Thursday, June 2, 2011

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (Roc) is beautifully written, poignant, and suspenseful.  I can’t think of a more gorgeous and enjoyable book from 2010 that I have read. Set in a somewhat fantastic version of Tang Dynasty China, the novel is layered with imagery and poetry of the period.

There is one questionable subplot, where once again a prostitute with a heart of gold falls in love with her client. If the reader can forgive that, there are many delights to be had in these pages. It’s part ghost story, and partly about war and the consequences of war, yet the largest part is a Romantic journey of self discovery.

I had previously read Kay's novel Tigana (1990) and I had thought quite highly of it. With his new book Kay has shown remarkable growth and mastery.

I regret that I didn’t read Under Heaven before the Hugo Award nominating deadline. I struggled at the time to come up with five exceptional novels to nominate. Judging from the Hugo shortlist that emerged, most of the other nominators struggled to find five exceptional novels, too. Despite the fact that I usually prefer to nominate science fiction for the Hugo Award, I would have put this fantasy novel on my ballot. It likely would have been the strongest novel on my ballot. At least I read Under Heaven in time to put it on my World Fantasy Awards nominations ballot.

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