Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Burrahobbits, "Under Heaven"

On Tuesday evening, May 24th, the Burrahobbits reading group met at the home of Jan and Jeff Long to discuss"Under Heaven," the most recent novel by Guy Gavriel Kay.  This is the newest of his fantastic historical adaptations, this time set in a milieu approximating the 8th Century T'ang Dynasty, and the events leading up to and into the "An Shi Rebellion" of that time. 

The protagonist, Shen Tai, has been mourning the death of his father, a famous general, by spending two years single handedly burying the dead who had been left lying on the field of the General's greatest victory. This earns him not only the gratitude of the ghosts that haunt the field, but also that of the rulers of the opposing kingdom, who gift him with five hundred of their fine horses--a gift equivalent in value to several emperors' ransoms, and of great political and strategic value that pitches Shen Tai  deeply into the dangerous politics of his homeland.

Shen Tai's challenges work out as threads of the tapestry that also involves an Emperor in his dotage, competing heirs, scheming ministers, ambitious concubines, threatening barbarians, and dissatisfied generals--in short, all the characters one would expect in an epic of Mythic China.

Kay writes a very good story with believable danger and intrigue and a rather surprising denouement, without getting too caught up in "Orientalism" for its own sake. The book was well-liked by the group, and recommended for fans of Kay, and of historical fantasy.

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Tags: books, burrahobbits, fantasy
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