Friday, June 24

Art

Last Heaven Of The Undersun

By Guy Gavriel Kay

The Last Light of the Sun
Under Heaven


I've always liked Guy Kay's work, even the Fionavar Tapestry which was an early work and rather derivative.  Tigana was and remains the standout; the theme of a country not merely conquered but wiped from history simply resonates.

His more recent works, starting with The Lions of Al-Rassan, have each recast a particular time and place in history into fantasy terms.

With Under Heaven he brings Tang Dynasty China very effectively to life.  The story doesn't work perfectly; the latter third of the book veers from the personal voyage to Great Events and loses much of its earlier charm.  But it remains compelling even so.

Less so (so far) with The Last Light of the Sun, for two reasons.  First, there is no central character, and none of the major characters gets enough time to really develop.  Second, it's set in 10th century Scandinavia and Britain, which is pretty much a crapsack world - unlike Sarantium (the Byzantine Empire) or Kitai (China), it has no charms to offer.  All you can do is wait for the arrival of the Black Death and the collapse of feudalism; by the 15th century things will be picking up a bit.  I haven't finished the book yet, but mid-way through I'm not very much inclined to.

If you're not familiar with Kay I definitely recommend picking up Tigana.  I'd suggest taking the books in order from there.

Update: I did finish The Last Light of the Sun, and...  Well, it's not quite the same telegraphed downer ending as The Lions of Al-Rassan, but it's near enough.

A consistent theme through both books is that of destiny; indeed, Kay has something of a habit of clubbing the reader over the head with this.  For a much defter handling of that subject, you can't go past Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion books - The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.  Now those I can recommend unreservedly.

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