By Guy Gavriel Kay
(Roc Hardcover, Hardcover, 9780451463302, 592pp.)
Publication Date: April 27, 2010
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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...
Guy Gavriel Kay is an internationally bestselling author. 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 2008 World Fantasy Award for Ysabel. His works have been translated into twenty-five languages.
Just what is a summer book, anyway? Does it have to be a big, fat, juicy page turner to earn the right to be packed away in the luggage (or downloaded on the e-reader)? We put that question to several book reviewers to find out what they like to take along on summer getaways. More at NPR.org
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- Shen Tai observes, “Every single tale carries within it many others, noted in passing, hinted at, entirely overlooked. Every life has moments when it branches, importantly (even if only for one person), and every one of those branches will have offered a different story.”
What moments in this story would have been easy to overlook? How does Kay—via the story’s narrator and other voices and devices—handle easy-to-overlook details and aspects of the saga? What characters, perhaps even minor ones, make you think that their stories might have been important or interesting, too? What does this do to the depth of any novel, when you feel this way?
Can you identify moments in the novel where a character’s deision, or an accidental event, changes the way life will go for that character? Are there moments when such a branching changes the way history will go for the whole empire of Kitai?
Have there been such moments in your life and in your country’s history?
"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)