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Children of Earth and Sky

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The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, 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 The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, 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...


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The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, 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 The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, 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...

30 review for Children of Earth and Sky

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Review first posted on Fantasy Literature: I adored Children of Earth and Sky. What an amazing, complex novel this is! Highly recommended for any thoughtful reader of history or fantasy. Guy Gavriel Kay writes what he likes to call “history with a quarter turn to the fantastic,” and Children of Earth and Sky is definitely that. It’s also compelling reading, epic in scope but also closely personal. It’s set in a Renaissance-era analog of our world: Serassa is Venice, the Ottoman Empire is the Osman Review first posted on Fantasy Literature: I adored Children of Earth and Sky. What an amazing, complex novel this is! Highly recommended for any thoughtful reader of history or fantasy. Guy Gavriel Kay writes what he likes to call “history with a quarter turn to the fantastic,” and Children of Earth and Sky is definitely that. It’s also compelling reading, epic in scope but also closely personal. It’s set in a Renaissance-era analog of our world: Serassa is Venice, the Ottoman Empire is the Osmanli Empire, the Jaddites are the Christians, and so on. There’s just a little bit of fantasy spicing it up: two blue and white moons appear in the skies of this world, and the spirits of dead relatives can linger and enter the heads of their living descendants, speaking with them and advising them. In addition to altered country and empire names, Kay has shifted around some historical people and events to fit the story he wants to tell, and inserted a host of fictional characters. Kay weaves together the lives of several fascinating individuals, moving in different parts of this world but impacting each other’s lives. Some of the most memorable: Danica, a young woman and a fierce warrior, fighting against the constraints of her time as well as against enemies; her brother Neven, kidnapped as a young child by Osmanlis and trained to be their devoted soldier; Pero, an artist with a commission to paint the Osmanli khalif and a secret commission to assassinate him; and Leonora, a disgraced young woman of Seressa’s upper class, given a chance to redeem herself by spying on Dubrava, who finds an unexpectedly significant new life. Kay frequently jumps from one character’s point of view to another’s, as their individual stories weave together, separate and intertwine again. Often, when books are divided into several different plotlines told concurrently in alternating scenes and chapters, my interest is primarily focused in on one character and their storyline, and I become impatient when the author temporarily shifts to another point of view. But Kay made all of these characters and their stories absorbing to me. More, I legitimately cared about what happened to all of them, even when they were at odds with each other. Occasionally there was an odd repetition of a scene when the viewpoint shifted from one character in that scene to another, but overall Kay handled the omniscient narration and changing viewpoints seamlessly, inserting an occasional perceptive observation:He was never in Senjan again. How can we ever presume to know what will come of our choices, our paths, the lives we live? History does not proceed with anything like fairness or recognition of valour or virtue. Senjan was gone, the walls broken and smashed, on both the harbor and the landward sides, less than a hundred years after this time.The richness and complexity of the world of Children of Earth and Sky is remarkable, the more so because it is made so accessible by Kay’s clarity of prose, insight, and sympathy for the lives of individuals caught in the relentless currents of war, politics and societal constraints. In the midst of frustration, fear and death, they create meaningful lives and form lifelong relationships. I’ll end with a comment from Kay in the afterword, which encapsulates one of the themes of Children of Earth and Sky:We live among mysteries. Love is one, there are others. We must not imagine we understand all there is to know about the world.I received a free ebook from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a review. Thank you!! Content advisory: Occasional R-rated language, violence, and brief but explicit sexual scenes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    A leisurely, beautiful almost-sort-of-fantasy set in Kay's alternate historical world. Longtime readers will recognize references here to events and characters featured in quite a few of his other books. The time period here is the (I believe) fifteenth century, and the action moves between recognizable versions of Croatia, Venice and Constantinople. Danica Gradek is a young woman whose surviving family was forced to relocate after being attacked by raiders who