Under Heaven

Under Heaven

eBook - 2010
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Award-winning author Guy Kay evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power.
Publisher: New York : New American Library, 2010
ISBN: 9781101182192
Branch Call Number: Overdrive eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource (573 p.) : map


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Guy Gavriel Kay is a master of epic historical fantasy. This sweeping novel inspired by Tang Dynasty China tells the story of Shen Tai, the son of a general, who dedicates two years of his life to burying some of the forty thousand casualties of his father’s greatest victory. Tai is rewarded for his dedication with a gift of staggering size and value, but this gift threatens to tear Tai’s entire empire apart. A beautiful, complex story with engaging characters that could appeal to both historical fiction and fantasy readers. (submitted by JW)

SCL_Tricia Mar 26, 2018

Very enjoyable book. I loved the author's descriptive prose, the world building was seamless. The 700 pages seem daunting at first but by the middle you are wishing the story would never end. If you are impatiently waiting for Game of Thrones this would be a great one for you!

SCL_Justin Jul 25, 2017

Under Heaven is a fantasy novel set in a world almost but not exactly like Tang Dynasty China. The difference is basically just enough to let Kay stray from history and include ghosts and someone who is something else. Also women have stronger roles than you’d usually see in a story actually from the first millennium.

When the book begins Shen Tai has spent the last two years burying bones from a decades-old massacre. He is given a gift in recognition for his service, a gift that means he must go to the capital. Someone is also trying to assassinate him, even before the extremely valuable gift is made known. The story follows Shen Tai and his bodyguard (and eventually a poet he befriends, who is one of the Banished Immortals) as they go to the capital to see the emperor and confront whoever is trying to kill him.

Shen Tai’s younger sister is a secondary character who has been traded to the barbarians beyond the Long Wall by her other brother (who’s at court in the capital). Her story is interesting and provides motivation for Shen Tai, but even though it’s the more fantastical part of the book, it feels a bit perfunctory.

I really enjoyed the book, especially since it was pretty self-contained (though there is a sequel). As the end nears we’re learning more and more about what happened in history because of these events and the sense that we’re just dipping a ladle into a river of events that make up these lives is emphasized. It feels right in the way a historical epic should. Traditional, I suppose. Romantic. Very recommended for fantasy/historical fans.

Oct 08, 2016

My goodness - this man can write. A complex and enveloping story line. It reads like really good quality historical fiction.

Aug 05, 2015

This might be my favorite novel by Kay; it's certainly the one I've read the most times.

As with all of Kay's later works, the prose style is a pleasure, the characters have depth and humanity, and the plot is fascinating.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 09, 2014

A gifted storyteller, Toronto novelist Guy Gavriel Kay writes a thrilling adventure set in 8th century China about the 9th Dynasty of Kitai (similar to the Tang Dynasty). Blending history and fantasy, Kay’s story is a complex and intricate tale of love, power, personal integrity, political and court intrigue, military strategy, and great tragedy centered on a young soldier, Shen Tai. Under Heaven is virtually everything a reader could want in a book.

Apr 18, 2014

This book is a good read. The author captures your attention and holds it until the satisfying end.

samdog123 Jun 27, 2012

I read this book for my book club. Since it weighs in at over 700 pages, I downloaded the library's eBook copy and read it on my Kobo. The book has a good glossary of the characters that I wouldl have liked to refer to as I was reading the book, but that's not as easy to do with an eReader. Good characters, particularly the main one, Shen Tai. Gifted with 250 special horses, he becomes embroiled in the political machinations of the court. Has all the makings of a good book; great plot, characters, adventure, suspense and some fantasy too. Really enjoyed it. Not an easy book to read, but I'm certainly glad I did.

Dec 08, 2011

One of those I enjoyed immensely. Everyone has one and this is one of mine. I will reread this one again.
All of his books are really quite terrific. The Lions of Al-Rassan is equally entertaining.

Oct 02, 2011

Under Heaven is a fantasy novel but the fantastical is under-stated. There are ghost and shape-shifters but they take a back-seat to the period drama that unfolds in ancient china. Most of the sword and sorcery takes place off-stage. On stage is palace intrigue. If you like a novel to plod along then the story is likable. I expected more action.

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Sep 28, 2016

The world could bring you poison in a jewelled cup, or surprising gifts. Sometimes you didn’t know which of them it was.

Sep 28, 2016

with certain men it was better if they never noticed you

Sep 28, 2016

She wears no perfume, as usual. That makes it easier for her to cross dark courtyards, linger on porticos. Perfume is an announcement, after all. . . . These devices are not difficult for a woman who can think, and with men who don’t realize she can.

Sep 28, 2016

This was the court. He had decisions to make, alignments to choose or reject. It would also be useful, he thought wryly, to remain alive. One person here had been trying to kill him.
At least one person.

Sep 28, 2016

He knew the legacy of his people, the dark and the brightly shimmering. He knew of civil wars, palace assassinations, slaughter on the battlefields, cities sacked and burned. He had not thought to live through any of these.


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