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River of Stars Hardcover – April 2, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Roc Hardcover; 1 edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780451464972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451464972
  • ASIN: 0451464974
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Picking up about 400 years after Under Heaven (2010), Kay reenters his fictionalized version of ancient China near the end of the Twelfth Dynasty (in real-world terms, the story is set around the year 1120, at the time of the fall of Kaifeng, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty). Kitai, the author’s stand-in for imperial China, is on the verge of war. Lin Shan, a determined and unconventional young woman, uses her unusual relationship with the emperor to manipulate events behind the scenes in an effort to protect the life of her beloved father. When he was a boy, Ren Daiyan killed several men while protecting a civil servant from a kidnapping attempt; distraught by what he had done, he went deep into the forest and became an outlaw, reemerging years later to become the leader of a great army whose mission is to stop invaders from crossing into Kitai. Their stories interweave, man and woman affecting the course of history. Fans of Kay’s elegantly written novels will clamor for this new blend of sf/fantasy and historical fiction. --David Pitt

Review

“From whatever angle you approach it, River of Stars is a major accomplishment, the work of a master novelist in full command of his subject. It deserves the largest possible audience.”—Washington Post
 
“Kay has the uncanny ability to depict the grand sweep of historical events through the eyes of those living through them…What’s even more amazing is how through his careful rendering of character and environments we are drawn into this history…River of Stars is an exceptional piece of work.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
 
“With River of Stars, Kay transports readers to a dazzling court and the ravages of war, with language almost impossibly multilayered in its nuance and tone, offering a series of insights that exquisitely build on each other. Even more than in previous books, each sentence seems shaped to further enhance the book’s themes, recalling the craftsmanship of the man-made peony blossom that is a recurring image throughout. Here, too, emotional intensity is amped up more than ever, the shattering catharsis even more complete... one of Kay’s richest creations to date.”—Huffington Post
 
River of Stars is the sort of novel one disappears into, emerging shaken, if not outright changed. A novel of destiny, and the role of individuals within the march of history, it is touched with magic and graced with a keen humanity.”—Globe and Mail
 
“Guy Gavriel Kay’s exquisite Asian-inspired epic fantasy offers a fresh twist on intrigue and adventure...Here you’ll find all the scheming and skullduggery that give Game of Thrones its zest, refined to the subtlest of arts.”—Salon.com “Listener” column by Laura Miller
 

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Customer Reviews

The characters are complex and interesting.
critical reader
I found it somewhat disjointed at times but continued to read through to the end.
Roger McKechnie
Guy Gavriel Kay is simply a master story teller.
imagined

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Indy Reviewer VINE VOICE on April 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Among its other themes, Guy Gavriel Kay's "River of Stars" is a powerful exploration of what it's like to be living in the wrong time and whether or not the price of chasing long-past glories and being loyal to principles is worth the fight. This isn't a typical Kay novel in many ways, most notably that instead of a plot driven by protagonists who change the world, here they swim upstream against the inevitable course of history. Overall, though, it is one of his more thoughtful novels. 4 stars.

Returning to the fictionalized medieval China that Kay first explored in Under Heaven, the Empire of Kitai is barely recognizable 400 years later. This isn't a sequel to Under Heaven and it's not necessary to have read the prior book to enjoy this one, but readers will be better off if they do as it provides full comprehension of the stark contrast between the thriving Ninth Dynasty and the teetering Twelfth.

Thanks to the aftereffects of the An Li rebellion and years of barbarian pressure, the Empire is a shadow of its former self. The Emperor spends far more time worrying about the placement of rocks in his gardens instead of his rule, the factious court is more concerned with political payback than governing, dissent is ruthlessly suppressed as cacophony, and the upper class clings to a pretentious veneer of culture to attempt to cover the rot of an Empire coming apart at the seams. What pokes through of this thin layer to gnaw at the heart of the Kitan, though, is the humiliating loss of the Empire's fourteen Northern Prefectures to the barbarians.

