River of Stars – Guy Gavriel Kay

Posted: July 18, 2013 in general fiction, Review

Adobe Photoshop PDFHistorical fantasy seems to have become a popular sub-genre of late. Authors take a historical events or settings and add a fantasy twist. It’s simple, really, if you follow well-trodden paths to the English or Italian Renaissance, or the ever-popular Victorian period. Not so easy when you take your readers to China in the Song Dynasty, which is foreign territory to most readers, in more ways than one. It may as well be an alien planet! Except, of course, you can research it – and Kay’s research is impeccable, even if he did confuse my research by using pseudonyms for major historic characters.

The fantasy element here is subdued, and very much in tune with the cultural beliefs of medieval China, known here as Kitai. This is a place where ghosts are real, curses can have profound effects, and as for the fox spirit…. But the focus here is the history, and the people who shape events. It’s not a happy time for Kitai. The barbarians are invading from the north, and there isn’t much a decadent society, obsessed with gardens and poetry, and with court-appointed idiots for generals, can do about it. But individuals do matter, and one such is Ren. Born the son of a minor court official, he discovers a talent for war among the outlaws of the marshes. Can he save Kitai? That would be telling. Suffice it to say that this is a beautifully crafted, poetic novel, with characters you will really care about.

Harper Collins

Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

  1. lipsyy says:

    Yeah I’ve seen a lot Historical Fantasy popping up lately, haven’t read any though. River of Stars sounds really interesting.


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