kidnapped her beloved young brother. A leisurely, beautiful almost-sort-of-fantasy set in Kay's alternate historical world. Longtime readers will recognize references here to events and characters featured in quite a few of his other books. The time period here is the (I believe) fifteenth century, and the action moves between recognizable versions of Croatia, Venice and Constantinople. Danica Gradek is a young woman whose surviving family was forced to relocate after being attacked by raiders who kidnapped her beloved young brother. She is now from Senjan, an island known for (depending on whom you ask) its vicious pirates or its brave warriors who defend the borders and the Jaddite faith of the empire. (The location is based on Croatia's Senj and the people known as the Uskoks - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senj.) Although it is uncommon, Danica is a warrior - she excels at archery, and her dream is to avenge her brother by killing Osmanli (Ottomans) who stole him and destroyed her home. However, we soon learn, the bulk of the Osmanli raiders are actually kidnapped children. At a young age they are trained by their captors in a new faith and the ways of war. Their loyalties are often transferred utterly, and they are even grateful to the Osmanli for showing them the way to the 'true faith' and 'salvation.' The reader soon suspects what might've happened to Danica's brother. Meanwhile, in the Republic of Seressa, a young artist is picked for a dangerous job. The Osmanli Khalif has commissioned a portrait to be done in the Western style. Pero Villani has little to lose and much to gain - if he makes it back from his trip alive. The getting-back-alive part may be complicated by the fact that Seressa, in addition to hiring him for his artistic skills, also expects him to act as a spy - and possibly an assassin. Also recruited to spy for Seressa is Leonora Valeri. After she bore an illegitimate child, her father murdered her lover and incarcerated her in a convent. She's willing to agree to just about anything to gain a degree of freedom - even a false marriage and a dangerous mission. And then, there's Marin Djivo. The merchant is hoping to take over his father's lucrative business, managing ships & caravans, and running trade goods between people who, if not actively at war, enjoy a peace that's fragile and uneasy at best. Raiders on land and pirates at sea are an unavoidable hazard in this line of work. Naturally, all of these individuals (and many more) will intersect along the way. Seemingly small actions will have consequences that reverberate in time and space. The past affects the living (quite literally; the 'fantasy' element in this book is a ghost which can communicate with his grandchildren), and choices made now impact others' lives and future lives. The book has plenty of adventure and action - but somehow the overall experience is more contemplative than exciting. At times it works beautifully, but at times I also wished for just a bit more compelling forward-motion and plot tension. Still; Guy Gavriel Kay remains one of my very favorite writers, and this is not one of the least of his accomplishments. Highly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/05/15/... Any time Guy Gavriel Kay releases a new novel is a cause for celebration. Even with the understanding of how much work and time must go into each and every one of them, the waiting never gets easier! Known for his talent for recreating famous historical periods using fantasy, Kay’s books are all gorgeously written and painstakingly researched works of art, often infused with powerful messages and themes. I’d been looking 3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/05/15/... Any time Guy Gavriel Kay releases a new novel is a cause for celebration. Even with the understanding of how much work and time must go into each and every one of them, the waiting never gets easier! Known for his talent for recreating famous historical periods using fantasy, Kay’s books are all gorgeously written and painstakingly researched works of art, often infused with powerful messages and themes. I’d been looking forward to Children of Earth and Sky ever since it was announced and was beyond excited to finally get my hands on it. Like many of his stories that feature fictional analogs of real places in history, this novel is said to be inspired by the conflicts and intrigues of Renaissance Europe. It is apparently set in the same “universe” as Lions of Al-Rassan, if I recall the names of the religions and the world’s twin moons correctly, though readers who know their history will probably recognize elements from the fifteenth to sixteenth century eras right away. For instance, the Ottoman Empire has been reimagined as the Osmanli Empire, and the most Serene Republic of Venice or la Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia has become the Republic of Seressa. Using this vibrant setting as a backdrop, Kay chronicles the lives of a disparate group of characters whose fates are all interwoven and connected like the threads of a tapestry. There are about half a dozen key players in this epic drama. First, there’s Danica Gradek, a young woman from Senjan who joins a group of raiders to harry Seressa ships that trade with the Ashar. The Asharites destroyed her village when she was a child, killing most of her family and stealing away her younger