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River of Stars (Under Heaven #2)

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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  3,433 ratings  ·  473 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 656 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Roc (first published April 1st 2013)
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Shayna Sparling I don't think so. It takes place in the same universe but only briefly mentions the events or characters from Under Heaven as historical events in the…moreI don't think so. It takes place in the same universe but only briefly mentions the events or characters from Under Heaven as historical events in the past. However, you Under Heaven is very good and you should read it anyway ;)(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kelly
What is it to fall out of love? It is has been a long time since I’ve done it and so I don’t remember. From what I recall, it was something unconscious for a long time. Something in your turn of phrase, in the explanations that you seek out and find, the articles you share and how often you choose to go to bed early. I remember it being full of protestations, a passion that was stronger than I felt and heavy with tears. The music I remember is always on constant repeat and probably confused by m ...more
Traveller
I feel cheated. I hate these wishy-washy anti-climactic Kay endings, and the wishy-washy over-virtuous flat characters, but that was not the only thing that disappointed me here.

I must say that although I loved most of the first three quarters, I hated the ending.

The book is supposedly based on the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty in China, and a lot of the background does indeed portray this.

Sure, there was a Chinese general who underwent a fate like this, but since Kay changed and embroidere
...more
Bob Milne
A sequel in terms of setting and history, if not character or plot, River of Stars sees Guy Gavriel Kay return to the Chinese-inspired world of Under Heaven. It's a book that can be enjoyed by new readers as a standalone volume, but one which holds added significance for readers already familiar with the first.

As a fan of Kay's work, and someone who thoroughly enjoyed Shen Tai's journey through the dying days of the Tang Dynasty, I was quite curious to discover how Ren Daiyan's adventures in the
...more
Algernon

With every Kay book I read I'm tempted to say: 'This is the best one yet!' River of Stars is no exception. It may be only the fact that it is fresh in my memory, but I believe the author has reach a new height in his quest to conjure and breath life into ancient histories. I have also noticed that the supernatural elements feature less and less with each new novel, as if the actual events that served as inspiration are enough in themselves to interest the modern reader and we don't need fairie
...more
Nancy
Torn...

What do I say about this book? The trends that I hoped were an aberration in "Under Heaven" seem to have increased and not waned. I read the book, it was well-enough written but there was no magic, no sense of intimacy, no prose that made me want to stay on a page indefinitely.

Like "Under Heaven", the scope of the canvas was enormous; the dilemmas faced by the characters seemed less poignant and more inevitable. In addition, the distance placed between the reader and the characters was in
...more
J. Michael
Kay has fallen into a bad habit of engaging in crude foreshadowing and irritating digressions. In both Under Heaven and River of Stars he has stopped to tell us explicitly why the story is important. It is as if he has lost the confidence to just let the story tell itself and let the reader decide why it's important.

In River of Stars the characters lack the nuance that I came to love him for. Few of them are a mix of good and bad. Ren Daiyan is essentially a superhero, capable of amazing feats a
...more
Ranting Dragon
http://www.rantingdragon.com/review-o...

River of Stars is the twelfth novel by Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay and is based loosely on twelfth century China during the Song Dynasty. Like many of his works, Kay weaves historical names, places and events into a fictional tapestry that still retains the feel of historical work, while engaging the reader in the intensely character-driven style that makes his works so engrossing.

Nothing happens, and everything happens
It's been my experience with fant
...more
Janet
Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors, one of only two or three whose new books I pre-order -- but his last few books have been disappointing. Instead of presenting beautifully-drawn characters moving in vivid times, he seems to be talking *about* the story he is telling. The sense of personal engagement and risk, of being caught up in great times, so beautifully rendered in Lions of Al-Rassan, The Sarantine Mosaic, and the Fionavar trilogy, is entirely missing here.

I was also disappoin
...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4.5 Stars. Review also posted at The BiblioSanctum

Because I've read and enjoyed Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven, I became intrigued and very excited when I first found out about River of Stars. Set in the same "universe" and timeline but approximately four centuries after the events of the first book, this isn't truly a sequel and can definitely be read as a standalone. Still, in my humble opinion it wouldn't hurt to read Under Heaven first; like I said, I thought it was a good book, but it also
...more
Liviu
River of Stars is a very ambitious book - a very loose sequel to Under Heaven and based on the events of the 1120's - and after a shaky and somewhat boring beginning introducing a "youth of destiny" becomes very interesting in the exploration of the political machinations and the lives of a few upper class men and women who surrounded the pleasure-loving emperor.

