3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
One of his best,
This review is from: Under Heaven (Paperback)
Some commentators did not like this book, even as fans of Kay. This may be because the fiction is inspired by Tang China (618 to 907 AD) and more accuratly with the rebellion of An Lu Shan, an event that is not well known in the West. This event riped apart the Empire in the middle of the 8th century, latest 8 years, caused millions of deaths (according to certain estimates, some 70% of the 50 million population) and impoverished China for decades.
Maybe also, some didn't like the somewhat unfamiliar poetry and characters, all of which are based on historical people. As usual, however, Kay's research is flawless. Even an equivalent of the Sardian Horses existed, although the author may have significantly enhanced its importance in the novel, comprared to the historical context. These were the horses bred in Ferghana (in Central Asia), some of which were exported to Tibet - one of China's most powerful ennemies at the time (Tagur in the book) and China (Kitan).
The story telling also has many of Kay's usual ingredients. The characters, starting with the most powerful one, seem entirely unable to cope and do anything to avert the coming disaster. This sense of doom and impending catastrophy can also be found in a number of his other novels (the Lions of Al-Rassan or Song for Arbonne come to mind), together with the idea that nothing will ever be the same afterwards. Clearly, you either likes this - as I do - or you don't, in which case this book will clearly not work for you.
I wasn't really convinced with the Kanlin (a loose interpretation of the Shaolin warrior monks?) who seem to be used as bodyguards, secretaries, interpreters, diplomats and, more precisely, trusted third parties and could include both men and women. I was also a bit unconvinced when learning how easily one of them could renounce her vows, although given the circumstances, it is possible. However, these are essentially quibbles. I loved that book and read right through it. I hope you will enjoy it just as much as I did.
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Initial post: 12 Oct 2011 14:48:07 BDT
Your first paragraph exactly describes why I didn't like this book even though GGK is my favourite author by far. Also, I never warmed up to the main character - he was far too distant, too controlled. And I still think that Kay has done the "young man arrives at glittering court and must prove himself" a LOT better in the Mosaic. However, the writing is flawless as ever, and I'm sure he did his research - he always does. I just couldn't bring myself to like this book. I even put it away for a week or two, read something else, then picked it up again, hoping that now I might be absorbed. All his other books took me about 1-2 weeks to complete (a couple of days, if I had a lot of time), but this one took me more than a month. There are two reasons I finished it: 1. It's by GGK, and a GGK book can't be bad. 2. I seldomly put down a book unfinished.
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