of my favorite authors, SJA Turney in which he, in a not so mild a suggestion, implored me to give it another go as this book was his favorite of all time and had done much to set him on the path to becoming an author.

So, dear reader, what did I find the second time around?  A masterful bit of storytelling full of great characters and a plot that kept me mesmerized throughout as it wove around and through the fabric of human emotions.  One thing I realized about a third of the way through was that I basically knew the path the character of Blaise de Garsenc was going to take to become who I imagined he would be in the end.  However, what I could not imagine was the many different forks that path would take, a long, winding and entertaining road indeed.  As to this being a work of fantasy, it does, after all, feature an earth with two moons, it is also a work of real history as well,especially in the way the author portrays the misuse of religious power and the dangers inherent in that type of elitist exclusivity.  To me it calls to mind the Crusading Popes and the modern Islamic jihadists.  One thing that is certain is that I am in awe of the writing acumen of Mr. Kay and will certainly be adding his other works to my ever growing “to be read” pile.

5 stars for this brilliant and beautifully written book.