Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
|Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Epic fantasy drawing on factual cultures without losing the light, action packed touch. Definitely one for the 'love' list!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 592||Date: May 2016|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
|External links: Author's website|
Two spies employed by the Republic of Seresta are sent to the court of Jad's Holy Emperor Rudolfo, 'The Destroyer'. The first, Leonora, knows what she's doing right down to hiding behind the cover of a sham marriage assigned for that purpose. The second, Pero, is a young artist kidnapped for the task. He has no previous experience but he's expendable so that's not completely necessary. Events transpire to ensure that both spies will need to rely on mariner and merchant Marin and Serjani fighter Danica more than they think. Yet even they can't stop the conflict that's on the horizon. Rudolfo has his eye on extending his empire globally and Jad help anything that gets in the way.
Canadian author of 13 novels and a book of poetry, Guy Gavriel Kay has built a career and a reputation on seasoning fantasy with actual history. This time he takes a slice of the world that incudes areas we'd recognise as the Balkans and Saudi Arabia, bringing their flavour to adventure-ridden epic tale. As in all good fantasy it's not just about the past though, but more about that later.
Don't be put off by the cast of thousands at the beginning. Guy isn't the sort of author who puts us through memory tests. Gradually as the story settles into exciting unpredictability we realise we're really following five main characters… well… six if you count Rudolfo's influence and seven if you count a rather interesting spirit.
Back at the beginning we soon realise that the two spies are polar opposites. Leonora isn't a spy by choice but by a sad life that's led her to the only means of escape possible, even allowing for the fact that espionage isn't much of an escape. Her secret past and experiences have flattened her self-esteem meaning she finds it hard to accept love from others. Gosh but we live in hope though!
Pero Villani on the other hand is a gauche youth who's handy with a paintbrush but whose experience of life extends to a bit of lady bedding and nights out with the lads. Thinking on his feet has not been that evident in his armoury until the night he's taken off the streets; from then it's his key to survival.
Add to them Danica Gradek, a young woman avenging her way through life and Marin Djivo, a merchant who is dragged into so much more than trading (plus the ghost whom I shall leave you to encounter) and it's game on. We seem to have a story that's packed with fantasy memes but there's more depth to it than that.
There are some fascinating culture-grabs, for instance the handed-down tales that we recognise from Ancient Greek mythology and also the subtle (and not so subtle) reflection of current affairs. For this is a world divided between those who worship Jad and want to translate this into a world order and those who resist. There are even references to the heavenly joys awaiting Jad's martyrs. This is a clever ploy, creating an emotional short cut for us; we have an inkling of what pain and havoc such philosophy can wreak from just watching the news. Yet another layer is added when we encounter Damaz, a teenager on the inside. He may lead us to a twist that we may see it coming and yet our expectation doesn't diminish it, mainly because the outcome and repercussions may not be what we expect.
From the affecting Lovely Bones-esque moments to the brutality of torture and war and all in between, Guy retains a light touch that avoids the densely packed fantasy route. This is a book that seems a lot shorter than the sum of its pages, written by an imagination that never forgets it's entertainment and is much more memorable as a result.
(Thank you so much Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoy your fantasy spiced by history, we heartily recommend the slightly heavier The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty) by Ken Liu. If you prefer that touch of lightness and the factual tie in isn't so important, then try Truthwitch (The Witchlands Series) by Susan Dennard.
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay is in the Top Ten Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels 2016.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay at Amazon.com.
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