Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

Ren Daiyan is a man born for combat. As a boy he took the lives of seven outlaws while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. At that moment he makes a decision and sets off into the forests to join a group of outlaws himself, intent on honing his skills. Due to events in an earlier dynasty military prowess is frowned upon and Ren's dream of regaining Kitai's lost lands seems unachievable. Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, who is educated by him, something not done for women in this period. Shen finds herself struggling to find her own place in the world. A power struggle in the northern steppes creates an interesting proposition for an empire divided into competing factions at court who serve a cultured emperor interested more in his art and gardens then in governing.

Kay has always been interested in how history shapes the characters in his story, so I found it particularly fascinating how the two central characters are shaped by events that occurred hundreds of years earlier in his previous novel Under Heaven. Kay's characters and world-building are phenomenal and very much intertwined. The reader is introduced to the history and culture through various characters points of view which works better and much more seamlessly than the info-dumping some other authors have been guilty of. It amazes me how quickly Kay can bring a minor character to life in minimal space.

Pacing is very well controlled throughout with a conclusion that had me pondering possibilities hours later.

Overall Kay,is as always, at his best. 9.25/10.  

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