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Search tags: Guy-Gavriel-Kay
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review 2017-05-06 20:22
Review: The Lions of Al-Rassan
The Lions of al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay

The Lions of Al-Rassan is the second book I’ve read by Guy Gavriel Kay, the first being Tigana.  I really enjoy his writing style.  One thing in particular that I’ve enjoyed about both books is that they each managed to satisfy my epic fantasy cravings within a single, standalone novel.  I enjoy a good epic fantasy series, but a standalone does have the advantage of being easier to fit into my reading schedule.

 

The story involves the cultural and religious conflicts between various factions in a peninsula on a fictional world.  We follow some of the more influential characters from those different cultures, most of whom are very likeable, as their goals coincide and conflict with each other.  The author writes characters and camaraderie very well.  Sometimes I thought there was a little too much melodrama, and sometimes events were a bit too coincidental, but mostly it was a well-written and engaging story. 

It did get to the point where I was laughing every time yet another person ended up in Ragosa, though!  And I laughed even harder when one of the characters remarked on it also.

(spoiler show)

 

It’s probably arguable whether this book really counts as fantasy.  It definitely has a solid epic fantasy feel, depending I guess on what you think of when you hear “epic fantasy”, and it’s clearly set on a fictional world with two moons.  However, there weren’t really any actual fantastical elements aside from one secondary character with an unexplained special ability.  The story and setting are inspired by and have some parallels in real-world history.

 

It was easy to decide on a 4.5 star rating on the sites where I can give half stars, but it was much, much harder to decide whether to round up or down on Goodreads.  In the end, I decided to round down.  There was just a little too much bitter in the bittersweet ending, however much I expected it.  I also felt frustrated with some of the characters’ choices, and there was the aforementioned melodrama and coincidences.  Overall, though, I really enjoyed reading this book and I was completely engrossed by it while I was reading it.  I’ll likely try to fit Kay’s work back into my reading schedule sooner rather than later.

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review 2017-04-19 17:01
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay

Series: Under Heaven #1

 

Under Heaven is a standalone book that usually gets listed as coming before River of Stars because they both take place in Kitai (Kay’s version of China) and River of Stars takes place after Under Heaven (but at least a couple hundred years after).

 

Under Heaven follows the path of Shen Tai after a Kitan princess from a neighbouring country (she got married off) gives him a ridiculously extravagant and impractical gift because he’d taken it on himself to bury bodies from several battles in a remote mountainous area on the border during the mourning period for his father. So for two years he dug graves all day long while the ground was unfrozen and listened to the wails of ghosts of the unburied bodies at night. I think I mentioned in one of my updates that he’s a bit weird.

 

He basically has to stay alive long enough to try to claim the gift and figure out how to keep it long enough to make use of it without getting killed. Along the way we meet Wei Song, a female Kanlin warrior who serves as his bodyguard. I thought Wei Song was pretty cool. At one point it’s said that "She was small, and lethal." We also meet Tai’s sister Li-Mei who I thought stole the show, character-wise. She gets to exemplify that bravery is acting even when you’re afraid.

 

There are lots more characters and events at the Emperor’s court and a rebellion and so on, but I don’t want to give everything away (hopefully I haven’t spoiled anything as it is). I liked the novel but I didn’t rate it higher because honestly, Kay has done better, and the prose in this book isn’t as fluid or as lyrical as some of his other books. I’m used to Kay setting a rhythm and the text forcing you to follow it. There were also several asides to discuss the history as a whole because the later part of the book starts delving into macro-level events rather than following specific characters. Rather the narrative still follows the characters but the scope of the text broadens and I felt some human quality was lost in there.

 

At least I’m slowly catching up on my Kay reads?

 

I read this for square #24 of the booklikes-opoly board, “Read a book set in Africa or Asia” as I’m considering Kay’s alternate version of China to be set in Asia. Since this book has just over 600 pages, I get $5 to add to my bank.

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text 2017-04-18 23:49
Reading progress update: I've read 65%.
Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay

I keep thinking of Rincewind kowtowing...

 

We're back to court shenanigans, although we keep cutting back to Li-Mei.

 

I'm not sure how I'm going to explain this book without getting into spoilers. I'll have to stick to early ones, I guess. I'm also not sure how I feel about it. I guess we'll see how well Kay nails the ending.

 

If I finished the book on the 19th, I can still roll, right?

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text 2017-04-18 13:48
Reading progress update: I've read 31%.
Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay

Wei Song, Tai's female Kanlin bodyguard is pretty cool (she keeps teasing him about how he'll feel better once he can visit one of the city's pleasure houses and she's a skilled fighter), but Li-Mei, Tai's sister, is awesome. She manages to act all cool among barbarians even though she's obviously freaking out inside.

 

Whenever I start thinking that the book is starting to flag, Kay kicks it up a notch. Now we have the threat of wolves!

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text 2017-04-17 23:55
Reading progress update: I've read 9%.
Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay

Well that got started pretty fast. Things were all peaceful despite all the ghosts from the unburied bodies and then BAM. Tai had appointed himself the task of burying bodies from this multiple-times battleground during his two and a half year mourning for his father.

 

He's just a little weird. I quite liked his friend Yan Chou too.

 

This is going to take me a while to read though.

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