Book Review: Under Heaven By Guy Gavriel Kay

Back in December 2011, I wrote ‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly –a post introducing the concept of my reading challenge and inviting authors/readers to suggest a book for me to read. I explained that I would buy the book, post a review whether I liked it or not, etc. Did this sound too good to be true? No one responded except WithLoveWeOvercome. He suggested i try a fantasy novel (out of my typical reading genre, but the whole point of the challenge was to get out of my comfort zone).

  • It’s terrible that I waited this long (I stalled as long as possible once I saw the price tag); however, it’s better to be late than to never do it at all.

Under Heaven is the eighteenth book of my reading challenge. Here’s my thoughts:

An innovative story of honor and power from the award-winning author of Ysabel. In Under Heaven, Kay tells a story of honor and power this time in a setting that evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of eight-century China. In recognition of his service to the Emperor of Kitai, Shen Tai has been sent a mysterious and dangerous gift: 250 Sardian Horses. Wisely the gift comes with the stipulation that the horses must be claimed in person. Otherwise, he would probably be dead already.

This 4 part, 29 chapter fantasy novel was the first one I’ve ever read. I’ve never been excited for this genre in novels or movies, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

This book opened up with a list of characters and a map, which scared me at first. I thought it’d be hard to keep track of everything. However, it was fairly easy. The author did an amazing job with characterization and setting. The female characters (especially Wei Song and Shen Tai’s sister) were my favorite. I liked how they were rebels in their own right. Everyone in the story had their personalities fleshed out, and I could imagine the time period, the way they dressed, where they lived, etc. vividly. I was able to get lost in the world created.

  • This is the first book I’ve ever read that had the omniscience (non-person) point-of-view thrown in. So, I’d get intrigued by the action and plot, then I’d have to read through pages and pages of the different roles in the community, the rules of the land, etc. Sometimes it took me out of the story because those parts read like an essay. Normally, I finish a book in a day. This one took me seven days to finish; take that however you want.

From the moment Shen Tai met Wei Song, I knew there was a connection even though he was still pining over Spring Rain. Their scenes were always full of tension. My favorite line: “He wondered if this Kanlin woman knew this. He wondered why he cared.” I loved his interactions with the two women, and I’m happy that my couple won in the end. I also enjoyed the sister’s interactions with the man who was half man/half wolf. My favorite scenes were Wei Song in attack mode whenever someone tried to kill Shen Tai (she was feisty for a lady), whenever the poets were mentioned (they were treated like celebrities), the first time Shen Tai met Spring Rain again, and when the guy kidnapped Shen Tai’s sister from the tents.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby