River of Stars Summary ´ 8


  • Kindle Edition
  • 658
  • River of Stars
  • Guy Gavriel Kay
  • English
  • 28 April 2019
  • null

10 thoughts on “River of Stars

  1. says:

    What is it to fall out of love? It is has been a long time since I’ve done it and so I don’t remember From what I recall it was something unconscious for a long time Something in your turn of phrase in the explanations that you seek out and find the articles you share and how often you choose to go to bed early I remember it being full of protestations a passion that was stronger than I felt and heavy with tears The music I remember is always on constant repeat and probably confused by memories of soundtracks that sound like what I thought I ought to have felt Then the crazy part the whole story collapsing in a rush like a child running through the bricks of a castle they have painstakingly constructed and then at the last minute had doubts about It’s the sort of threatening story that needs to be buried and forgotten until years later when you can bear to look at the ruins that you’ve of course saved one timeIn Persuasion Anne argues with a sailor about the constancy of men and women’s love and claims for her sex the privilege of loving longest long past when all hope has gone I have no interest in making generalized assumptions about female kind but I will say that I do this I do this for the sake of what has come before I do this with people with friendships that have long since failed to be anything but pantomime and re enactment and with formerly awe inspiring idols who turned and showed me their zippers a long time agoI also do this with art music and especially with books It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen out of love with a person book movie or thing that has been a long standing favorite At least that is become disenchanted with it in a way that is a conscious deliberate process when I wasn’t uite sure that was what I wanted rather than a slow natural and gentle falling away that makes total sense and offers no conflict of understanding or sense of having the rug pulled out from under me But that streak is overKay’s books have been on my favorites pile for over a decade now In and of themselves they are not perhaps worth this depth of feeling now that I reconsider them They are comfort reads things I reach for when I want a tale told by a fireside on a winter’s night or on a lazy summer afternoon But they are one of those names An immediate touchstone when I’m asked for favorites something that hit me at the right time and lead me a lot of other places There's a lot to love in his books He is a writer who always wanted to be a poet and that shows positively in his writing The imagery can be beautiful and his settings lush and detailed His habit of drawing from archetypes and connecting each of his books in a dream alternate universe of history serves him well Since he stated his worship for the Old Stories in his first trilogy Fionavar he’s done a lovely job deconstructing each legend or tale down into the parts that matter What I have loved about his writing is what I thought the point of this exploration was to take the importance off the words and events and put it back where it matters on the humans involved Who are the people whose names turn up in history’s famous and turbulent times? Why do they make the choices that they do? Are they another race of “heroes” and Great Men or people in a particular situation who decided to be brave that one time? He did a great job making things make sense from a everyday practical angle while still keeping the mystery awe and adventure that makes these stories fun to hear to begin with He added to the experienceBut not any At least not with his last couple of books Since Ysabel it seems like the focus has shifted The lens is no longer as much about bringing out the characters from the tapestry and giving them three dimensions It seems like now he’s decided his deconstruction is about the structure of the tale itself He uses his usual methods of looking at an important time through the people who lived it but the point no longer seems to be to illuminate these characters as they are and where they are Now it seems like it’s about telling me a tired old story and sing it to comment on the nature of storytelling and its differences from history myth and legend We’re not being taken inside the depths to see what it’s like living there any We’re back on the outside again just like Fionavar looking in at people we don’t understand who make no sense in their context and are shaped to fit the tale rather than the other way around People are gone and story is backSo what you may say Authors are allowed to and should evolve and explore different things I agree with you This doesn’t sound necessarily like a bad evolution in and of itself If you spent that much time exploring stories through your characters you might have found out some things that you wanted to share too Isn’t that the point of writing? Sure But only if it works and tells you something new Unfortunately I think that this new tactic has ultimately gotten rid of everything he’s good at and brought into sharp relief the things that have never been his strong suitTo start with since I am no longer looking at and involved with his characters or involved with the loveliness of his writing I’ve seen enough of it to be past the first blush of that especially since a lot of it can be repetitive I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about his message and the ultimate point of what he says That is what is the function of what he writes? What is the function of this character’s thoughts of that character’s arc? Why is it that women smile and die and men hang their heads in sorrow and live? Most importantly why are we singing an elegy for this moment that we’re experiencing? Why do we care that one era is dying and another is about to be born? How is this enriching my understanding of why these sorts of conflicts happen or those decisions are made? Kay found his answer to this through people before I was on board with that That makes sense to me People screw other people and their morals for the sake of their children People make decisions that are hazardous to their health because they think they have nothing left to lose People keep secrets to protect others and people hold pointless grudges because they are bitter about the way their life turned outNot any Now characters are now a function of the plot and it shows For example in this book we’re exploring the nature of what makes a hero and how his legend is made after his death This is a common theme in Kay’s writing He’s done it well before exploring the ambiguity of a figure like El Cid and his motivations or a true believer in nationalism who ends up forging a country from battling fragments through twenty years of work Now in this book we have a hero who we are just asked to believe is a hero because Kay says he is Instead of proving that to us and showing us a person earning his way to the top the man inside the legend he view spoiler decides to skip all that and just get to the good stuff In order for his hero to be as young and successful as he wants him to be he has him rapidly promoted from being a boss of a swamp gang to a commander of a fifty thousand strong army and and assumes that it all goes pretty well along the way His hero never falters and oh by the way goes on front line dangerous expeditions all on his own In case we still doubt he has him marked by a sex goddess And seriously I kid you not he shows the goddess mark on his back to prove to everyone how Special he is There’s a whole lot of “I was born to do this” nonsense going on too as a reasoning for his motivations Really? Because people who constantly make statements like that are someone whose hubris I would be wary of tripping over Seriously Kay what are you even talking about? hide spoiler


