Sometimes a book comes along that I am simply itching to get my hands on, one I absolutely cannot wait to crack open. Guy Gavriel Kay’s upcoming fantasy, River of Stars, certainly makes this esteemed list. Although the book won’t be out until 2013, it already has me dreaming of what I will find between the covers.
If you happen to know nothing about this esteemed author then let me give you a one-second taste of his genius: He was a writer who J.R.R. Tolkien’s son tapped to help complete The Silmarillion after the fantasy master’s death. (‘Nuff said, right?)
Kay is also known for his own works of fantasy and science fiction, and is perhaps best known for his alternate history fantasy stories. Most of these are set in Europe. However in recent years he’s taken his unusual view of the past to a new locale: China.
The author’s last published novel was 2010’s fantasy Under Heaven, which was set in Kitan (the equivalent of 8th century China) Kay’s re-imagined Tang Dynasty. In the novel a man named Shen Tai is unexpectedly gifted with 250 valuable horses. (Which may seem kind of ridiculous to you and me, but these horses are worth insane amounts of money and esteem, figure it this way: that's an obscene amount of horses.) The animals are a present from the princess of Kitan and they land Tai in a whirlwind of trouble in the Kitanian court as the nation experiences a massive political shift. Under Heaven earned a rare Gold RT Top Pick! RT Senior Reviewer Natalie said of the book:
“This is an astounding book. Inspired by Tang dynasty China, this novel is a complicated puzzle, beautifully rendered. The cast is as epic as the story and each plays an integral part — there is no waste here. This is a poetic and thought-provoking novel that will stick with readers long after they're done reading the story.”
It was a stunning work and if you haven’t had a chance to pick up the 2010 novel, I urge you to do so before Kay releases his next novel, 2013’s River of Stars.
In a recent video the author shared a bit about his inspiration for the upcoming novel. He said that the setting came first and everything else grew from that. So what do we know about the setting? The book is also set in Kay’s alternate China, but will take place in a different dynasty than Under Heaven. The next story will pick up approximately 350 to 400 years after the first book.
And although the author is keeping mum about the exact adventure that will be ahead for readers, I think that he does drop a very good hint about the where (and the what) of this new novel. What is it, you ask? Well in the video, the author reveals the following:
“The river of stars is standard English translation for what the Chinese refer to as the Milky Way. It divides a mortal from his immortal beloved and becomes a symbol I suppose for a division between ourselves and our dreams. It’s also the way in which we all live out our lives underneath the river of stars, it works for me [because] it’s an overarching image, no pun intended, for what the book is dealing with.”
And I’d like to hazard a (totally wild and, let me tell you, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’m right) guess that with Under Heaven and River of Stars both referencing the celestial, the stories will probably have some very similar themes.
No cover has been released yet, but as soon as it has, you know that I’ll have something to say about that, too. In the meantime all I can do is keep a sharp eye on the Internet and move Under Heaven to the top of my TBRR (To Be Re-Read) Pile so that I can be good and “read”-y before the 2013 release date of River of Stars!
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