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If you could sum up River of Stars in three words, what would they be?
A genuine masterpiece
What was one of the most memorable moments of River of Stars?
The private interview between the hero and the prime minister
Which scene was your favorite?
The heroine meets the poet.
If you could rename River of Stars, what would you call it?
I would not rename it.
Any additional comments?
"River of Stars" is a masterpiece. Because Kay writes historical fantasies, I doubt that he will gain the recognition he deserves as a truly great novelist. This work is a tapestry of richly individual characters, clashing cultures, battles and complex motives, all with an overarching theme of the place of the individual, both famous and unknown, in the process of history. I am reminded of Tolstoy, more than any other writer. but Tolstoy without the ridiculous lectures about freemasonry, and with a consistently gripping sequence of events. Let those who think I am overstating the case read the book, or listen to it.
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Would you listen to River of Stars again? Why?
No. It's the ending. There's only so much frustration and anti-climax I will willingly endure.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Ren Daiyan, the main protagonist. Yes, he's a "man of destiny," but I never feel like that's a plot crutch. He's a delight to follow because of his combination of drive, cleverness, humor, and creativity--an extraordinary individual in a world that has embraced mediocrity as a prime virtue.
Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favorite?
Oh, Vance is top-notch, as always. Hard to distinguish any one character performance as better than another.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
(Part of the disadvantage of audio books is that it's tricky to look up character names... and it's been a while since I listened.) There is a scene where the home of our protagonist's friends and loved ones comes under attack during a greater war. Without spoilers, the events that unfold are extremely powerful and poignant.
Any additional comments?
Kay is an amazingly gifted writer and willing to do unconventional things with his storytelling, and I love that. He creates a deep sense of immersion in an ancient and unfamiliar world, and everything flows seamlessly. I'm sometimes surprised that he is not more widely recognized for his mastery of the craft.
Perhaps it's because of his endings. I haven't read all of Kay's writings, but from what I have seen he likes a particular structure. He builds you up for an outcome with tremendous promise and possibility, only to pull it all down by the end and make you watch it all crumble. He certainly did the same thing with "The Sarantine Mosaic" books. In the end, beauty and vision fall beneath the weight of pettiness and mediocrity, and the characters you've come to love have to scrape what solace they can out of the wreckage of all their lost dreams.
A pessimist might call that "realism." I call it fatalism. And as much as I love pretty much everything else about Kay's writing, I'm hesitant about picking up another of his books.
NOTE for fans of "Under Heaven." It's fair to say that "Under Heaven" and "River of Stars" are two books in the same series, albeit separated by hundreds of years. "Under Heaven" did not end as such a downer, I thought, and I quite enjoyed that book. Unfortunately, what we see in "River of Stars" is that the long-term consequences of the events from "Under Heaven" have basically wrecked the world we came to know, leaving it a pale shadow of its former glory. In that sense, it's like the miserable ending of "Under Heaven" was deferred to "River of Stars." You might be better off stopping with "Under Heaven." I sort of wish I had.
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