  2. says:

    444 I just finished and honestly this book has left me completely depressed Almost than the second Malazan and this is saying something because that one had me crying for days The complete helplessness of regular people and their lack of control over their own lives is absolutely devastating The storytelling was gorgeous as always but I feel like crying The human drama and tragedy is so overwhelming I need a drink or at least a week of fluff and comedy


  3. says:

    I feel cheated I hate these wishy washy anti climactic Kay endings and the wishy washy over virtuous flat characters but that was not the only thing that disappointed me hereI must say that although I loved most of the first three uarters I hated the endingThe book is supposedly based on the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty in China and a lot of the background does indeed portray thisSure there was a Chinese general who underwent a fate like this but since Kay changed and embroidered upon so much of the detail anyway couldn't he just as well have changed history to make the end satisfying?or written a parallel history a scenario of what if?If you're going to make some famous characters your main characters and you're going to diverge from what is known about them why then not just as well re write a parallel history in a pleasing what if format? Like for instance what if a character chose not to follow orders at a certain point in time? How could that have changed history? Since the author portrayed aspects of their personal lives differently in any caseAnyhow I think that the actual Chinese legends and history associated with the birth and end of Yue Fei are much interesting than Kay's rendition of themAlso the technological and infrastructural developments of the Southern Song Dynasty and the establishment of the Ming dynasty would have made a cool second half to this novel which was all too rambling for what it coversI also hate his blooming sexism It just grated on me how he repeatedly only talks about women as objects Kay seems to have insight into what a horse must be feeling and thinking when ridden than all the women who were used and raped as the spoils of war for instance And what about the concubines they're like paper puppets not to mention his version of one of the greatest female poets in Chinese history Shan is based on the poetess Li ingzhaoIn fact if you read up on the period you will see that many upper class women were pretty well educated at the time so as to better run their households since they were in charge of the household and often mostly of the household finances too Nothing of this is reflected in the novel and the fact that Lin Shan can read and write is presented as something unusual as unfitting for a womanSure Confucianism was repressive towards women but not to the point that upper class women were not allowed an educationFemale education was still subordinate to male education and women were subordinate to men of course but Kay's women are like totally flat paper cut outs like objects rather than people Never does Kay successfully manage to see the world through a woman's eyes; we always just get a male chauvinist view of thingsAlso on the Northern Steppes women were not merely helpless sexual chattels They lived a hard life and had to run the household when their menfolk were away Some of these women even took on military roles So not uite the Gor like view that Kay paints of women being literally mindless animals I've been musing about why Kay's apparent sexism seems to grate on me so and I've realized that a lot of it might have to do with the fact that I've recently been reading a lot of the work of author China Mièville a male author who manages to present a remarkably non sexist view of the world in comparisonI've become spoiltAnother niggle not all that important but really irritating are all the banal platitudes for instance It was an important day Some days are and the foreshadowings that never truly materialize all the hints about legends in the making and so on When the west wind blows the blinds asideI am frailer than the chrysanthemums Li ingzhao Li Ching chao 1084 1155 image error


  4. says:

    “Our lives aren’t only ours”There are plenty of fantasy books that take us along the “from zero to hero” path “River of Stars” is similar but the ingenious variation comes with the fact that the personal development of the hero is accompanied by a grand scale devolution of his country If you expect a happy ending you got a wrong book“River of Stars” is a companion novel to “Under Heaven” and together they form kind of a duology inasmuch as they are set in the same alternative version of China but where “Under Heaven” talked about an empire in its heyday “River of Stars” takes us to a sad and diminished ruin of the former glory We are caught between the inescapable contrasts There is no an easy way out The Twelfth Dynasty of Kitai is shrunken and rotten and can repeat after Livy one of my favourite uotes “We can endure neither our vices nor their cure” The devolution does not concern merely the material but it affects the spirit first of all and as the reader wades through the symptoms of this decay it will be apparent how this slow poison spreads and how it affects the men and women of the empire It is evil mixed with incompetence mixed with desperation mixed with honourable intentions The result is chilling You’d expect that this is where the MC steps in You are right But you are also wrongMr Kay is known if not renowned for his perfect characterisation of even secondary and tertiary protagonists “River of Stars” is not different in this regard; the problem is that we do not really have primary secondary or tertiary figures because the leading ones do not have the narrative monopoly To the contrary their voices are uire rare and we see the story unfolding through a wide array of individuals some of whom appear sparkle and vanish some stay with us longer even if they linger on the margins The intensity of this way of telling the story results in the fact that both male and female MCs become guests in their own tale Ren Daiyan is a great hero But not such a great protagonist My main problem is that he has been born to make all those great things he did There is no development to him or in him He does not need to grow he needs to persevere He himself admits that “It was as if the choice had been made for him he was only the agency of its working” Well let me tell you I was furious For once what kind of choice is it if you know you were born to be wild great But also because all the important moments on the forking path of his life were skipped and some only were later referred to in the retrospect How frustratingly exasperating particularly the first and never properly explained one The female counterpart Lin Shan was interesting mostly because she was threading a lonely path of an unorthodox eccentric among the meek and domesticated females of her time Not an extraordinary beauty weird that for Mr Kay but a nice change usually disliked by women overeducated and altogether too clever I could empathise Her path her marriage her choices these were well conceived and even better written Evidently Mr Kay experiments with telling the story on many different levels This way of narrative and meta narrative and then something in between did not resonate with me fully Also as I’ve been trying to tell you he experiments with the use of parentheses The book enticed me and drew me in but then lost me somewhere in the middle forgive me Father of All Books I had even thought of skimming only to grind me to incoherent pieces in the end In spite of my numerous misgivings most of them you will find in what has uickly landed on my personal list of the best reviews on Goodreads I was annihilated and offended both by that ending The catharsis never came It is not necessary to read the previous book although I’d recommend it especially that there is a nice crossover across time because the predecessor is in my opinion slightly better Where it begins Under Heaven ★★★★☆


  5. says:

    A seuel in terms of setting and history if not character or plot River of Stars sees Guy Gavriel Kay return to the Chinese inspired world of Under Heaven It's a book that can be enjoyed by new readers as a standalone volume but one which holds added significance for readers already familiar with the firstAs a fan of Kay's work and someone who thoroughly enjoyed Shen Tai's journey through the dying days of the Tang Dynasty I was uite curious to discover how Ren Daiyan's adventures in the Song Dynasty might compare Aside from a shared history the two stories couldn't be different While the first was a story of an empire at its height full of luxury decadence and self indulgence as told through the eyes of a noble young man nearly overcome by his fortune River of Stars is the story of an empire suffering through its own decline as told through the eyes of a young outlaw struggling to find his place in the worldEven if you aren't familiar enough with what has come before to recognize the little tidbits and snippets of news regarding characters and events from Under Heaven there's a feeling of melancholy here a sense of remorse for the lost days of glory that is inescapable Along with that comes a significant amount of foreshadowing almost to the point of implying a kind of inescapable destiny on the part of the narrator Whereas we never really knew what to expect should Shen Tai ever reach the Emperor we can see all to clearly where Ren Daiyan's choices are destined to lead him With this second tale it's less a matter of trying to seize one's own destiny and a matter of trying to escape itThe language here is once again beautiful in its poetic flow It's a heavy story and not one to be breezed through in a few sittings but also one that's very easy to become lost in constantly seducing you into reading just one chapter The style is appropriately evocative of the culture but still retains that literary flair for which Kay is known so well In terms of narrative however River of Stars is subtly different from Under Heaven There's less immediacy to the tale and of an omniscient narrative voice this time around We still get shifting POVs often putting us in the heads of characters to whom we become attached only to never see again but those are interspersed with an omniscient third person POV Fortunately Kay doesn't rely too heavily on that voice keeping the story intimate and personalAs far as the characters go Kay actually surpasses himself here Ren Daiyan as unlikable as he often may be is a fantastic protagonist He's a flawed young man who grows and develops significantly throughout the course of the novel He surprised me on several occasions committing himself to courses of action that initially seemed the wildest of whims but which justify themselves later on Lin Shan a young woman described at one point as the clever one too tall and thin overly educated for a woman a discredit it is widely said to her sex is a sort of co protagonist one with her own distinct story arc that nicely intersects that of Ren Daiyan She was one of those characters I expected to drift away from early on and was pleasantly surprised by how much of a role she had to play in events later onKai Zhen is another of those sympathetic antagonists that Kay crafts so well a character who is selfish and cruel but also uite vulnerable and too easily swayed by the women around him He's an entirely distasteful gentleman that you want to hate but that hatred is tempered with a significant amount of pity and at times even a bit of admiration Speaking of the women around him Tan Ming the concubine who so cleverly escalates herself to becoming his wife is a richly painted woman of opportunity whose role in the story ends far too soon Tuan Lungis is another character whom we part ways too soon but it's interesting the ways in which he touches Ren Daiyan's life at key moments Sun Shiwei the assassin who makes such a brief yet pivotal appearance is one character I felt was used perfectly as much as I would have liked to see of him the brevity of his role is entirely appropriate to his professionI wrote in my review of Under Heaven that I was actually reluctant to read River of Stars since it was all but unimaginable that an author could manage to capture such lyrical magic twice in a row but Kay has done just that It's another long story better paced than its predecessor and driven by a slightly stronger protagonist If it lacks some of the subtlety of the first it certainly eclipses it in terms of demonstrating how seemingly insignificant very personal choices can conspired to change the course of history Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins and Fantasy SciFi Lovin' Reviews


