Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Random House Canada
First Published: May 10, 2016
First Line: "It was with a sinking heart that the newly arrived ambassador from Seressa grasped that the Emperor Rodolfo, famously eccentric, was serious about an experiment in court protocol."
Book Description from GoodReads: The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.
As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay has written a grand, epic adventure in his own fictionalized realm that is influenced by real historical elements. This book has a large ensemble cast of characters, many of whom pick up the reigns of the story. Due to this large number of characters I regularly had to use the character index at the beginning of the book, and even bookmarking it, since I used it so often. It was hard to keep certain characters and their relationships to each other straight at first and using last names that are similar (Valeri, Villani) didn't help matters.
This is my first book by Kay and I immediately realized that this man can write. His descriptions of his characters are elaborate and he is quite descriptive (sometimes overly so). He takes his time getting his reader into time, place and the internal thoughts and feelings of his characters. I found it unique that Kay takes influence for his story from real historical situations then gives them a twist to fit his story. In this book he was influenced by the Ottoman Empire, Venice and Dubrovnik each given new names of Osmanli, Seressa and Dubrava.
This book has a very slow start but once the story gets going, about a third of the way in, the plot becomes more interesting yet still cannot be considered fast-paced. There were some periods when I'd get immersed into the lives of a few of the characters, specifically Leonora Valeri, Danica Gradek and Pero Villani, but this was followed by long, overly descriptive moments which slowed down the pace and my interest. There was also at least one story line, which I was eager to learn more about, that didn't go anywhere which I found very frustrating and just plain odd.
While I respect Kay's ability to write, his attention to detail and his unique fictionalized history/fantasy genre, I found large sections of the book a struggle to get through. I also wasn't a fan of how often Kay switches narrators, often without warning or help to the reader to remember who is speaking.
This book has its good moments of murder, spies, revenge and love all within the complicated plots involving political machinations, war, power and religious persecution. Kay is an impressively descriptive writer who delves deeply into his fictionalized history and characters. Unfortunately I didn't find myself as riveted with the plot or characters as I was expecting.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House Canada for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.