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.

Image of RIVER OF STARS

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.

Tori By Design – A YA novel by Colleen Nelson

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Brrr! Similar conditions here, today. (Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons)

It’s a good thing it’s Friday! The weather here in ‘Winterpeg’ is pretty blustery, with winds gusting from 29 kilometers an hour up to 51 km/hour with 20 centimeters or more of snow expected (approximately 5 inches) by tomorrow night. It’s currently -12 degrees Celsius with wind chill temperatures feeling more like -22. Schools were cancelled outside of the city because of limited visibility and icy conditions on country roads, so I am sure there are a lot of hyperactive kids out there, happy to celebrate a snow day!

Since it is the perfect day/evening to stay inside and snuggle under the blankets with a good book, I thought I’d tell you my thoughts on a YA novel written by local author, Colleen Nelson.

Tori By Design

I thoroughly enjoyed Tori By Design and found it to be quite charming. While I loved creating dresses for my Barbie as a young girl, I didn’t have the desire that Tori had for becoming a fashion designer. Fortunately for her, she has very accommodating parents, who move the family to New York for a year to give their daughter the opportunity to explore her heart’s delight.

Things don’t go as swimmingly as Tori would have liked. Being ‘the new girl’ is never easy but she never considered any of the difficulties that arise. Although Tori has typical teenage moments with her parents and experiences some disappointments, she does eventually make some rather grown-up decisions.

Colleen has created a likable character in Tori and manages to bring the busy, crowded New York cityscape to life, along with the high school experience. I like that the romantic elements in the story were not as important to as Tori’s focus on her career goals, although they did come into play a bit. Overall, I would recommend this story to any young girl with aspirations of becoming a part of the fashion world.

If you’d like to learn more about the author, drop by here on Sunday for my interview with Colleen Nelson. 🙂

Thunder Road, by Chadwick Ginther

A Review by Susan Rocan

I finished Thunder Road early this week, but wasn’t able to get my thoughts about it on paper until today. It’s been on my mind often over the past few days, mainly because it’s such an awesome story. I don’t just like it because it’s set mainly in my hometown and province, so I know about the places he writes about. I like it because of the way he wove the Norse mythology into a contemporary story.

Here is the blurb from Amazon:

“In a flash, the world Ted Callan knew exploded. The fire on the patch had burned everything to the ground, including his marriage. Now he’s on the road looking for a fresh start. What he finds is a mysterious young woman named Tilda, who tells him he’s destined to be a hero or die a quick and painful death. When three stout men break into his hotel room, bind him to the bed and carve his skin with a stylus, it appears she was right. The next thing Ted knows, his body is covered in an elaborate Norse tattoo, complete with the power of the Gods. As he seeks out the three men who assaulted him, Ted learns that the creatures of Norse mythology walk in the world of humankind and some of them want to see it burn. Accompanied by the trickster Loki and the beguiling Tilda, Ted wants nothing more than to have his old life back. No more tattoos. No more smart-ass Gods. No more mystic powers. The problem is, if he succeeds, it might just be the end of the world.”

Mythology, whether it’s Greek, Roman, Celtic or Norse, has always fascinated me. I’ve always adored reading about gods and goddesses of all shapes and forms along with the magic they were able to perform and the mythological creatures that were an integral part of these types of stories.

I loved the magical devices Chadwick used to divulge tidbits about the mythology, as it was relevant to the scenes without huge info dumps that would normally slow the action down to a crawl. As a result, the action in the story is fast-paced and, at times, almost heart stopping. There were many times I found myself holding my breath, wondering what was going to happen next.

In addition, I found several personal coincidences in some of Chadwick’s choices quite amusing. The first was his main character’s name, Ted. Although my father’s name was not Theodore, his friends all called him Ted. The second coincidence was his choice of vehicle. When I first began dating my Hubby, he drove a beautiful blue GTO, which he referred to as The Goat, as does Ted. Finally, Hubby worked for a while in Fort MacMurray, Alberta on the Hydro dam, whereas Ted worked at the oil company near there. All these little details immediately drew me into the story.

From a writer’s standpoint, the plot was expertly paced, the characters well developed and the ending immensely satisfying while still leaving things open for a sequel, which will be forthcoming, from what I understand.  In addition to my interview of him, which can be found here, his Amazon bio states:

“Chadwick Ginther would enjoy Can-Lit so much more if it included even one dragon or robot. Previously, he was Aqua Books’ Emerging Writer-in-Residence. His work has appeared in On Spec, the premier Canadian magazine of speculative fiction, and his reviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, Prairie Books NOW and The Winnipeg Review. A bookseller for ten years, when Chadwick’s not writing his own books, he’s selling everyone else’s. He lives and writes in Winnipeg.”

Although I’d been warned there might be some issues with coarse language, I didn’t find it as bad as I had anticipated – or maybe the story was so compelling that my eyes skipped over many of the objectionable words! In any event, I would highly recommend Thunder Road to any adult who enjoys fantasy, especially tales in which a mortal human is empowered with the might of Thor! 🙂