Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Coming Attractions | River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

I'm not often one to jump on the cover art bandwagon, and most of the usual suspects have covered this particular image to death already... but for Guy Gavriel Kay? I'll make an exception.

After the news that Kay's next novel will be a kinda sorta sequel to his last - at least insofar as it marks a return to Under Heaven's invented setting, four centuries on - we have an early look at the front cover and flap copy of the US edition of River of Stars, which is due out, as I understand it, in early 2013.

Firstly, here's the new shiny looking all lovely alongside its pretty predecessor:

A perfect fit, aren't they?

And we have a blurb to boot:
"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 with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – 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."
So. Sounds good. Sounds very good. But then... what Guy Gavriel Kay novel has not?
In all honesty, I'm unsure how to feel about River of Stars. I mean, I enjoyed Under Heaven a great deal, but of all the Kay I've read - five novels and counting, now - it's probably the least meaningful to me. I can't help but wonder, why revisit this world, instead of any of the others I'd be over the moon at the prospect of returning to?
But who am I to question to wisdom of such a master craftsman? At the very least, I'm sure River of Stars will be a shoe-in for contention amongst the best books of next year, and I'll be excited to see it. I just... I wish Kay was innovating - creating wonderful new worlds for us to lose ourselves in - rather than retreading familiar territory.

That's my two cents, anyway. But how do you fine folks feel about the recent announcement of River of Stars? Who amongst you, I wonder, has been clamouring for a return to the shimmering milieu of Under Heaven?


  1. I'm 100% with you Niall. I don't think our opinions are legion though.

    1. Then we shall be partners in unpopular opinions, and take heart in that. :)

      What's your favourite Guy Gavriel Kay, anyway? I'm a Tigana man myself.

  2. Niall,

    I see your point, my own feelings are mixed, but lean towards positive.

    The cover art is stunning, and I also remarked on how well it matches. Now on the one hand, there is little in the way of good fantasy with an oriental setting, so perhaps we should not complain another fine Kay novel in that setting. On the other hand I cannot deny that I was also hoping that he would move on to a new setting for the next book. There are not many Kay novels, once every 3 years, so you always hope you will get the settinbg you hope for, because the story and characters are generally sound anyway. I agree that this setting is not top of the list for me, and apparently not for some others either from what I have seen at forums. And yet, this could be another really excellent book, I do love the Mongol plainsmen vs Chinese Imperials vibe that this book clearly has.


  3. I agree with you all - but any Kay is better than no Kay at all...
    and YES! to Tigana, Niall - it's my favourite.