Book Review – River of Stars – Guy Gavriel Kay


▪   Book: River of Stars

▪   Author: Guy Gavriel Kay

▪   Genre: Fantasy / Chinese Mythology

▪   Year of Release: 2013

▪   Read 639-page paperback edition in July 2014.

Book Description:

In this fantasy novel, inspired by the Tang Dynasty of China, we see complex interweavings of  politics and war.  Ren Daiyan is a complex, almost immortal-like warrior, who comes from humble beginnings and takes leadership of an army fighting for the people of Kitai against a brutal people from the north.  Lin Shan is a poet and artisan who has also grown to understand how the court operates by breaking beyond the normal barriers placed on women in society.  A cast of other characters surrounds these two central people as the story of the 12th Dynasty of Kitai plays out.

Book Review:

This novel was definitely a fascinating read, and given the fact it was inspired by a Chinese dynasty of old, the almost lyrical writing style of acclaimed author Guy Gavriel Kay made good sense.  The vast array of complex characters made for a complex story, which almost became hard to follow when some of the more minor characters were involved.  Usage of the map and character glossary at the front of the book was required.  In addition, I found the first 1/3 of the novel was a bit of a slog to get through, with a lot of set up required, almost like a slow cooker at times.  This dragged the reader down in places.  However, things got quicker in pace as the book went on, with the plot advancing more quickly, getting more excited, and the reader getting more invested in story, characters, and relationships.  In fact, I would suggest the novel got better and better as it went along, with some good twists and turns towards the end to ensure it was not a predictable outcome.  The novel did a nice job of “legend building” which Kay states he was trying to do here.  The writing style is beautiful, befitting the subject matter, although as earlier stated sometimes there seemed to be unnecessary sections.  Overall though, the novel had an interesting story and compelling characters.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars.