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River of Stars | [Guy Gavriel Kay]

River of Stars

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 best-selling 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 own way, to find a new place for women in the world - a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.
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Publisher's Summary

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 best-selling 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 own way, to find a new place for women in the world - a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life...in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later - and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles toward the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor - and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

©2013 Guy Gavriel Kay (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What the Critics Say

  • 10 Best Audiobooks of 2013 (Salon)
  • "One of the greatest audiobook narrators ever, Vance brings his perfect timing and feather-touch sensitivity to Kay's epic story set in a invented empire based on Tang Dynasty China. Vance's many fans may be best situated to appreciate the subtle ways he modulates his voice for each book he reads. In this case, Kay invokes a world of stylized manners and deadly gambits, infused with an aesthetic founded on the most exquisite appreciation of the beauty and melancholy of the natural world. One of Vance's fortes is conveying understated irony, and it serves him very well here. He acquits himself especially well with Kay's landscape descriptions, so evocative you feel you’re breathing the autumn mist as it rises from the bamboo groves." (Laura Miller, Salon)

    "From whatever angle you approach it, River of Stars is a major accomplishment, the work of a master novelist in full command of his subject. It deserves the largest possible audience” (Washington Post)

    "Kay has the uncanny ability to depict the grand sweep of historical events through the eyes of those living through them…What’s even more amazing is how through his careful rendering of character and environments we are drawn into this history…River of Stars is an exceptional piece of work." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

    “Vance's skill with long passages of description and explication is put to good use here. His tone is nostalgic and introspective…” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (141 )
5 star
 (72)
4 star
 (50)
3 star
 (9)
2 star
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Overall
4.3 (128 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.7 (129 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (5)
2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    David H. Diamond Maryland USA 07-25-13
    David H. Diamond Maryland USA 07-25-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    39
    2
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    0
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    "Masterpiece"
    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert York, PA, United States 05-16-13
    Robert York, PA, United States 05-16-13 Member Since 2009

    Masters in Fiction from Johns Hopkins, aspiring science fiction/humor writer. Give me the unexpected with a bit of grit and humor, please.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    52
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Familiarity does not breed contempt."
    What did you love best about River of Stars?

    Kay is one of those writers who is extremely deliberate. Call it meta-writing, but there is so much more to his novels than what is on the page. When he repeats himself, it's not because he's run out of words nor because he's not paying attention, it's for a purpose, whether one realizes it while reading or not.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of River of Stars?

    Every victory of a main character is unexpected, although not because of surprise, but rather that the reader knows that Kay has no problem keeping his characters from "winning." At least, not storybook success, anyway. Oft times it is a spiritual or historical success, not what one would find from a typical narrative. Most fantasy stories are comedies, either ending with a return to the green world or a wedding. Kay does tragedy the way tragedy should be done, wherein it is only when one thinks back upon the original goals of the characters does one realize that they have failed. Failed is the wrong word. Descended? Found a different goal amidst adversity? Anywho, Kay's tragedies are more Shakespearean than sad, and more immersive than escapist. You can get lost in his writing, but not so much in the world he has created but instead within the hearts and minds of his characters. It's not all touchy-feely, though, and there's plenty of blood and guts to remind the reader of the fragility of the human body as well as the timelessness of the human soul.


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

    Yes. Comparable.


    If you could take any character from River of Stars out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    The Fox Woman, for obvious reasons.


    Any additional comments?

    Kay does royal court politics like nobody else. If there's one thing that's hard to believe, it's the idea that one extremely-intelligent character could be oblivious to the machinations of another extremely-intelligent character. Hard, but not impossible. Kay does a great job of explaining motivation from both the characters' point-of-view as well as from that of outside observers.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 07-01-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great performance, under-baked plot"
    What made the experience of listening to River of Stars the most enjoyable?

    Simon Vance's narrating was mostly great, aside from a few mispronunciations of Chinese words.


    Would you recommend River of Stars to your friends? Why or why not?

    Only to a select few who are interested in Classical China, but not knowledgeable enough about it to realize that Kay's book is not that historic.


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

    I have not.


    If you could rename River of Stars, what would you call it?

    The name is fine.


    Any additional comments?

    The writing style can be somewhat irritating. Kay has a habit of ending paragraphs with declarative statements like, "He had his personal ambitions" and following them up with matter-of-fact statements like "All people did" or "It was not unusual". It's hard to explain, but when you listen it does get annoying. It makes Kay's otherwise lovely prose seem too formulaic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Harvester Westfield, MA 06-05-14
    S. Harvester Westfield, MA 06-05-14 Member Since 2012

    Steve Harvester

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Adventure with depth."
    Any additional comments?

    Many adventure stories proceed from one act to the next in a predictable way. River of Stars is a meditation on time, history, life and death, the meaning of our choices in the great sweep of centuries. I also learned a lot about ancient Chinese society, and grew to dearly love and care about the fates of the characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin MADISON, WI, United States 01-04-14
    Robin MADISON, WI, United States 01-04-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    96
    ratings
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    91
    81
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    15
    11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Poetic but disconnected"

    Kay is one of my favorite authors and his poetic style is good for audio. However, there were some odd things about this book. The hero is seen in a certain role and suddenly he appears in a different one with very little or no explanation and this happens several times. There's an incident in his youth that makes him what he is and that is never shown and only alluded to very generally. On the other hand some scenes and conversations are repeated several times, so that Character A & B converse, later Character A remembers it, then Character B remembers it in the same words, and so on. Simon Vance does a good job but it is hard to keep straight all the Chinese names and families without any list or family tree to refer to. I think this wouldn't be the best introduction to this author unless you really are interested in Chinese history. The amount of fantasy is very small and could be explained away, it's really more of an alternative history

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    julie mobile, AL, United States 10-13-13
    julie mobile, AL, United States 10-13-13 Member Since 2012

    Just a simple girl living the simple life. Nothing is complicated when the power of imagination leads the way. Close your eyes & just listen

    HELPFUL VOTES
    48
    ratings
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    38
    37
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    4
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Boring and tedious details that run on and on"
    Any additional comments?

    Simon Vance was spot on but even great narrators have to work with what they have. I was so looking forward to this book but after 5 chapters of repeated details of each character's every single thought OVER and OVER I finally gave up. I felt like I was listening to a boring history lesson. It just didn't come together for me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Wesport, CT, United States 09-01-13
    Andrew Wesport, CT, United States 09-01-13 Member Since 2010

    Westport, CT

    HELPFUL VOTES
    39
    ratings
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    67
    67
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    1
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    "Great Listen"

    This was an interesting story and very enlightening, the author creates a portal into China's Southern Song Dynasty, making the book a must read for any history buffs interested in this time period.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Hickory, NC, United States 07-25-13
    Amazon Customer Hickory, NC, United States 07-25-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    28
    27
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    "A methodically told tale of honor"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It is not high action, so I'd be sure to let them know that this story unfolds very slowly and carefully.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of River of Stars?

    The most memorable moment was when Commander Ren Daiyan has his army poised to take back the Capital City, but he receives orders to withdraw. It is a very tense moment, while he decides if he will follow the command or his heart.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Simon Vance’s performances?

    Simon Vance has a good voice, however, in this case, his pace was just too slow and laid back for some scenes.


    Could you see River of Stars being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    River of Stars would make an interesting series because it incorporates so many characters and rich imagery 12th Dynasty China. There are so many characters and different stories upon which script writers could draw. I don't think it would play out as well for a movie.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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