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Under Heaven Paperback – May 3, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
"Under Heaven" is Kay's first venture outside of European-based alternate world history, and as you'd expect, the academic underpinnings are extraordinarily well done - an author's note at the end describes much his original source material, and is probably worth the price of the book itself. (One note as to how far out of his comfort zone Kay ventures: a common theme for many Kay fans is the occasional link to Fionavar running through his books, and there's only a marginal such one in this.)
In a sentence or two, the plot isn't terribly complex: a middle son of a good but not great family finds himself suddenly thrown into the heart of palace intrigue and power in an Empire on the brink of change, with all the resulting tragedy and drama one would expect from that setting. The difference with Kay is that while far too many fantasy writers would destroy the setting with cardboard characters, Kay's strength is making them and their actions not just believable but engrossing.
"Under Heaven" plays to this, where constant first person exploration of the motivation of almost all of the critical characters means that the villains are not merely black and white but human, and whatever that takes away in villainous tendencies is more than made up for by keeping the reader on edge as to what they'll do next.Read more ›
I am happy to say that Under Heaven harkens back to the former novels.
There are numerous strengths to this novel. The story is tightly written focusing on a central cast of characters. This is refreshing in an era where fantasy stories are told in trilogies, tetralogies, and even decalogies. In its scope, it is not epic fantasy. Rather it is fantasy that focuses on humanity. It focuses on the emotions, decisions, and experiences that define who we are. The characters are fully fleshed out, intimately written. Like GGK greatest works, he pulls you into the struggle of his cast of characters and then pulls on your heart strings as life and death bring change, for good or bad, to that cast. In this, I was reminded of the last chapters of Tigana, though this novel fell just short of that incredible standard for me.
It may even be incorrect to define this novel as fantasy. It has minor elements of fantasy, heavy elements of historical fiction, and above all is simply excellent literature. There is no magic and there are no non-human characters. However, the well written story should appeal to fans of any genre who are simply looking for a good read.
Are there weaknesses to the novel? Certainly none that are glaring or stood out to me. There are a few gritty scenes, but nothing that approaches that of modern fantasy standards set by GRRM or Joe Abercrombie.Read more ›
In "Under Heaven," the action revolves around Shen Tai, son of a celebrated "Kitan" [Chinese] general. As the book begins, Shen Tai is on a quest to honor his deceased father's memory by burying some of the tens of thousands of bodies left from a titanic clash between the Empire of Kitai and its rival, the Kingdom of Tagur [similar to Tibet]. Here, Kay's trademark touch of the fantastic is initially provided by the fact that the tens of thousands of dead soldiers have left behind their very real--and very unquiet--ghosts, giving Shen Tai an aura of the holy man (or madman) in his quest to bury as many bodies as he can in an act of honor to his father. When his quest is honored with an extravagant gift of 250 legendary horses (when one such horse would be a fortune), Shen Tai does not know whether it is in fact a gift or akin to receiving "poison in a jeweled cup.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This wasn't my favorite of Guy Gavriel Kay's books, although I did enjoy it. Like many of his books, (I feel) it is centered around the complexities of the human experience, with a... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Heddys
Sort of Game of Thrones Lite, set in Medieval China. Overall it works fairly well - the author is careful in introducing us to a somewhat unfamiliar setting. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Patrick Walsh
From the first words to the last the reader is captured by innuendo and illusion. Spirits mingle with reality until who know which are true?Published 11 days ago by yahmom1209
This is one of my favorite authors. The way he weaves an intricate plot with fascinating characters and elements of history is masterful. I love this book.Published 16 days ago by Lesley99m
I couldn't put it down. My husband handed it to me and I devoured it. I love the ancient historical fantasy world he spun.Published 3 months ago by Heather C. Novakouski
Wished I've read this book much sooner, for I would have been much richer for it.. I'll probably read this again.. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
I cannot rest
Because I am powerless
To stop reading this book
This novel breaks the mold of most other fantasy books of our day. Read more
Everything you want and have come to expect of this master. Adventure, intrigue, love, fear, wit, and joy. Read morePublished 5 months ago by janice mancke