The best-selling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay, is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop, the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands - where empires and faiths collide.
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request - and possibly to do more - and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman posing as a doctor's wife but sent by Seressa as a spy.
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he's been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif - to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming. As these lives entwine, their fates - and those of many others - will hang in the balance when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world....
©2016 Guy Gavriel Kay (P)2016 Recorded Books
In many ways this is a continuation of the two books, "Sailing to Sarantium" and "Lord of Emperors " although it can be listened to as a stand-alone novel. The time is a thousand years later, and the world, an analogue of the Balkans, Venice, Dubrovnik, and Istanbul is much different, of course, but there are many allusions to the earlier books. The historical "real world" aspects are rather more obvious than in the last few books Kay has written.
Perhaps, because I am a Dorothy Dunnett fan, in the beginning I feared it would tell a similar sort of story to her Niccolo series, but I quickly realized it was not so. The number of characters is bewilderingly large, but the main characters soon sort themselves out. As always, Simon Vance does a good job, but he really does not have the vocal range needed to make each voice distinctive. The pace of the writing takes a while to adjust to, as Kay has a distinctive style, just as I find one has to adjust to John le Carre's slow pacing.
In short, Guy Gavriel Kay has created a satisfying new installment in his "history" of a world with two moons.
Guy Gavriel Kay's books tend to be sweeping epics full of wonderful atmosphere, detailed and realistic cultures, and believable characters. This one isn't any different! It's been a while since I read any of his books and I recall that my favorite was The Lions of Al Rassan, so I was pleased to find this is set in the same world, although many years later. The story follows several characters of different backgrounds including Danica Gradek, who lost her family to Ozmanli raiders and has dedicated her life to revenge; Pero Villani, a poor artist who is asked to risk his life to paint a portrait of an enemy ruler and use the opportunity to spy for his country; Leonora Valeri, also being sent to spy but whose path in that direction is suddenly derailed; and the Djivo merchant family, who meet, assist, and help transport all of the others and have an interesting story of their own. Many other characters besides these of course, but the story mainly revolves around these ones as they meet and separate and meet again in various circumstances and we learn about the current world and politics through their eyes.
While I enjoyed the book very much, I somehow didn't find it quite as gripping as The Lions of Al Rassan or Tijana, though I can't quite put my finger on why. Perhaps I just didn't quite identify with the characters as much. At any rate it's still a great book and a very enjoyable read, even richer if you've read the other books set in the same world, but this is also a fine place to jump in new
Guy Gavriel Kay writes beautiful lyrical prose with incredible character development and captivating plots. Immersive is an excellent adjective to use for Kay's writing. Especially if you listen to the audible books. Kay's writing is rich in nuance and cadence. It is lyrical and melodic and deserves to be read by a great narrator like Simon Vance. Listening to this, and all his books is beyond a pleasurable immersive experience! Most of his books are essentially historical fiction with a quarter turn to fantasy. He takes a time and place in our world history and retells it in a fictional world. While writing an often deep and complex story, he engages the reader in the bigger questions of life.
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