Unfortunately from about half on the novel becomes extremely predictable as it follows the broad outlines of the actual historical even
...more
Darcey
I'm normally a GGK fangirl: I can read "Tigana" a hundred times and love it, swoon about his character and world building skills, his modification of historical events into amazing fantasy settings. I can do all of this with almost everything he's written - but I can't do it with "River of Stars". The character development is weaker than his standard, the political events painfully predictable even for someone not intimately familiar with Chinese history, and the novel on the whole becomes an ex ...more
Mike
He'd been told that Xinan, the capital of glorious dynasties, had held two million people once, and that only a hundred thousand or so lived there now, scattered among rubble.
Well, so much for the glory of the Ninth Dynasty we saw in Under Heaven. Turns out civil war will do that to a society. River of Stars picks up Under Heaven's world several hundred years later. It isn't so much a direct sequel, given that all of the characters from Under Heaven are long dead by the time River of Stars beg
...more
Sarah Bringhurst
After reading and loving Under Heaven, I was a little afraid to read this one, for fear that it would not be as good. And it's true, it took me a little longer to get into it, if for no other reason than that the fifteen-year-old bandit was not as likeable of a protagonist to me as the cultured and courageous (if eccentric) Shen Tai of the earlier novel.

However, after a few chapters I was pulled into the story and soon utterly enamored. It is rare for a book to move me to tears, and yet both of
...more
John
See a master at work. Even though I became really weary of all the "This is how legends begin," "The smallest of incidents can trigger huge events," "In later years x would often remember what happened then," and like pontifications the characters and sheer sweep of this kept me reading (skipping the stylistic curlicues after the first fifty or so) and provided a satisfactory reading experience---as his books are wont to do. Here he recasts the end of the Northern Song Dynasty and the beginning ...more
Jonathan Strahan
River of Stars is a follow-on of sorts to Under Heaven, though it's a better book in almost every way. A deeply moving historical fantasy, it recasts events from Northern Song Dynasty China, the fall of the city of Kaifeng, and the stories of the great general Yue Fei and poet Li Qingzhao. Gripping from the first pages to the last, Kay has never written a better book. Extraordinary.
Nicholas
I'm a huge Guy G. Kay fan, so I can't really give an unbiased review. I love his stuff. I don't always know why I love them until a second reading. Last Light of The Sun was like that for me. It grew on me after thinking about it.

As for River of Stars I have two non-plot-related thoughts on it. The first is that it feels like a prediction. Kay's choice of the fall of the Song Dynasty from a decadent civilization to anarchy is deliberate. Our decadent civilization may be falling to internal and e
...more
Mieneke
Guy Gavriel Kay is an author whose writing I admire immensely, but whose work I've only read sparsely. To be exact, only twice, A Song for Arbonne and Tigana, the latter I've only listened too and to me that is a completely different experience, so perhaps that one doesn't even count. I did read rave reviews for Kay's previous release, Under Heaven, and the book is still on my humongous 'If I win the lottery, these are the books I'll buy list'. So when I was approached about reviewing it I was r ...more
Julie
A very interesting, and almost mythical read, I found myself enjoying the book from beginning to the end, and the ending was one that left me wanting more.

I found the book to be very interesting, the time period and how the author told the story was extremely well done. While, it took me a while to get used to the authors writing style, I think it worked almost perfectly with the story and its characters. The level of care the author took to create the detailed history of the setting, along with
...more
Stefan
It would be wrong to call Guy Gavriel Kay’s new novel River of Stars a sequel to 2010’s Under Heaven. As Mr. Kay recently said in an interview I conducted with him: “If someone wrote a book about 16th century Italy (think, Renaissance) and another about Garibaldi in the 19th century, would we be discussing how they were similar or different, 400 years apart?”

It’s true: yes, these novels share the setting of Kitai, a fantasy version of China that’s, as the author likes to say, “a quarter turn to
...more
Jessica
There is nothing like a book by Guy Gavriel Kay. He balances on a fine line between high fantasy and historical fiction, written with a poet's pen. Every word is carefully placed, every sentence is delicately constructed. Years of research go into each book (Song Dynasty China was the jumping off point for this book), and years of writing as well, and it shows.

RIVER OF STARS is a brilliant book. A powerful book. A tender book. The characters are painted with luminous brushstrokes; I found mysel
...more
Althea Ann
Excellent historical fiction set in ancient China, with only a light hint of fantasy in the form of mythological elements. I love nearly all of GGK’s books. This may not be his best, but it’s definitely up in the top 50% of his works.

