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River of Stars [Hardcover]

Guy Gavriel Kay
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 July 2013

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 – 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.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (18 July 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0007521901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007521906
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Guy Gavriel Kay was born and raised in Canada. In 1974-5 he spent a year in Oxford assisting Christopher Tolkien in his editorial construction of J R R Tolkien's posthumously published THE SILMARILLION. He took a law degree at the University of Toronto on his return to Canada and was admitted to the Bar of Ontario in 1981. Guy Gavriel Kay lives in Toronto

Product Description


‘Hauntingly written, River of Stars is truly epic fantasy and a work to savour’ - Sunday Times

‘From whatever angle you approach it, River of Stars is a major accomplishment, the work of a master novelist in full command of his subject. It deserves the largest possible audience’ – Washington Post

‘River of Stars is the sort of novel one disappears into, emerging shaken, if not outright changed. A novel of destiny, and the role of individuals within the march of history. It is touched with magic and graced with a keen humanity … As sumptuous and sprawling as River of Stars is, it is, foremost, a keen example of the storyteller's art’ – The Globe and Mail

‘River of Stars: Picture Game of Thrones in China: Guy Gavriel Kay's exquisite Asian-inspired epic fantasy offers a fresh twist on intrigue and adventure’ – Salon.com

‘This is stunning stuff from one of fantasy fiction’s finest. From one of fiction’s finest, frankly’ – Tor.com

About the Author

Guy Gavriel Kay is the internationally bestselling author of twelve novels. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in the literature of the fantastic, is a two-time winner of the Aurora Award, and won the World Fantasy Award for Ysabel in 2008. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book, as is Under Heaven, is a re-imagining of China in the past. I'm afraid I don't know enough about Chinese history to be able to identify which period is being re-imagined, not that it matters at all. The action has moved forward by about three hundred years, and apart from odd mentions in the narrative of people or events that happened in the first book, there is no close connection between the two.

It is a huge book and a huge and magnificent story which interweaves various separate story strands until they all come together in a magnificent and possibly ambiguous finale. The background is the manoeuvring of the power factions around the now weakened and decadent Kitai. In the war that followed the action of Under Heaven, fourteen prefectures were lost to the Xiaolu empire, barbarians from the Steppes, themselves now under threat from another tribe of horsemen, the Altai.

The major characters are Ren Daiyan, a village boy from Shengdu, Lin Shan, daughter of a scholar who has been educated beyond the usual levels for a girl, Lu, a poet who tells the truth, the Emperor and his politicians who vie with each other for cunning and ruthlessness.

Life in Kitai is precarious and cheap. If you make a mistake you pay with your life. If information is required from you, the likelihood is that you will die under interrogation. Equally, if you manage to guess right, the rewards are great, though you might not keep them long. There is a lot of death in this book, but I would not call it violent as such, because it is not dwelt upon and we adopt the values of Kitai society.

This is not a book you can read quickly. Take your time and relish the detail and subtlety that Guy Gavriel Kay has created. It is possibly his best book to date, but I would have to reread the others to make sure and that would take a very long time. If you don't know his work, what pleasure awaits you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Torn between past and present glories 19 April 2013
By U
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ideally I would give this book 4.5 stars. GGK is one of my favourite writers. 'The Lions of Al-Rassan' The Lions of Al-Rassan, also historical fantasy, is one of my all time favourite books, and for me it is that comparison/expectation, rather than a comparison with other authors, that would lead me to dock half a point.

Mr Kay has the ability to create characters that are so vibrant and enchanting and through them levels of tension and anticipation that make reading almost too exciting. I did not quite feel that magic. It is in GGK's focus between character and events that I find there is a change. In his recent work, although the characters are well-drawn, GGK's main interest seems to be elsewhere. The net of events, changes, repercussions and philosophical questions dominate the focus. The characters are still interesting but no longer compelling and, for me, his later books have an episodic and slightly disjointed feel. Indeed 'The Last Light of the Sun' felt at times like a collection of short stories.