brother. However, unbeknownst to her at the beginning of this novel, Danica’s brother was actually taken to be trained as a djanni, an elite soldier for the Osmanli Empire. Formerly known as Neven Gradek, he is now Damaz, brought up in the Asharite ways and ready to be deployed on his first mission with the army. There’s also Pero Villani, an impoverished painter who manages to score a huge commission to paint the portrait of the Grand Khalif of Asharias—but in truth his real purpose there is to spy for Seressa’s Council of Twelve. Pero is also not the only spy the Council has procured; another is Leonora Valeri, a noblewoman cast out by her family for becoming pregnant by a man from a lesser house. After her father had her lover killed and the baby taken away, Leonora agrees to be a spy in order to escape her family’s clutches and leave her old life behind. Passage has been arranged for her and Pero on a ship captained by the brave Drago Ostaja and owned by the family of Marin Djivo. As the son of a prominent merchant from Dubrava, Marin is no stranger to the dangers on the high seas, but his life is forever changed when his ship is boarded by a band of pirates. Among them is the Senjan archer Danica, and thus, our web of characters is complete. A prevalent theme in many of Kay’s books is how history and people—their actions, their decisions, their fates—are all related. A single individual can shape the life of another a world away, based on how the ripples caused by events both large and small will flow through time. Children of Earth and Sky illustrates these patterns by following its characters “in the moment”, but the narrative will also frequently take a step back to look at the full picture. The author did something very similar in his last book, River of Stars, in which he explored a person’s life from multiple angles, going backwards and forwards in time to show how even the smallest gesture can have significant repercussions throughout history and affect multiple generations to come. If you’re not familiar with his work, brace yourself for a lot of point-of-view changes, present-to-past tense switching, and skips all over the timeline. This makes it pretty much impossible to rush through any book by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve said this before, but his work is meant to be savored slowly, though sometimes that is by necessity and not by choice. Personally, it took me three days just to read the first one hundred pages, but only three more to finish the rest of this novel. I find that’s usually par for the course when it comes to Kay’s books, since the incredible amount of detail in his world-building often requires a rather long adjustment period. Still, there were a few issues that made Children of Earth and Sky a little more difficult to get into. First are the many distracting instances of info-dumping, which I admit I was surprised to find, since Kay is usually a lot more discreet when it comes to filling in the political or historical background. Second, there were some pacing problems playing havoc with the flow, especially when it came to character POV imbalance. It bothered me how some characters would feature prominently for a while and then just disappear for a long time, until all of a sudden they would come back, pushing aside others to fade into the background, and then the cycle will begin again. Because of the format, at times you also had to read about the same event two or three times as multiple characters would describe it from their perspectives. As I’m fond of saying, some authors are simply incapable of writing a bad book, just that some of them may be better than others. Guy Gavriel Kay is one of these authors, and it’s not that I disliked Children of Earth and Sky, but I also don’t think it was his best. Still, despite the rough start, I ended up really enjoying this book. Plus, it’s hard to be disappointed, given the beautiful way the author writes. If there’s a lack of poetry or subtlety in this compared to some of his other works, then he more than makes up for it with the heightened tensions in this fantastical world of war and intrigue.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kaora

    I've read Guy Gavriel Kay before and didn't really enjoy his novels, but the cover on this one was so beautiful and the blurb so interesting I decided to give him another chance and pick this one up. I am so glad I did. Children of Earth and Sky has a number of characters, switching viewpoints every few pages. Some of them are: -Danica Gradek, a warrior who lost her family in a raid and wants nothing more than revenge. -Pero Villani, a young artist who is selected to paint a portrait of a man named I've read Guy Gavriel Kay before and didn't really enjoy his novels, but the cover on this one was so beautiful and the blurb so interesting I decided to give him another chance and pick this one up. I am so glad I did. Children of Earth and Sky has a number of characters, switching viewpoints every few pages. Some of them are: -Danica Gradek, a warrior who lost her family in a raid and wants nothing more than revenge. -Pero Villani, a young artist who is selected to paint a portrait of a man named The Destroyer and report back to the council. -Leonora Valeri, a woman being given a second chance at life by being sent to spy as a Doctor's wife. -Damaz, a soldier in training . -Marin