  6. says:

    With every Kay book I read I'm tempted to say 'This is the best one yet' River of Stars is no exception It may be only the fact that it is fresh in my memory but I believe the author has reach a new height in his uest to conjure and breath life into ancient histories I have also noticed that the supernatural elements feature less and less with each new novel as if the actual events that served as inspiration are enough in themselves to interest the modern reader and we don't need fairies and trolls at the end of the garden to make the point One of the characters in the book can be considered as an alter ego of the author; i Wai is a nobleman who gathers relics of the past preserving lost treasures and keeping a flame of reason burning while barbarians gather at the gates of the capital city I have been a small man carrying a small torch looking back and further back In particular for this latest book I noticed a better control of the passive melancholy voice singing paeans to lost glories and a ambitious plot construction weaving together the men of action soldiers the political animals emperors councillors and dissidents the artists poets archeologists musicians and the commoners who carry all of them on their backs There are battle scenes here than in the last five Kay books combined but to me this is a bonus not a shortcoming In fact if I were to resume the book to one major theme it would be the balance of power between brute force and civilized behaviour between those who build and those who destroyAs usual the chosen period of study is one of a great civilization on the point of collapse the moment of change when new forces new ideas are pushing the old ones aside In previous books we had the passing of the Moors in Andaluzia of the vikings in Ireland of the Age of Chivalry in southern France of the Romans into the Byzantines etc The Twelve Dinasty of Kitai ruled by the Son of Heaven Emperor Wenzong is threatened from outside by the rising power of the steppe riders and from inside by corruption incompetence and an effete lifestyle A hero is needed to bring back national pride and to energize a lethargic society Ren Dayan is a young boy with big dreams with a uick mind and a talent for archery The book follows him from the first confrontation with bandits on a minor country road through a successful outlaw career as a kind of Oriental Robin Hood and later as an oficial army commander rising through the ranks until he passes into legend Wolves howl I cannot find restBecause I am powerlessTo amend a broken world He is a good character to anchor this sprawling story but given his status as a mythical hero of the people he tends to act in a pompous and self righteous way and I found myself interested in the lesser characters of the epic Lady Lin Shan is my favorite a bit of a tomboy in an age where women are supposed to be decorative and useless a poet a scholar an independent spirit and a passionate woman who is forced to hide behind a facade of conformity and bow to the male egos around her Of special interest in her early manifestation of feminine emancipation is her horror at the fashionable bounding of young girls feet as a statement of their delicate and submissive nature Her poetry on its own may not be so impressive but taken in the context of the events it describes it becomes one of the most poignant moments in the whole story I stand upon my balconyLooking down on ancient bronzesBeside the courtyard fountainThe evening wind risesGeese fly overhead going southLeaves fall into the fountainOne and then anotherFar away mountains gather cloudsSomewhere it is rainingHere it grows dark under the river of starsThen the moon rises over houses and wallsShadows of trees lie along the groundI cannot keep the leaves from falling Xi Wengao is an old hand at the game of thrones the grey eminence behind the Emperor until ruthless adversaries push him into exile Divided between bowing to tradition and real politik power plays he is not capable of overcoming the age old distrust of the civil administrators towards the military competent leadersLu Chen is a dissident and a poet a descendent of another poet from Under Heaven Another exile banished from court on account of polemic pamphlets he turns to a life of contemplation seeking peace in a retreat from the world of backstabbing and kowtowing to power His own doctrines were about compassion the brush strokes of words painting conversation enduring friendship family Laughter Music Service to the Empire Wine The beauty of women and of rivers under stars Another particularity of the novel that I believe is new for Kay is the freuent use of minor one shot characters as narrators looking at society and at the events from the perspective of the common man a teenage guard at a war camp a young girl forced to marry in a small village an orphan boy helping the outlaws escape the guards in another village an itinerant spirit healer These episodes are very useful in fleshing out the society of Kitai in the times of the Twelve Dynasty Speaking of which there are freuent references throughout the novel to events and personalities from the previous dynasties underlining the weight of history and the continuity of civilization like a river without a beginning or an end a grandiose landscape in which individuals and their efforts count less than the whole After turning the last page I feel I have learned a great deal about the Song period that served as inspiration for the novel and also that there is so much to discover I hope I will find time to search for and to read other books set in China fiction or non fiction


