Under Heaven

Amid the ten thousand noises and the jade-and-gold and the whirling dust of Xinan, he had often stayed awake all night among friends, drinking spiced wine in the North District with the courtesans.

By now I should add another category of books I put back several times before trying them. This was one of them. It was a bit of a mistake to give it a try. This wasn’t really a novel with a plot, it was like a panorama: a beautiful world created, but that’s it. If you want a story, scrap some characters together and bring them from A to B.

What I think was going on is that main character Shen Tai gets a large gift from the emperor which puts a prize on his head. A trip to the royal city follows, with assassinations and politics. There’s a smaller, more interesting plot line around his sister whom has (falsely) been married off as a princess. It gives a better look of the mythology used in this created world with Asian influences, without going for the Mystic Asian trope.

I know I show plenty of appreciation of world building, but I also need a story line in that world, else I’m looking at a painting. With over 500 pages, I’m sure this isn’t a painting. Maybe next ‘okay let’s try this one’ will be more fulfilling.

Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay, HarperVoyager 2010

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