That said I enjoyed 'River of Stars'. The fact that I take issue at all is due to the level of interest/investment GGK's book inspire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chronicling the emergence of a legendary figure 29 May 2014
By Straightforward TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"A storyteller, guessing at or finding certainty within, can offer the thoughts of a war-leader as he orders a retreat after ordering an advance. Honourable historians record events as best they can and, often challenging each other, suggest the consequences. There is a difference" (p.561)

'River of Stars' is a work that follows the events associated with China's Northern Song Dynasty during the period of time surrounding the fall of Kaifeng in 1127. A historian, writing his version of events, would follow his instincts to establish the facts, and seek not to distort them with assumptions. On the other hand, a novelist's instincts are to flesh out those bony facts with the personalities involved, take liberties with them, and twist them slightly to reveal the poetic, the tragic; the people behind the events, the humanity in the history.

Stylistically, Kay's writing reminds me at times of Simon Schama; he narrates with a careful delicacy and consideration, his sentences alive with intelligence and ironic asides, using the facts of the time to frame the characters that lived within it. Often a long flowing sentence will be followed by a short one, clarifying the first and adding an insight in the process. At other times, I hear the gentle reflective tones of David Attenborough as he whispers to the camera on one of his wildlife documentaries.

In works of biography, I find it extremely annoying when authors presume to know the inner thoughts of their subjects to the extent where they seem almost to be claiming to be clairvoyant; life stories, be they in the recent past or distant history, need to be anchored firmly to fact. This book had me enjoying those exact same liberties for precisely the same reasons.

History books can be rigid and rather dull.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. 16 April 2013
By Miko
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Kay's writing is, as always, poetic and this book is (as the previous reviewer stated) a masterpiece. So well-thought-out, researched, planned and created. If you've never read Guy Gavriel Kay, I whole-heatedly suggest you do; if you have read Guy Kay, I expect you don't need my review to convince you to buy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His Masterpiece? 5 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I'm a big fan of Guy Gavriel Kay, but was one of the few mildly disappointed with 'Under Heaven' and therefore wary of him returning to the same setting.
However from the first chapter there is a sensation of being in the hands of a master storyteller. As with all his books, it stays with you after finishing it. Whilst reading it, you're not only enjoying the story, but aware of how good it is at the same time.
I often look at the page count, even in books I am enjoying. This time I did so in the hope that there were many more pages to come.
Whilst Tigana remains my favourite GGK book, I think this is his masterpiece.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative
Gorgeous. A superlative, evocative, wonderful G.G.K. writing
Published 1 day ago by Sallie Raven
5.0 out of 5 stars Good
Arrived quickly. Bought for Husband so can't comment on actual book, but he is very pleased.
Published 21 days ago by Lellyjenn
4.0 out of 5 stars Return to form
Really enjoyed this one. Possibly his best since the Sailing to Sarantium series. Builds slowly, as usual, but a decent ending.
Published 24 days ago by D. Rundle
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best books I have read in a long time
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. When I was younger I read the Finovar Tapestries, Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana. I recall how much I enjoyed them. Read more
Published 3 months ago by emma hunstone
4.0 out of 5 stars Small things can change a life
Rivers of Stars unfolds on the premise that 'small things can change a life'. At the start of Chapter One a young boy, Ren Daiyin, is in the woods in the morning secretly... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mimi Moor
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection
I know the word has been used too frequently and yet there is no way to avoid it: Masterpiece. Hoe could Gavriel-Kay write with such depth, suspense, and power, while, at the same... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Books are friends
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book by Kay.
Kay moves to the Far East and a new world. All his stories are good and his characters are interesting.
Published 8 months ago by Philip K Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Exquisite
Using history as a broad base, GGK returns to his take on Imperial China, focusing on the Song dynasty this time. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Book Gannet
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but slow
Guy Gavriel Kay has been one of my very favorite fantasy authors for years. When I first started reading his books, they seemed to fly under the radar for most other fantasy fans,... Read more
Published 9 months ago by M. K. Burton
4.0 out of 5 stars Stately
A meandering, slow moving river of stars .I enjoyed this though it irritated me at times.
It was sort of Guy Gavriel Kay squared. Read more
Published 11 months ago by The Emperor
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