  7. says:

    Returning to Kay's richly drawn worlds is like falling into poetry extensively researched history and the becoming one with the horrors that beset these wonderful contemporary protagonistsI'm tempted to call this silkpunk but I must admit there is almost no fantasy and definitely no SF in it Instead it is just an immersive look at what could be the Song Dynasty 400 years after the original novel Under Heaven that resembled the Tang DynastyThis is historical escapism at its bestA educated woman making her way doing the best she can in this world A hero warrior turned bandit and later becoming the spark to ravage the land in civil war The only thing I could do was float away in the text


  8. says:

    45 Stars Review also posted at The BiblioSanctumBecause I've read and enjoyed Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven I became intrigued and very excited when I first found out about River of Stars Set in the same universe and timeline but approximately four centuries after the events of the first book this isn't truly a seuel and can definitely be read as a standalone Still in my humble opinion it wouldn't hurt to read Under Heaven first; like I said I thought it was a good book but it also gives insight into the setting and a deeper understanding of the people's sorrow in River of Stars for their once powerful empire with strong leaders that has gone soft and in declineIt's no secret that Kay is one of my favorite authors when it comes to historical fantasy One of the reasons is that his stories which are often analogues of real places set in real historical periods and in many cases infused with very powerful messages and themes Set in a world inspired by Song Dynasty China Rivers of Stars is no exception I find it difficult to just present a description of the novel because that simply wouldn't do the book any justice On the surface Altai barbarians from the northern steppes invade Kitai taking advantage of a weak emperor whose decadence and lavish spending has emptied the treasury and run the empire into the ground A young boy grows up to become an Outlaw of the Marsh then goes on to become one of the greatest commanders the Kitai army has ever known An educated young woman ahead of her time changes the world with her songs and poetry River of Stars is about all that but also so much ; because of the way Kay writes the book is almost like a work of art His strength has always been his way with words and I swear his writing gets beautiful every time I pick up another one of his books Reading this was like reading a book of poetry And while I don't deny that his kind of prose can get a little tedious after a while that's okay too because I just put it down when that happens and pick it up again later I think novels like these are just meant to be savored anyway; there's really no rushing through Guy Gavriel Kay booksHis dialogue writing can be very subtle too which is actually uite appropriate for this story in which so much unfolds within an imperial court of secrets and intrigue at a time and in a place where saving face is everything and what you say or don't say can get you killed While Kay can definitely tell a story his stuff is probably not what you'd turn to if you want a rip roaring book of fast paced adventure or nonstop action For example though there is certainly no lack of battles in River of Stars I find many of them are only described after the fact Rather than the actual fighting we often see only the results and the aftermathAnd I think that is the point of the book really One of the themes in River of Stars is how a single person can shape your life and bring you to places you never thought possible how the decisions or actions or the destiny of someone can ripple through history to affect legions or even change the face of an empire The happenings behind major events are meticulously peeled back examined from different angles to show the significance of the repercussions that can be felt for generations It's another reason why it was hard for me at times to tease out a real clear thread of a plot while reading this The story is told in so many layers and not always linearly filled in with many narratives during the past present or even future Everything is woven together to form a whole in a very impressive way cementing the idea in my mind of Guy Gavriel Kay as a true artist


  9. says:

    TornWhat do I say about this book? The trends that I hoped were an aberration in Under Heaven seem to have increased and not waned I read the book it was well enough written but there was no magic no sense of intimacy no prose that made me want to stay on a page indefinitelyLike Under Heaven the scope of the canvas was enormous; the dilemmas faced by the characters seemed less poignant and inevitable In addition the distance placed between the reader and the characters was increased by the insertion of observations about history and stories and essentially the road not taken not Kay's term but the gist of his ruminations The most moving scene to me was at East Slope near the end of the book and for a moment the poignancy and humanity of the situation and the characters was real and beautifully rendered although slightly distracting in the present tense and seen through Shan's eyes It made a minor character the most real alas but only for a fleeting moment and it was back to the arc of the story and then as on page 562 hardcover philosophical thoughts Perhaps I would enjoy reading these as an essay by the author but not inserted as observations in the midst of the storyThoughts about history and story truth and perception paths that cannot be taken unless you believe in infinite parallel universes yes we grasp how we create our own mythologies how we make people into something larger and noble than ourselves beyond mere mortals which can excuse us of our own inaction due to our lack of super humanity nobility and ability; that we cannot really look back and say if only I had done x and not y everything would have been different better for there is no way to go back and test that theory and who knows what wild cards would be revealed if we could?Look this is well written and if by any other author a good read By Kay my heart flares like a fire I am not transported; I am not filled with sorrow and longing; I am not revisiting and mulling over the people and the events and the ending which is never actually an ending but simply a door to the next part of their story; I am not heart broken; I am not shoving the book at someone saying you have GOT to read this it is SO beautiful magical human I cannot give it less than a 3 but please please Mr Kay come back to us Maybe you are evolving into a creature of pure energy light moving beyond your tales but we want you here with us making your own special magic and letting us share in its flickering light


  10. says:

    of Stars is the twelfth novel by Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay and is based loosely on twelfth century China during the Song Dynasty Like many of his works Kay weaves historical names places and events into a fictional tapestry that still retains the feel of historical work while engaging the reader in the intensely character driven style that makes his works so engrossingNothing happens and everything happensIt's been my experience with fantasy lately that and things are becoming plot and action driven Battles conflicts direct interactions seem to be the name of the game Read any book that takes place during or around a war or invasion and you'll find a solid percentage of the text dedicated to the action scenes sword fights army maneuvers deaths escapes Such makes for a very attention grabbing read trying to keep you involved by constantly throwing something intense in your faceIn River of Stars the opposite is true This is the story of an invasion of a general rising up to bring his armies to victory against a foe that seems overwhelmingly strong And there's almost no action at all Instead Kay does an absolutely stunning job communicating the state of the action through implication and suggestion concentrating instead on the characters He shows you what these people are like makes you come to know them to understand them And through this understanding we need only see a few lines of dialogue or a short paragraph describing the action around the characters Our knowledge of who they are fills in the restIt struck me about halfway through the book that time had been spent discussing poetry than warfare and that not only did this not detract from the work in any way I found myself deeply invested in what was going on than I would have been if this had been an action oriented war novel My connection to the characters made me care so much about what they thought about the events happening off in the distance than I did about the events themselvesSmall stones make large ripplesAnother common element to most modern fantasy is that the heroic protagonist and their group makes many sweeping changes to the world around them They are larger than life and nobody can doubt the influence their actions and generally only their actions have on the world around them Kay instead presents a world where the actions of every character even ones of obvious societal importance—generals emperors ministers—really feel not so much small What I mean to say is that each character feels like they are just living their lives in their world making the decisions that they would make guided by their beliefs and the realities of their situationThere are no obvious moments you can point to and say This is when the hero's destiny is revealed or This is when the defining moment of this character's life happened Everything just happens And it feels so smooth and natural and realistic that it pulls you in and keeps you there Not a single solitary thing in this entire novel broke immersion reeked of deus ex machina or fell afoul of any tropes of lazy storytellingHistorical fantasy's Daniel Day LewisI've always maintained and will likely continue to maintain that Daniel Day Lewis is among the greatest actors of all time While he doesn't always pick roles that have a wide ranging mass appeal he only picks roles that meet his incredibly high standards His dedication to research and to method acting completely burying himself in a role in a way that few people can even really understand is what has led to him being the only person to win three Best Actor academy awards His rate of appearances in movies is low only twelve films in twenty four years but I've yet to see a performance that didn't utterly blow me awayI include the above to really communicate what I am saying when I compare Guy Gavriel Kay to Daniel Day Lewis He is similarly non prolific with twelve novels in thirty years and similarly dedicated to his craft in a way that few people seem to be Each of his books contains an afterword which talks about the research conducted works referenced and experts consulted and it just flabbergasts me I've read his entire bibliography and not only was I not disappointed I was hard pressed to find a single thing to complain aboutWhy should you read this book?The only reason I can think of why you shouldn't read this book is if you just finished reading another book by Kay These novels need some digestion time to really sit down and think about what you just read I've read several of his novels multiple times each and the idea of reading two in a row just seems like too much You need to relax and unwind a little with something a little lighter before you dive back into the immersive worlds Kay creates You should read this book if you have an appreciation for expertly crafted character driven fantasy of the highest order; if you want to really get to know characters to get a deep sense of them and their place in their society and their role therein; if you want to close a book's back cover take a deep breath set it down and not even consider picking up another book until you've had time to just appreciate the raw artistry you've just witnessed That is why you should read this book


