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Publisher's Summary

In his latest innovative novel, the award-winning author evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power. Inspired by the glory and power of Tang dynasty China, Guy Gavriel Kay has created a masterpiece.
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.
©2010 Guy Gavriel Kay (P)2010 Penguin
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Critic Reviews

"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." ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Mike on 07-31-10


The author uses luminous description and knowledge of ancient China to weave a rich, textured story with some supernatural twists. You feel like you have a small window focused on the scene at hand, say in a sedan chair, but widening out from that focal point is a world full of intertwining background activity. The characters are for the most part varied and interesting, in a few cases a little flat. The plot offers its share of surprises, yet I found myself a little annoyed at times by some improbable or awkward scenes. Still, this book merits 5 stars just for the poetic beauty of the writing.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Laurene on 06-17-10

A fabulous, sweeping epic

Although this novel is set in an imaginary country, that country is VERY closely based on Tang dynasty China. It's an elegant, refined but also often heartless world, with a strong code of honor. The hero is given the insanely generous gift of 250 perfect horses by a foreign princess, and this propels him into court life and the very complex and unpredictable political world around the emperor. There's a little bit of the supernatural in this, but not a lot. People who like George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey will mostly like love it. The writing is sublime, very much capturing the deceptively simple, melancholy poetry of the era.

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19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Rachel on 07-05-13

Elegant mixture of history and fantasy

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's delicate and intricate portrayal of Tang dynasty China is utterly convincing. The characters are well drawn and their destinies pulled me in and caught my interest and sympathy.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Under Heaven?

I love the sections about the woman rescued from her plight by the strange man (is he dead? Is he enchanted or sick?) and his wolves.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Simon Vance is a wonderful narrator, subtle and accomplished. His characters are always totally convincing. I loved his narration of The Cold Commands, The Little Stranger and other good books, and look forward hearing him read more.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There are lots of enjoyable moments. I don't want to give too much away!

Any additional comments?

This is just an excellent read. It had me looking up the Tang dynasty and the Great Wall, and I have never been very interested in Chinese history. Although it is called fantasy, and doesn't stick to historical fact, most of the 'fantasy' elements are just to do with the way people saw the world at that time - their beliefs in spirits etc. Its not hard-core fantasy at all, just a great story, well told and beautifully read.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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