Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Under Heaven

Shen Tai, the second son of the late general Shen Gao, chooses to honor his father's memory during his mandatory two years of mourning by traveling to a distant western battlefield and burying the bones that lie there. There is no way to distinguish between the fallen soldiers of his own Kitan Empire and the Taguran enemy, so he doesn't try.  To honor his efforts, a Kitan princess married off as part of the peace treaty sends him a gift that will change his life, or possibly destroy it.

There's not much that makes me happier than a new novel by Guy Gavriel Kay.  I think he's just about the best prose stylist writing fantasy today, except maybe Patricia McKillip; his books are so beautifully written they just beg to be read out loud. His extensive research into the historical models for his invented countries and societies (this one is his take on Tang China) informs the setting without drowning the story in scholarly pedantry.  His characters always seem like real people that you would recognize if you met them.  And he nearly always manages to make me cry towards the end.  Beautiful, beautiful book.

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