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Guy Gavriel Kay ✓ 8 review

River of Stars

T 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 exuisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far 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 sta 45 Stars Review also posted at The BiblioSanctumBecause I've read and enjoyed Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven I became intrigued and very excited when I first found out about River of Stars Set in the same universe and timeline but approximately four centuries after the events of the first book this isn't truly a seuel and can definitely be read as a standalone Still in my humble opinion it wouldn't hurt to read Under Heaven first; like I said I thought it was a good book but it also gives insight into the setting and a deeper understanding of the people's sorrow in River of Stars for their once powerful empire with strong leaders that has gone soft and in declineIt's no secret that Kay is one of my favorite authors when it comes to historical fantasy One of the reasons is that his stories which are often analogues of real places set in real historical periods and in many cases infused with very powerful messages and themes Set in a world inspired by Song Dynasty China Rivers of Stars is no exception I find it difficult to just present a description of the novel because that simply wouldn't do the book any justice On the surface Altai barbarians from the northern steppes invade Kitai taking advantage of a weak emperor whose decadence and lavish spending has emptied the treasury and run the empire into the ground A young boy grows up to become an Outlaw of the Marsh then goes on to become one of the greatest commanders the Kitai army has ever known An educated young woman ahead of her time changes the world with her songs and poetry River of Stars is about all that but also so much ; because of the way Kay writes the book is almost like a work of art His strength has always been his way with words and I swear his writing gets beautiful every time I pick up another one of his books Reading this was like reading a book of poetry And while I don't deny that his kind of prose can get a little tedious after a while that's okay too because I just put it down when that happens and pick it up again later I think novels like these are just meant to be savored anyway; there's really no rushing through Guy Gavriel Kay booksHis dialogue writing can be very subtle too which is actually uite appropriate for this story in which so much unfolds within an imperial court of secrets and intrigue at a time and in a place where saving face is everything and what you say or don't say can get you killed While Kay can definitely tell a story his stuff is probably not what you'd turn to if you want a rip roaring book of fast paced adventure or nonstop action For example though there is certainly no lack of battles in River of Stars I find many of them are only described after the fact Rather than the actual fighting we often see only the results and the aftermathAnd I think that is the point of the book really One of the themes in River of Stars is how a single person can shape your life and bring you to places you never thought possible how the decisions or actions or the destiny of someone can ripple through history to affect legions or even change the face of an empire The happenings behind major events are meticulously peeled back examined from different angles to show the significance of the repercussions that can be felt for generations It's another reason why it was hard for me at times to tease out a real clear thread of a plot while reading this The story is told in so many layers and not always linearly filled in with many narratives during the past present or even future Everything is woven together to form a whole in a very impressive way cementing the idea in my mind of Guy Gavriel Kay as a true artist

Summary Ï eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ✓ Guy Gavriel Kay