Djivo, a rich merchant's son. By no means is this an extensive list! Despite the large cast of characters, and world that Kay has created I didn't get overwhelmed by the information dump as he does a great job of gradually feeding you information with each new character. It quickly grabbed my attention and kept it as each character revealed their story. It is a mistake to think that drama is steady, continuous, even in tumultuous times. Most often there are lulls and lacunae in the life of a person or a state. There is apparent stability, order, an illusion of calm— and then circumstances can change at speed. It is a beautiful blend of history and fantasy, with themes sprinkled throughout. While the foreshadowing became a bit much after a while, I mostly enjoyed the writing. Eternity is too long for us. It is not a scale for men and women. We live by different, smaller measures, but there are the stories we tell... I highly recommend this book. Cross posted at Kaora's Corner.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    I'm just going to have to place Guy Gavriel Kay's books into a shelf of their own. A genre of their own. I mean, sure, there are certain authors that have come close, such as some of Umberto Eco or Kim Stanley Robinson, but Kay's writing just plops us down into what, by all apparent aspects, seems to be our Rennaisance Europe or something very, very close. All names and a lot of history is altered but to any normal comparison, we're dealing with the Ottoman Empire and Christians. Italy! A regular I'm just going to have to place Guy Gavriel Kay's books into a shelf of their own. A genre of their own. I mean, sure, there are certain authors that have come close, such as some of Umberto Eco or Kim Stanley Robinson, but Kay's writing just plops us down into what, by all apparent aspects, seems to be our Rennaisance Europe or something very, very close. All names and a lot of history is altered but to any normal comparison, we're dealing with the Ottoman Empire and Christians. Italy! A regular author might have just skimmed some aspects and thrown them in, but Kay instead goes deep and rich and detailed. Not only exploring all the misconceptions and prejudices on either side, but taking it full-force into spies, exiles, and intrigue of all kinds. And let's not forget the battles! Lush writing, gorgeous characters. What's probably the best part of it IS the characters. I get into them not because of any particular plot point but because of WHO and WHAT they do, how they do it, and how interesting their choices twist the full story. But what is the story? Well, like the last one I read, the full culmination winds up being the WAY the lives are lived. Personal successes and failures. Not the overarching plot. :) I think it works brilliantly. Of course, I was invested in each character, so I would think that. :)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    Chance and change are the way of the world, and more so for those living on disputed borders, or venturing to sea. The struggle between holding on to a piece of land for shelter and survival and raising our eyes to the stars in search of the meaning of life was never more poignant and bittersweet as in this latest offering from Guy Gavriel Kay, a master of the lyrical prose and of the heroic evocation of lost civilizations. After a couple of novels set in ancient China, Kay returns to his alter Chance and change are the way of the world, and more so for those living on disputed borders, or venturing to sea. The struggle between holding on to a piece of land for shelter and survival and raising our eyes to the stars in search of the meaning of life was never more poignant and bittersweet as in this latest offering from Guy Gavriel Kay, a master of the lyrical prose and of the heroic evocation of lost civilizations. After a couple of novels set in ancient China, Kay returns to his alternate universe based on European history and focuses on the turbulent decades following the fall of Constantinople, known in this setting as Sarantium. "Sailing to Sarantium" is my all time favorite in a long list of Kay novels that I read in the past, and I was looking forward to a return to the city's magical and history infused streets, especially after a couple of recent visits to present day Istanbul, still a fascinating and colourful metropolis. Children of Earth and Sky hits all the right notes and recalls everything I love about Guy Gavriel Kay's style, yet I cannot honestly place it among my favorites. It may be a case of being distracted by work or of the action being placed too close to my own home (the Balkans), but I couldn't get immersed in the story to the same degree I did with previous books by the author. Little personal annoyances in the transcription of local dialect and some liberties taken with the historical facts kept coming back to put me in a more critical frame of mind than usual. Another aspect of the novel that sets it apart from the bulk of Kay's oeuvre is what I perceive as a shift of focus from the personal journey of an artist (still the backbone of the tale here in the quest of Pero Villani) to a much more complex and ambitious weave that takes in politics, economics, warfare and religion from six or seven separate kingdoms/ settlements. I might go so far as to claim the present novel, in its epic scope, it Kay's own attempt to emulate the Game