Posts Tagged: Under Heaven

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

Gorgeous, and matches nicely with the original cover for Under Heaven, the spiritual predecessor for River of Stars. Under Heaven is one of my favourite novels of the last five years, and continues to be a huge inspiration to me as a writer. To say I’m looking forward to River of Stars would be a severe understatement.

UNDER HEAVEN by Guy Gavriel KayIn a newly released video, Guy Gavriel Kay, celebrated author of Tigana, discusses his next novel, taking place in the same place as Under Heaven, only a few hundred years later, titled River of Stars. Under Heaven is one of my favourite novels in recent years, and I’m overjoyed that Kay is returning to that world with his next novel, River of Stars. Details in the video include the newly revealed title, as well as various plot points and descriptions. River of Stars takes place about 350-400 years after the events of Under Heaven. In the video, Kay says:

“The River of Stars” is one of the standard English translations for what the Chinese refer to as the Milky Way. It divides a mortal from his immortal beloved; it becomes a symbol, I suppose, for a division between ourselves and our dreams. It also is the way in which we all live out our lives underneath the “River of Stars.” It works for me as an overarching image, no pun intended, for what the book is dealing with. The novel takes place, it’s not a sequel to Under Heaven, it takes place about 350 to 400 years later, in one of the other great, profoundly inspirational dynasties in Chinese history and the setting, once more, was my starting point. I start with the setting and the ambience I want to evoke, and from there I go to the characters. I’m just about finished, I hope, and, if all goes well and I don’t screw up, which I try not to do, we should be seeing it published early next year.”

There’s not a lot there, but Kay always has such a wonderful way of thinking about his storytelling, of describing it lyrically, that I fall in love with his novels before they’re even published. I’m also a sucker for forbidden love and his description of the “River of Stars” as a force that “divides a mortal from his immortal beloved,” plays right into Kay’s strength with relationships, melancholy and the longing soul. There are few 2013 novels that I looked forward to as eagerly as River of Stars.