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Publisher's Summary

The award-winning historical fantasies of Guy Gavriel Kay have earned him international best seller status and placed his books atop his fans' must-have lists. 

Under Heaven takes listeners to Tang dynasty China, where the son of an honored general has received an unheard of gift: 250 Sardian horses. But this is a prize men would, and will, kill for. 

"History and fantasy rarely come together as gracefully as they do in the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay." (Washington Post Book World)

©2010 Guy Gavriel Kay (P)2010 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Under Heaven

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  • Overall
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Stunningly beautiful

This is the first of Kay’s books I’ve encountered, and it blew me away. The prose is so textured, so nuanced, so artfully incisive, with a confident understanding of each character, that I had to keep asking myself why I’d not previously even heard of this master storyteller. I’ve never read dialogue passages with more insightful observations about each character’s motivation and outlook. The world-building here is flawless. This may not be actual Medieval China, but whatever it is feels somehow even more real. There are a couple of supernatural elements, but as with George RR Martin at his strongest, they take a backseat to the character relationships. If you’re looking for an action-packed, whirlwind plot, you should probably look elsewhere; though there is action and a solid, interesting plot, these aren’t the central focus of the book.
If I have a reservation about this gorgeous novel, it’s only that I listened to—rather than read—it. Simon Vance’s reading is beautifully performed, but this is really a book that deserves to be read. I have no doubt that I will buy a physical copy to read and read again over the years.

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A tale of ghosts and beautiful creatures!

I believe that Mr. Kay is one of the most talented writers of our time. He has a way of writing feelings into the story. I really am not the type to cry about anything, but when I think about Rain Song and the life she lived and how close it came for her to have a life together with Tye...that is the talent of Mr. kay. The description of what life was during this mirror image of long ago China, was incredibly realistic. Please read or listen to this book. You will not be disappointed!

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One of my favorite by my favorite historical fantasy author

Here you’ll find a list of Kay’s books that I’ve most enjoyed. Their themes of religion, cultural clashes, war, personal and civic tragedy, magic are a veritable Aladdin’s carpet ride through the appeal and strengths of beautifully written historical fantasy. Reading Kay’s books is equivalent to taking an advanced course in European pre-medieval through Renaissance European history with sidetracks through the Middle East and lands that have never been.

This is, I think, my 8th or 9th book by Guy Gavriel Kay. I began with the Fionavar Tapestry (trilogy), which I’ve relistened to recently with even more pleasure. (That’s the most purely fantasy group of novels that I’ve read so far, complete with time travel and fully-imagined cultures in an unidentifiable distant past.)

The next group has in common a focus on competing cultures with different religions and schisms within those religions, as well as intricate and murderous court intrigue and revenge. The series begins with The Lions of Al Rassad and picks up geographically (but centuries later) with the moving Sarantine Mosaic novels, Sailing to Byzantium and Lord of Emperors—both of which are so beautiful that they almost broke my heart. Almost.

Then I moved to the stand-alone novels, Tigana and Ysabel, both focusing on strong female characters. In fact, such characters have appeared in all of Kay’s books.

Now I can’t wait to begin the second novel in Kay’s T’ang Dynasty books. If it’s as good as this one, I’ll be re-listening to them both just as soon as I’ve made my second journey through The Sarantine Mosaic.

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Another Gem from Kay and Vance

Another stellar work of door-stopper long fantasy from Kay read in sufficiently epic quality by the inimitable Vance. This wonderful work is set in a fantasy version of Tang Dynasty China. Court politics, rebellion, civil war, and cultural clashes play out amid a backdrop of family conflict and romantic drama in this sweeping fantasy novel. This is a work with incredible scope that never loses its beating heart and emotion. Definitely one I will listen to again in the future. Highly recommended to lovers of fantasy. A gem.