of Thrones. On the playing board we go from the court of the Holy Emperor of Jad in Obravic (Prague) to the Duke Palace in Seressa (Venice) by way of the High Patriarch in Rhodias (Rome). Crossing the sea we fight with the pirate/heroes of Senjan (the Uskoks of Senj), trade with the merchants from Dubrava (Dubrovnik) and fight against the Asharites (Ottomans) alongside the rebel leader Skandir (Skanderbeg) before reaching the triple walls of Sarantium, now renamed Asharias by its new ruler, Khalif Gurcu (Great Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror). Against this dark background of the demise of an ancient culture, the rise of ambitious new kingdoms and the destruction of large swaths of land by mercenary armies, Kay places a small group of ordinary people who will rise to the challenge of their times and pass on the torch of civilization (art, commerce, love, kindness) to future generations. Leading the cast, at least in my opinion, is the young painter from Seressa named Pero Villani (based on Gentile Bellini), who is sent by his duke to the court of Gurcu the Conqueror to paint his portrait in the Western style. Pero is the latest incarnation of a recurrent type of hero in Kay's universe: the artist who must reconcile living in the present with living in the more rarefied air of spiritual enlightenment. On the road, Pero will come across some of the mosaics left behind by Crispin from an earlier novel, reinforcing this sense of continuity of purpose through the centuries: 'Sailing to Sarantium' was the ancient phrase. One of his friends had quoted it last night, raising a cup. There was a new sorrow that came with the words, since there was no Sarantium any more. It used to mean that someone was changing his life, embarking on something new, transforming like a figure in a classical painting or mosaic, becoming something else. On his journey, both geographical and emotional, Pero Vilanni crosses paths with the other key characters in the epic: a young girl from the fortress town of Senjan named Danica Gradek, a mysterious woman sent by Seressa to spy on the town of Dubrava named Leonora Valeri and the younger son of a merchant family from Dubrava named Marin Djivo. Without spoiling the dramatic events of the journey and the final destination of each of the major players, these people will experience their own spiritual emancipation on the road to Sarantium, chance and change ruling their fate as they do for all of us under heaven, to paraphrase some more from the other works of the author. I am in awe at the way Kay managed to bring together all these separate threads and to flesh out numerous side characters that play a crucial part in the developing conflict, yet I cannot help making a couple of critical observations, notes that are highly subjective and probably will get toned down on an eventual re-read. Firstly, I would say that it's not always good when an author gets over-enthusiastic about some of his subjects. I'm referring here to the treatment of the Senjani pirates, who are referred to right from the start as 'heroes'. It got so heavy handed by the end that I actually cheered for the other side when (view spoiler)[ their expeditionary force into Asharite territory finally got wiped out by the Janissaries (hide spoiler)] . Secondly, I normally enjoy Kay's treatment of magic as a subtle and mysterious force originating in the wildness of places untouched by modern civilization. I'm not sure how we got from this original stance to the current incarnation of ghostly presences acting like guardian angels out of a biblical parable. And lastly, I am familiar with the way Kay changes a couple of letters in a name to create his alternate universe, but every time I came across the word 'hadjuk' I wanted to put a spellchecker on and change it to 'hajduk'. The reaction was aggravated by also changing the original meaning of the term from a local guerilla fighter in the Balkans to a member of a Turkish marauder band. As a conclusion, I was thrilled to get my hands on the new Guy Gavriel Kay novel. Despite these minor grumblings, I believe "Children of Earth and Sky" is a great addition to his alternate history universe and reinforces some of the recurring themes dear to the author. The portrait of Gurcu the Destroyer, who had conquered Sarantium, remained in the palace complex. It survived upheavals and changes, a treasure of the Osmanli people - and the world - for centuries.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This was going to be 3.5 stars but I liked the ending so it scrapes a 4. I like Guy Gavriel Kay, I do, but I find his books misleading. They are not really fantasy at all, just historical settings, admittedly well written, renamed. I always seem to expect something a little more than I actually get from them. That is not to say, of course, that that means there isn't more to get, just that I don't ! I really liked the multiple points of view of the same events. I didn't really feel that invested i This was going to be 3.5 stars but I liked the ending so it scrapes a 4. I like Guy Gavriel Kay, I do, but I find his books misleading. They are not really fantasy at all, just historical settings, admittedly well written, renamed. I always seem to expect something a little more than I actually get from them. That is not to say, of course, that that means there isn't more to get, just that I don't ! I really liked the multiple points of view of the same events. I didn't really feel that invested in the characters while I was reading and yet I must have been to have been pleased by its conclusion. This seems to me a novel about knowing who you are, your essence and your place in the world. Also how history can be redirected by the smallest of events. I like the way Kay zooms out to the wider historical picture in years and centuries to come. So far the Kay books I have read are from historical settings with which I am familiar. I think his work may appear more fantastical ( to me) if I next tackle a setting I am less familiar with, so will probably try Under Heaven. I feel somewhere there is a 5 star read from Kay that I have yet to find. All suggestions welcome!