Under Heaven

Guy Gavriel Kay
Under Heaven Cover

A Historical Fantasy of Ancient China


Under Heaven is a sprawling tale, set in a fictional representation of the 8th century Tang Dynasty China. The place and society are very meticulously and vividly described. The atmosphere of the novel benefitted from the inclusion of poetry and the reverent attitude towards the occasional supernatural elements, which were (to my delight) never fully explained. The major characters, Shen Tai, his sister Li Mei, and his ex-lover Spring Rain, are fairly likeable, though they do not have much power to shape their own stories. I was a little frustrated by the slow pace, by how the main characters seemed to be limited to observing major events, and by several repeated phrases or situations. While I appreciated the overall story after completing the novel, I did not always enjoy the process of reading it. I think Under Heaven is a book that is easier to appreciate when viewed as a forest, rather than as a sum of its individual trees.

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