Despite the nominal strength of Kitai, there is little that can be done.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By critical reader on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Guy Gavriel Kay returns to ancient China the setting of his last novel, Under Heaven. But five hundred years have passed from the time of the fifth (Tang) Dynasty to the ninth (Song). The Song Dynasty was a time of prosperity, art, and scientific advance in China. But Kay depicts it as militarily weak, torn by political conflict, and becoming more and more socially conservative. In this setting, the two main characters, Ren Daiyan, who wants to be a great general, and Lin Shan, a brilliant young woman, are people out of their time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters are complex and interesting. Kay often circles around an event, approaching it only after giving warnings that something significant will occur. This can be annoying, but seemed less obtrusive in this book. The main event seems in sight at all times. As a result, I found the story moved more quickly than Under Heaven in spite of the fact that there are quite a few point of view characters. The writing is lyrical, also typical of Kay, and conveys his usual feeling of sadness at the way fate or the movement of history can be more powerful than the hopes and dreams of individual people.

It isn't necessary to have read Under Heaven to enjoy this book, but having read it makes the frequent references to the glory of the past dynasty and what has been lost more poignant. Together the two books make a fascinating picture of an ancient China which seems real and mythical at the same time.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Scott H Hysmith on April 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'll admit I'm a fan of Kay's work since his initial trilogy. He is on my "short list", the one every reader has, of authors whose work will be purchased no matter what. And when I heard that this novel was a follow-up to one of my favorites of his, Under Heaven, I pre-ordered it as soon as it appeared.

I'll admit to a little disappointment. I enjoyed River of Stars, but I found it to be less nuanced than its predecessor. It felt as though the author was experiencing the same malaise, the same weary reliance on the labors of the past as his characters were. It definitely belongs with the prior novel, and is less able to stand alone without the context provided by the earlier work. And the author's signature one- or two-sentence foreshadowing technique was overplayed in this novel, far more often used than in his previous works.

All that said, a less-than-perfect Kay novel is still a superior read compared to many others on the shelf. I'll still recommend this to fans of Kay's work, and I'll still purchase a physical copy to rest on my shelf next to all his others.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By S. Lev-Ami on April 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While this book is set in China ["Kitai"] as is "Under Heaven", it is at a different period, and there isn't any real connection although characters from the other book are mentioned. Kay continues his "fantasy analogue" sort of story, but with each book the fantasy elements seem more subtle and fewer and the historical parallels greater. There is again an unlikely hero and an extraordinary woman, but Kay does not write to formula and does not repeat himself. The ending is deliberately somewhat ambiguous, but I think that's better than a conventional one. Recommend this highly both in book and audiobook form [narrated by Simon Vance]
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on April 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan of Guy Gavriel Kay and have read pretty much all his books. Perhaps he is getting tired of the formula or perhaps I am because I found this one to be extremely mannered, cluttered with banal pseudo-philospical and world-weary musings about the nature of life and how little things can have big results. Almost every page is weighed down by these fairly banal musings to the point where the narrative drive is slowed down and the book takes on a tone of fatalism that drains the reader's involvement. The book is still interesting and worth reading because Kay, even when not on top form, is a superior writer. But it seemed to me that he has now perfected his formula and perhaps needs to shake things up a little bit to avoid getting stale.

Here is one fairly typical example (but there must be scores of similar passages): "We cannot know, being trapped in time, how events might have been altered if the dead had not died. We cannot know tomorrow, let alone a distant future."

Ans another: "We cannot know with anything like certainty how someone might have grown. We reflect, surmise, grieve. Not every hero or leader shows promise young, some come late into glory.'

This kind of stuff is easy to satirize. "As I write this review, I cannot know what effect it may have. Some may like it, others hate it. We write, not knowing, because life itself is unknowable. Some words sink into nothingness while others live - because he world is like that, is it not? And unknowable as it is, we can know only that we don't know, and even that we are not sure of, life being uncertain. That is the only certainty. And even of that we cannot be sure.
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