River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay

A couple of months ago, I was surprised to be contacted by people from Penguin Books, Canada, who asked if I’d be interested in doing an interview (see my interview with Julie Czerneda here) and a book review. The book, River of Stars, just happened to be written by one of Canada’s top fantasy writers, Guy Gavriel Kay. Of course, I responded with an enthusiastic, “YES!” They sent me an advanced review copy, which I finally had a chance to read, after weeks of busy life stuff taking up valuable reading time.


As a writer of historical fiction myself, I am in absolute awe of Guy Gavriel Kay, considering the amount of research that went into creating this epic novel. His absorption of the cultural and historical elements of the time period is evident in his ability to infuse his characters with it. He describes places and events in such glorious detail and uses the mythology of the time to create his own mythical character, a man whose destiny snakes in, out, and around the lives of history’s key players. He protects and changes the lives of minor characters, as well – those who are greatly affected by the whims of a self-absorbed Emperor, the carelessness of a General in the Imperial army, the aspirations of high court officials and the conflict between north and south that embroils the country.

River of Stars is an elaborate tapestry, detailing the life and times of China’s Twelfth Dynasty. Its many characters are woven into the political intrigue of the day, each vividly painted by a master storyteller. The richness of his descriptions places the reader in the front row, center stage of a fascinating time in China’s history. The reader is immersed in the passions, the motivations, and the ambitions of his characters, witnessing each scene through their eyes.

I highly recommend River of Stars to any lover of historical fiction. Even if you have never read a piece of historical fiction in your life, I suggest plunging into the River of Stars. You will be carried away by the torrent of words, the ebb and flow of history driven by the characters trying their best to paddle their way to their destinies. I hope you will be hooked on the genre by the end of the book and become a fan, like me. 🙂

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Book blurb:

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 moves 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 the women at 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, under the river of stars, to events no one could have foretold.

About Guy Gavriel Kay (from Penguin Books Canada‘s website):

Guy Gavriel Kay is an internationally bestselling author. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in the literature of the fantastic, is a two-time winner of the Aurora Award, and won the 2008 World Fantasy Award for Ysabel. His works have been translated into twenty-five languages.