Monday, December 12, 2011

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

iconiconI finally finished Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.  I started this book back in November, but with all that was going on in November (NaNoWriMo primarily), I wasn't able to finish it before the library loan expired.  As soon as the library loan expired, I put myself back on the hold list to wait for it to become available again.

I am so glad I came back to it and finished it.  Under Heaven wasn't as compelling as the other book I've read by this author, Ysabel — that one took my breath away.  But this was an excellent fantasy based on the world of the Tang Dynasty of Ancient China.

I read one description of the novel that said it was about everything that happens as a result of the gift Shen Tai is given: 250 Sardian horses.  But I'm not sure that's quite true.  The book is about how the past and present determine the way of the future, but it's not the gift of the horses that starts the chain of events.

The best way to describe Under Heaven is as a tapestry, and although you think you're starting at the beginning, you are actually not.  As you read, you find out that the gift of the horses was actually brought about by other events, each one causing the next.  By the end, it has become a very complicated and beautiful tapestry, with events causing events causing events.

The descriptions I read of the book compare it to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I would agree somewhat, except that the elements of fantasy play a much smaller role.  The magic of shamans does impact the course of the story, but most of the novel is grounded in a reimagined view of reality of the Tang Dynasty.

It's a somewhat long book, but I highly recommend it!

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