- File Size: 2703 KB
- Print Length: 658 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0451464974
- Publisher: Berkley; 1 edition (April 2, 2013)
- Publication Date: April 2, 2013
- Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00AWLA0U2
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,102 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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“Game of Thrones in China.”—Salon.com
“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.”—The 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...one of Kay's richest creations to date.”—The 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
More Praise for the Novels of Guy Gavriel Kay
“[Read] anything by Guy Gavriel Kay...His strengths are strong characters and fantastic set pieces.”—The New Yorker
“History and fantasy rarely come together as gracefully or readably as they do in the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Kay shows why he’s the heir to Tolkien’s tradition.”—Booklist
“Kay is a genius. I've read him all my life and am always inspired by his work.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson
“A storyteller on the grandest scale.”—Time Magazine, Canada
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When the 'exciting bits' came up towards the end of the book, I was on tenterhooks until the story came to its conclusion. Even there, you need to work at the ending - the author doesn't just hand it to you on a plate!!
For those who like novels/stories that develop slowly, and need you to keep on your toes when reading, I recommend this book unreservedly. If you like stories that don't require a lot of thought, I would recommend the hard copy. But recommend it I do. But beware! It's a slow starter, but when it starts, be prepared to sit at it for hours at a time. It's definitely not a pick up and put down book; it's a book to read and read and read...
Addendum: I re-read the last chapter after writing this review, and I was almost in tears - it was so moving! I really recommend this, with the caution that it's not a book to pick up and browse; it requires dedication and time. Enjoy!
I really liked this book but beware even if you are familiar with Guy Gavriel Kay’s works, this book's pacing is extremely *extremely* slow much more than usual even for him at least for the first 50% and this book is 639 pages long. I had to force myself to continue reading the first maybe five percent but then it sucked me in. For me the slow pacing fits perfectly because it is ancient China and I always imagine the rhythm of life there to be much slower than say in Europe. Characters are carefully introduced one by one and they create a beautiful picture together, even if the plot seems to not move, but really I think it does move in a sense that the picture gets bigger and bigger. I don't know - I really enjoy it even if it takes me several days to read it and will probably take few more.
I cried through last two chapters of the book – but again if you are familiar with Kay’s works you should know that the most you can hope for is bittersweet ending and for the characters I usually fell for the most in his books it is not even that .
Would I recommend it? Wholeheartedly so, but again please be warned - very slow pacing.
"THAT NIGHT NORTH of the Wai the cloud cover finally broke and a waxing moon shone among hard and brilliant stars. What followed become the matter of legend"
It was moving much faster in the second half, more like even in the last third of the book, but only in comparison with the first half of course, because fighting and battles finally came in the last quarter, but it is still rather leisurely paced in comparison with so many other books. And it still grieves me that rulers of the world always did and always will betray the best and brightest and most loyal to them. And those loyal till the end will still continue fighting on their behalf.
I thought the main theme in the book was that "our lives are not just our own" - every individual means very little by himself, only as a tiny part in the huge tapestry of what China was and is. I know it reflects the philosophy of some Asian cultures, but for some reason in my head it was more contemporary philosophy and related to China's societal structure.
Because I totally understand the "collective" is everything and "individual" is nothing argument - my teenage years were spent in the country with the similar philosophy, so to a degree I can relate really well. Amusing how the philosophy of the governments looks so similar.
Did I like this philosophy in general and as applied to the book? Well, I think he reflected the historical reality, it rang true, etc, but my Goodness I hated that individuals mean nothing except to increase the glory of Kitai.
The best, the brightest, the most loyal - yes they can be the small part of the whole, as long as the rulers are happy - and boy their unhappiness with you can come fast.
But these characters , they live for their country, they die for their country - I am just an outsider watching and crying for them.
Top international reviews
The characters and their relationships in the book as all well written and complex with issues of class, wealth, politics and sexual equality dealt with in an intelligent way.
There is plenty of action and the politics and battle tactics are believable and keep you guessing.
The book never really takes sides, it shows the good and bad of the empire and good and bad people inside and outside of it, and this makes for a compelling story where you can't simply take sides and cheer for the hero.
The ending is a surprise with a few last twists where politics and idealism clash.
River of Stars is Guy Gavriel Kay's twelfth novel and the second set in a lightly fantasised version of China. The setting being reflected this time is 12th Century China during the Song Dynasty, and specifically the events surrounding the Jurchen/Liao civil war and China's unfortunate intervention in that conflict (motivated by China's desire to reclaim its sixteen lost prefectures) which backfired quite spectacularly.
River of Stars is a self-contained novel but a few oblique references to the events of Under Heaven will resonate more for people familiar with the earlier book. Indeed, whilst being stand-alone in terms of plot and character, River of Stars's themes resonate more strongly when contrasted against the earlier book. Under Heaven was about an empire at the height of its power and River is about the same nation in what some might term decline. The excesses and dangers of the former empire that resulted in over thirty million deaths are also made clear, and make the current nation cautious as a result. If wars and conflicts (real and fictional) stem from often forgetting the lessons of history, River of Stars is about learning from those lessons, perhaps to the point of over-caution.
With Ren Daiyan (loosely based on the real General Yue Fei) Kay has created what initially appears to be a standard heroic protagonist. He is a young, callow youth with a supreme talent for archery and military strategy who grows up to become a leader of men and a national hero when he wins an important, morale-boosting victory in an otherwise disastrous campaign. Yet Kay is not interested in regurgitating Joseph Campbell. Daiyan is more complex than he first appears, his own belief in his own destiny (bolstered by a confrontation with a fox-spirit entity in the novel's only notable magical/supernatural episode) having to be tempered with what is best for Kitai, as Daiyan is - oddly for a former outlaw - a true patriot. The reaction of the Imperial Court to Daiyan's military adventurism is something that I think a lot of readers will find frustrating or even infuriating, but it's also fascinating to see how the court has learned from the lessons of the past and fears anything to prolong war and thus increase the power of the military (and again, it is based on real history; Yue Fei faced much the same opposition after he won a series of significant victories). Ultimately this conflict, between war and peace and between soldiers and governors, lies at the heart of the novel and though our sympathies may be best-won by Daiyan, the point-of-view of the emperor and his advisers is also presented with conviction.
Daiyan's story is only one part of the story. On the other lies Lin Shan, a female poet and writer (loosely based on Li Qingzhao) during a period when women are not expected to pursue such tasks. This wins her a certain notoriety at court and a difficulty in winning female friends, but brings her to the attention of the emperor. Refreshingly, this story sets up a cliche (a woman cutting her own path in a sexist world) which the author then refuses to indulge in. Shan's deportment is unusual for her culture, but she is not persecuted for it and ultimately wins respect and appreciation. However, Kay does use her to reflect on some of the less progressive elements of the period for Chinese women (such as being forced to wear hobbled footware) and muse on how this period was less free and open for women than the preceding one in Under Heaven. Kay also uses Shan's storyline to explore issues such as sexuality and the power of myth and story versus the reality of history.
River of Stars (*****), like so much of Kay's work, is a novel that moves between being bittersweet, triumphant, tragic and reflective. It engages with a variety of themes against a backdrop informed by real history and is told with flair, passion and elegant prose.
Mr Kay has the ability to create characters that are so vibrant and enchanting and through them levels of tension and anticipation that make reading almost too exciting. I did not quite feel that magic. It is in GGK's focus between character and events that I find there is a change. In his recent work, although the characters are well-drawn, GGK's main interest seems to be elsewhere. The net of events, changes, repercussions and philosophical questions dominate the focus. The characters are still interesting but no longer compelling and, for me, his later books have an episodic and slightly disjointed feel. Indeed 'The Last Light of the Sun' felt at times like a collection of short stories.
That said I enjoyed 'River of Stars'. The fact that I take issue at all is due to the level of interest/investment GGK's book inspire.
In the end I decided to go with 5 stars instead of 4. This book *did* move me, *did* make an impression on me and while chunky entertained me enough to get through it in a few days. And would I recommend this book to others? Definitely, yes.
The writing is effortless and rather beautiful. Each character is carefully crafted, yet consumately human and the storyline is meticulously researched and masterfully delivered.
I have read all of Kay's prose fiction and have never been disappointed. If you have never read any, please, please invest the time - you will be rewarded with an experience which will stay with you for some time.
Other reviews precis the plot of this sweeping novel. You should read those, too. This reviewer is more interested in the sumptuous simplicity with which Kay writes.
I will continue to buy every GGK novel as soon as it appears.