“River of Stars is a major accomplishment the work of a master novelist in full command of his subject” Michael Dirda in The Washington Post“Game of Thrones in China” SaloncomRen Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate That moment on a lonely road changed his life in entirely unexpected ways sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws From I feel cheated I hate these wishy washy anti climactic Kay endings and the wishy washy over virtuous flat characters but that was not the only thing that disappointed me hereI must say that although I loved most of the first three uarters I hated the endingThe book is supposedly based on the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty in China and a lot of the background does indeed portray thisSure there was a Chinese general who underwent a fate like this but since Kay changed and embroidered upon so much of the detail anyway couldn't he just as well have changed history to make the end satisfying?or written a parallel history a scenario of what if?If you're going to make some famous characters your main characters and you're going to diverge from what is known about them why then not just as well re write a parallel history in a pleasing what if format? Like for instance what if a character chose not to follow orders at a certain point in time? How could that have changed history? Since the author portrayed aspects of their personal lives differently in any caseAnyhow I think that the actual Chinese legends and history associated with the birth and end of Yue Fei are much interesting than Kay's rendition of themAlso the technological and infrastructural developments of the Southern Song Dynasty and the establishment of the Ming dynasty would have made a cool second half to this novel which was all too rambling for what it coversI also hate his blooming sexism It just grated on me how he repeatedly only talks about women as objects Kay seems to have insight into what a horse must be feeling and thinking when ridden than all the women who were used and raped as the spoils of war for instance And what about the concubines they're like paper puppets not to mention his version of one of the greatest female poets in Chinese history Shan is based on the poetess Li ingzhaoIn fact if you read up on the period you will see that many upper class women were pretty well educated at the time so as to better run their households since they were in charge of the household and often mostly of the household finances too Nothing of this is reflected in the novel and the fact that Lin Shan can read and write is presented as something unusual as unfitting for a womanSure Confucianism was repressive towards women but not to the point that upper class women were not allowed an educationFemale education was still subordinate to male education and women were subordinate to men of course but Kay's women are like totally flat paper cut outs like objects rather than people Never does Kay successfully manage to see the world through a woman's eyes; we always just get a male chauvinist view of thingsAlso on the Northern Steppes women were not merely helpless sexual chattels They lived a hard life and had to run the household when their menfolk were away Some of these women even took on military roles So not uite the Gor like view that Kay paints of women being literally mindless animals I've been musing about why Kay's apparent sexism seems to grate on me so and I've realized that a lot of it might have to do with the fact that I've recently been reading a lot of the work of author China Mièville a male author who manages to present a remarkably non sexist view of the world in comparisonI've become spoiltAnother niggle not all that important but really irritating are all the banal platitudes for instance It was an important day Some days are and the foreshadowings that never truly materialize all the hints about legends in the making and so on When the west wind blows the blinds asideI am frailer than the chrysanthemums Li ingzhao Li Ching chao 1084 1155 image error

review River of Stars

There he emerges years later and his life changes again dramatically as he circles toward 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 a With every Kay book I read I'm tempted to say 'This is the best one yet' River of Stars is no exception It may be only the fact that it is fresh in my memory but I believe the author has reach a new height in his uest to conjure and breath life into ancient histories I have also noticed that the supernatural elements feature less and less with each new novel as if the actual events that served as inspiration are enough in themselves to interest the modern reader and we don't need fairies and trolls at the end of the garden to make the point One of the characters in the book can be considered as an alter ego of the author; i Wai is a nobleman who gathers relics of the past preserving lost treasures and keeping a flame of reason burning while barbarians gather at the gates of the capital city I have been a small man carrying a small torch looking back and further back In particular for this latest book I noticed a better control of the passive melancholy voice singing paeans to lost glories and a ambitious plot construction weaving together the men of action soldiers the political animals emperors councillors and dissidents the artists poets archeologists musicians and the commoners who carry all of them on their backs There are battle scenes here than in the last five Kay books combined but to me this is a bonus not a shortcoming In fact if I were to resume the book to one major theme it would be the balance of power between brute force and civilized behaviour between those who build and those who destroyAs usual the chosen period of study is one of a great civilization on the point of collapse the moment of change when new forces new ideas are pushing the old ones aside In previous books we had the passing of the Moors in Andaluzia of the vikings in Ireland of the Age of Chivalry in southern France of the Romans into the Byzantines etc The Twelve Dinasty of Kitai ruled by the Son of Heaven Emperor Wenzong is threatened from outside by the rising power of the steppe riders and from inside by corruption incompetence and an effete lifestyle A hero is needed to bring back national pride and to energize a lethargic society Ren Dayan is a young boy with big dreams with a uick mind and a talent for archery The book follows him from the first confrontation with bandits on a minor country road through a successful outlaw career as a kind of Oriental Robin Hood and later as an oficial army commander rising through the ranks until he passes into legend Wolves howl I cannot find restBecause I am powerlessTo amend a broken world He is a good character to anchor this sprawling story but given his status as a mythical hero of the people he tends to act in a pompous and self righteous way and I found myself interested in the lesser characters of the epic Lady Lin Shan is my favorite a bit of a tomboy in an age where women are supposed to be decorative and useless a poet a scholar an independent spirit and a passionate woman who is forced to hide behind a facade of conformity and bow to the male egos around her Of special interest in her early manifestation of feminine emancipation is her horror at the fashionable bounding of young girls feet as a statement of their delicate and submissive nature Her poetry on its own may not be so impressive but taken in the context of the events it describes it becomes one of the most poignant moments in the whole story I stand upon my balconyLooking down on ancient bronzesBeside the courtyard fountainThe evening wind risesGeese fly overhead going southLeaves fall into the fountainOne and then anotherFar away mountains gather cloudsSomewhere it is rainingHere it grows dark under the river of starsThen the moon rises over houses and wallsShadows of trees lie along the groundI cannot keep the leaves from falling Xi Wengao is an old hand at the game of thrones the grey eminence behind the Emperor until ruthless adversaries push him into exile Divided between bowing to traditi


About the Author: Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical River of MOBI :à periods such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categoriz.