The story is not fast-moving (although it has action-filled moments), rather it builds slowly, like a tapestry carefully growing on a loom… weaving the tales of two people, and those they touch…

Ren Daiyan grows from an ambitious boy, to an outlaw, to a military man
...more
Rick MacDonnell
To my knowledge, I've only twice finished a book, closed it's back cover, and been struck with a visceral, short-of-breath, don't-quite-know-what-to-do-with-myself emotional reaction, where I'm somehow on the verge of crying and screaming and laughing all at the same time. In my entire life, the only moment that compares is the one where I knew I had truly fallen in love. The first of these (literary) moments was after I read To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams, when I was 19, the second was af ...more
Linda
First let me say I love this man's writings. He could do the blurb on a package of Kleenex and make it sound like poetry. But I have to say this time that I was briefly left wanting. At least for the first half of the book. His strength is not just in his exquisite writing but in his flawless characters and the emotions they evoke in the reader; but it took a very long time before we were given a chance to know the main characters in River of Stars and all of the background to this hefty tome wa ...more
Stephen
Overall Assessment: Worth Reading

Commentary:
River of Stars serves as an excellent example of a critic's dilemma. The book is ambitious in its scope, breadth, and especially, stylistic conventions. It is far more complex, daring and interesting than most science fiction/fantasy titles. Yet, while acknowledging all this excellence, I must also acknowledge that it ultimately didn't work for me.

For me, the core of the issue is Mr. Kay's heavy use of extreme foreshadowing and the third person - what
...more
Ruth
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

A beautifully created book. Such simple language, easy flowing sentences, complex overall structure. I was amazed that in so much of the book the author appears to break many of the rules of style I had been told to avoid:
- Sentences with 'there is/are/was/were;
- Using 'this' etc without antecedents;
- Starting off with a description of the weather or season;
- Overusing models;
- Using weak verbs (to be, seem, appear);
- Talking to the reader in parentheticals;
- Al
...more
Brittany
Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors. I read everything he writes immediately upon publication. He is the author of my very favorite book, The Lions of al-Rassan. However, lately, it's been more a dutiful than a passionate love. I read, and enjoyed, The Last Light of the Sun and Under Heaven, but I didn't treasure the stories, the writing, and the characters as much as I had in all his previous books. (Ysabel gets a pass as it includes Dave and Kim, whom I love.) It seemed that Kay had ...more
Christina
Wow, this makes me so sad. This is the worst Guy Gavriel Kay since "Ysabel." But his last one was so good! He's Guy Gavriel Kay! HE'S ONE OF MY FAVORITES EVER!
I was willing to suspend disbelief and wait, and wait and wait, for things to happen. Because he's the master of the slow build and the payoff is almost always worth it. This time it just wasn't. The characters weren't interesting enough - I feel that he especially dropped the ball on Shan, which makes me extra sad because his female chara
...more
Yune
Kay was once one of my favorite authors (and there is still something utterly marvelous about Tigana), but he has writerly tics that at times overwhelm the loveliness of his prose or the epic scope of his stories.

One of his common themes seems to be the celebration and mourning of a great age come to an end. Here, it's Song Dynasty China, under threat from Mongol invasion and internal politics (under different names and without following exact details, of course). So naturally one of our heroes
...more
Abigail
Inspired by China's Song Dynasty, the lives of Ren Daiyan and Lin Shan wind around each other and the history of their dynasty. The Empire is under attack from the barbarians of the north and outside a court that fears its military because of the past, Daiyan knows he must try to save the land and tradition that are the heart of the people.

This review is not remotely impartial. Kay is one of my favorite authors and I've loved every novel he's written. And I've read them all a couple times each.
...more
Penelope Green
I love Guy Gavriel Kay on principle but the love affair that wavered with Ysabel and Last Light of the Sun. This book has continued the recovery I felt with Under Heaven though.

The history and culture Kay used as the backdrop for this book (China's Northern Song dynasty) was not familiar but I still found it accessible at the beginning and fascinating by the end. The reasonably large cast felt easier to track and care for than I remember from Under Heaven (although now I'm inspired to re-read).

B
...more
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Parallels with real history 2 31 Nov 06, 2013 03:04PM  
Miévillians: River of Stars: Initial impressions 27 19 Aug 28, 2013 11:07AM  
Miévillians: River of Stars Final Thoughts and Spoilers 3 13 Aug 20, 2013 06:44PM  
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Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categoriz ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Under Heaven (2 books)
  • Under Heaven
Tigana The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry #1) The Lions of Al-Rassan The Darkest Road (The Fionavar Tapestry, #3) The Wandering Fire (The Fionavar Tapestry, #2)

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“There are so many stories, she thinks, and most of them end up lost.” 10 likes
“Some writers later, describing the events of that night and day, wrote that Wan'yen of the Altai had seen a spirit-dragon of the river and become afraid. Writers do that sort of thing. They like dragons in their tales.” 7 likes
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