Not too long ago, Guy Gavriel Kay finally announced his next project, Under Heaven. Not the most prolific author, but certainly one of the best working in the field, the announcement of a new Kay novel is something that gets me a little giddy.

An official synopsis for the book has hit the Internet:

In the novel, Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire’s last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle.

To honour his father’s memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. At night he can hear the ghosts moan and stir, terrifying voices of anger and lament. Sometimes he realizes that a given voice has ceased its crying, and he knows that is one he has laid to rest.

The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour.

It is during a routine supply visit led by a Taguran officer who has reluctantly come to befriend him that Tai learns that others, much more powerful, have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead.

You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.

Tai is in deep waters. He needs to get himself back to court and his own emperor, alive. Riding the first of the Sardian horses, and bringing news of the rest, he starts east towards the glittering, dangerous capital of Kitai, and the Ta-Ming Palace – and gathers his wits for a return from solitude by a mountain lake to his own forever-altered life.

Ahhh, can’t wait! Like I said in my previous post on Under Heaven: Guy Gavriel Kay plus Asian history and mythology just has me chompin’ at the bit. It can’t come too soon!

  • Kendall August 9, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    That sounds very intriguing. :-) Thanks for posting this.

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  • RWJ February 7, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Any clue what countries Sardia and Tagur are meant to represent?

  • An Li July 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Tagur is probably based on the Tibetan Empire of the middle Tang Dynasty; the marriage of the princess to quell tensions, the battles at Kuala Nor (Turim Basin), all fit, although not in the correct chronology. Sardian horses, in the novel, are said to “sweat blood”; a legend which is very similar to the real legend about Dayuan horses (modern Uzbekistan), and Sardia is probably referring to the Persian, or Achaemenid Empire which came close to encompassing that real-world area, although there is not very much in the book to place this more precisely.

  • sqftfarm November 3, 2012 at 7:11 am

    The horse in modern day are Sardinian Anglo Arabs, a horse with some characteristics of a thoroughbred in modern times. Some current race horse are said to “sweat blood” but is probably related to the super vasculature of a super athlete which is trained and fed to the pinnacle of athletic ability.