By Guy Gavriel Kay
(Roc Trade, Paperback, 9780451463890, 608pp.)
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
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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...
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?