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Under Heaven

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


Award-winning author Guy Gavriel Kay evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in an masterful story of honor and power.

It begins simply. Shen Tai, son of an illustrious general serving the Emperor of Kitai, has spent two years honoring the memory of his late father by burying the bones of the dead from both armies at the site of one of his father's last great battles. In recognition of his labors and his filial piety, an unlikely source has sent him a dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses.

You give a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.

Wisely, the gift comes with the stipulation that Tai must claim the horses in person. Otherwise he would probably be dead already...

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 29, 2010 – Historical fantasist Kay (Ysabel) delivers an exquisitely detailed vision of Kitan, a land much like Tang Dynasty China. Shen Tai's father died leading troops in battle, so he spends his mourning year burying the bones of soldiers on both sides, laying their ghosts to rest. He attracts the attention of Cheng-wan, a princess of his people sent to wed one of the enemy. As her gifts make Shen Tai wealthy, an assassin kills his best friend. Shen Tai hires a bodyguard, Wei Song, to keep him alive while he figures out what to do with his riches and who wants him dead. Kay writes deftly of women who are sexually suborned by their societies, neither minimizing their constraints nor denying their agency, and the complex intrigues of poets, prostitutes, ministers, and soldiers evolve into a fascinating, sometimes bloody, and entirely believable tale.

Customer Reviews


His best since "A Song For Arbonne".

Tang Dynasty Historical Fantasy

An enjoyable read from a celebrated author of historical fantasy. While the story is slow to develop and there is a great deal of repetition, the writing and depth of character development is surprising for the genre. In fact, if just considering the genre, I would give it an extra star. For the fantasy fan, there is little beyond some ghosts and half wolves. Although they have prominent impact on events, they are a very small part of the writing itself. More time is spent highlighting the relationships and sexual desires of the male characters and some of their women.

A gift to the genre.

In the age of vampire fantasy and Tolkien knockoffs Guy Gavriel Kay consistently produces works that are original, artistic, compelling, and educational.

The author is skilled at blending a historical age of the real world into his fantasy tapestry. Under Heaven is set in a fantasy version of ancient China. You never really know what to expect with one of his stories but by the end you will be sad to leave the wonderful worlds he has created.

If you are looking for military or dark fantasy this is not the book for you. Conflict is handled with broad strokes. What he excels at are the characters, their relationships, and their navigation through intriguing political intrigues.

The only criticism that I could levy at this work is it is quite similar to the justly awesome Sarantine Mosaic also by the same author. Both stories are extremely compelling in the own ways. The solution is to read them both.

Under Heaven proves that Guy Gavriel Kay is a must read author. If you are the fence do yourself a favor and give it a shot. You will be glad you did.

Under Heaven
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  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Epic
  • Published: Apr 27, 2010
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Print Length: 608 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings