Tag Archives: Under Heaven

River of Stars – Post II

Mmm.  Reading River of Stars was like having a fantastic meal with good wine.  I feel replete.

Guy Gavriel Kay (GGK) seems to do that well.  He also almost always makes me want to visit the places his novels are set – he does such a beautiful job of describing them with an appreciative eye that you feel like booking a ticket to go see the real-world version that inspired them.  Right now.   Maybe we could organize a charter tour of locales?  Anyone else in?

Despite the fact that GGK insists that River of Stars is not the sequel to Under Heaven, I think you will enjoy it more having read Under Heaven first.  They are set in the same world, albeit a few hundred years later, and reference is made more than once to the events of Under Heaven as history.

Under Heaven was based on the Tang dynasty, which was a time of glittering society, ultimate artistry, the pinnacle of sophistication.  And then it fell.  River of Stars is an homage to that old cliche – those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it – but also a twist on it where you can cling to the past too tightly, so that you can’t go forward because you won’t let go.

Regular readers of Kay will see this as a recurring theme in his work, how the past, and history affect us, and how the past and history change over time, and things are forgotten, or purposely rewritten.  He seems to view poets and musicians as vital to both remembering and rewriting the past as well as changing the future – a recurring theme, and one I greatly enjoy.  It makes me feel a little subversive every time I read a book or listen to a song.

I’m not sure this is the GGK book I would start with, if you’ve never read his stuff before.  I would go with either Tigana or A Song for Arbonne, and go with Under Heaven and River of Stars after – he writes so differently from almost everyone else out there that you need to ease into it .  Kay writes beautifully, like Monroe or Shields, but with a can’t put down story, like… I don’t know, no one.  He’s not like anyone.  Cross a best-selling political thriller with poetry and you get Kay.

As always, I feel you can’t go wrong with GGK – I hope you enjoy his books as much as I do.


Happy reading!



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Guy Gavriel Kay Just Got A Little More Awesome

As longtime readers of mine know… I can say longtime readers! I’ve been doing this for more than a year!  <cough> Sorry.  As I was saying, I love Guy Gavriel Kay.  He is my favorite author, and that’s saying something when you’ve read literally thousands of books.

I have been waiting anxiously for his newest novel, River of Stars to be released (It’s coming in April, the second, to be precise, not that I’m jumping up and down with excitement or anything).    From what I’ve read, it looks similar to Under Heaven, which was amazing.  So what, you may ask, can possibly make him better?

He auctioned off three ARCs of this book for charity, to raise money to help pay the medical bills of people in the sf/fantasy community who are struggling, starting with legendary bookseller Duane Wilkins from the University of Washington bookstore.  He is the first beneficiary of a charity has been started for the community at Grim Oak Press.

But wait, there’s more.

He also is offering the first book off the press up for auction (it’s already started, hurry), proceeds going to the Love of Reading foundation.  You guys may remember me passing the hat for these guys last fall; they raise money for the literacy programs of high-needs schools across Canada.  With your help last year, we raised around $7,000 for one of the schools.  Sadly, I do not have the money to participate in this kind of auction, because if I did I wouldn’t even be telling you about this.

Here is the official <insert trumpet heraldry> announcement by Penguin:

A chance at auction to win the FIRST copy of Guy Gavriel Kay’s RIVER OF STARS

To celebrate the worldwide launch of international bestseller Guy Gavriel Kay’s much anticipated new novel River of Stars, Penguin Canada is auctioning the first book of the first print run, autographed by the author. Signed and verified by the printer and the publisher, this first copy includes a product identification slip and letter from the printing press identifying the book as the first copy printed of the first edition.

All proceeds from the auction will be donated to Indigo Books & Music, Inc.’s Love of Reading Fund. The fund directly supports high-needs elementary school literacy programs across Canada.

Inspired by the glittering and decadent Song Dynasty, River of Stars immerses us into an epic tale of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, nomadic invasions and of a woman fighting to find her place in the world. Guy Gavriel Kay, once again, astonishes with his skilled balance of fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and literary style and craft that results in an unforgettable journey destined to be one of his greatest achievements to date.

River of Stars will go on-sale in Canada and the United States on April 2, 2013.

The bidding is open until March 10th, and here is the official bidding link: River of Stars Auction

If, you know, you wanted to buy it for me as a present, I’d be okay with that.

Happy reading!





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Oh Kay!

I have now read everything Guy Gavriel Kay has written, except his volume of poetry.

Have you ever felt compelled to do that, find and read everything by a certain author? It doesn’t happen to me often. Many authors are inconsistent in their writing quality, which is only natural. Also, not every book is necessarily going to appeal to a reader, even if they like the author’s other work. Mercedes Lackey also does this for me – she is the literary equivalent of coffee and cinnamon toast for me, warm and comforting.

Guy Gavriel Kay makes me want to write, if only to go the places he does to research, like Provence. Lucky jerk. His books are all fantasy, but can be very, very different. The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy (high fantasy, elves and dragons) is quite different from Ysabel (urban fantasy), even though Ysabel kind of ties in to the trilogy.  The Sarantine Mosaic books (Byzantine historical fantasy, and doesn’t he have the best names for his series?) are quite unlike A Song for Arbonne (medieval fantasy), which is also unlike Under Heaven (Asian epic fantasy).   Tigana – George R.R. Martin wishes he wrote this book, with its complex storyline, magic, conflict.

They are all, however, so beautifully written it could make you cry, and the descriptions are so vivid you have to stop yourself from packing up and heading to Provence, or China, or just about anywhere he sets his stories.    The characters are so perfectly done you feel you would recognize them in the street – since he and I are both in Toronto, I’ll let you know if I see any.

The Fionavar Tapestry may just be my favorite series of all time.  He builds slowly, so don’t get impatient at the beginning of the book.   It really is tapestry like, since he presents threads, here and there, and then weaves them together.  We’re so used to fast-paced books, but these are worth the wait, believe me.

You can thank me after you’ve read them.  Probably repeatedly.  I will be modestly gracious.

P.S. He has a new book coming, River of Stars.  So excited!  You have One Direction, I have books.  I win.



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Guy Gavriel Kay

I’m currently reading Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay, for the second time.  I love this book, and the beautiful images it evokes.  It is set in a fictionalized version of historic China and Mongolia, at the height of imperial power and influence.  Although there are definitely elements of fantasy, I would say that they are there almost as metaphors, and it is not high fantasy, like his Fionavar Tapestry (the best word for trilogy yet).  The first time I read this book, I experienced such a strange sense of deja vu that it distracted me from the story line.  I had the feeling that I had read a short story with very similar elements, but I still haven’t figured out what story that might have been.

Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing is always gorgeous, and often has some very interesting philosophical and moral questions that come up.  I’ve also read his Ysabel, which is somewhat of a fourth book in the Fionavar series, and may be my favorite, Tigana, The Lion of Al-Rassan, and others.   No wait, A Song for Arbonne is my favorite.  I think.

If you are looking for a book that will stay with you, that you will drag around with you and force other people to read, so they can exoerience that sensation that only comes with reading a beloved book, I highly recommend Guy Gavriel Kay.  Just don’t blame me when you are still reading at three o’clock in the morning.

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