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    My early review is up at B&N and here's the link! (Shorter review, though: Wonderful. That was what I wanted and hoped for from him for years. You guys. Sit back and love.) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sc... My early review is up at B&N and here's the link! (Shorter review, though: Wonderful. That was what I wanted and hoped for from him for years. You guys. Sit back and love.) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sc...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    There is a sanctuary in Rhodias where a long-forgotten artist depicted two empresses, facing each other . . . one a whore, one a barbarian . . . a thousand years ago . . . *sobs quietly, blows nose on bookmark* At a certain point in the first twenty pages of every Kay novel, you start to think, There are too many characters, and I don't know any of them, and what is going on? But patience is indeed a virtue with Kay's novels. He is, quite frankly, my favorite living novelist (and a lovely person There is a sanctuary in Rhodias where a long-forgotten artist depicted two empresses, facing each other . . . one a whore, one a barbarian . . . a thousand years ago . . . *sobs quietly, blows nose on bookmark* At a certain point in the first twenty pages of every Kay novel, you start to think, There are too many characters, and I don't know any of them, and what is going on? But patience is indeed a virtue with Kay's novels. He is, quite frankly, my favorite living novelist (and a lovely person in real life), and his worst book would make other authors weep with envy. Because every word, every line, every scene, every character, is important. Every passing farmer has a role to play, not because they suddenly drop their hoes and turn into heroes, but just because they are farmers, in that time and that place. Every one of Kay's books is a tapestry, each thread, dull or bright, short or long, as a part to play in the whole. Each kindness or cruelty, death or life, is a vital piece. Someone passes a farm, they ask for water and end up staying a year, working the land. Is it important? It is to that farm that had an extra pair of hands. It is to the traveler, who learned kindness and a new language in return. And because of the way Kay has written it, it's important to the reader as well. There are battles. There are political plots. Lovers. Spies. Nobles. Warriors. Artists. But battles and assassinations aren't always what moves the world. Sometimes it's the decision of one man or woman. Words spoken or not spoken. A portrait painted of the wrong person. A message dropped in the street. Kay highlights these things and makes you look at the world through new, sharper eyes, until by the end of the book you're holding your breath over every gesture made and phrase spoken, and you've already cried over the deaths of people who, on page 20, you didn't even know. I cannot think of another author who writes such layers, such nuance, and with such an eye for the beauty in every day life. He is, to quote the great philosopher Lola, My favorite and my best.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eilonwy

    I'm not sure I can summarize this book -- it features a large cast occupying several different countries/city-states and dealing with story lines which at first seem almost entirely unconnected to one another. All I can say is, it was a great read. I blame this book for the reading slump which has haunted me through most of July. It was such a great mix of action -- the kind that makes it really hard to put a book down at any point -- and fascinating characters, whose emotional struggles also ma I'm not sure I can summarize this book -- it features a large cast occupying several different countries/city-states and dealing with story lines which at first seem almost entirely unconnected to one another. All I can say is, it was a great read. I blame this book for the reading slump which has haunted me through most of July. It was such a great mix of action -- the kind that makes it really hard to put a book down at any point -- and fascinating characters, whose emotional struggles also made for no good point to leave off reading. I loved living in this world and being with these people. This is one of those books that didn't feel long at all, because it was just so good. I could happily have spent another two weeks reading it. And I was very, very sorry to finish it. My only nitpicks are: First, what exactly is the definition of "fantasy"? This story has no magic, nor is it set in a world significantly different from our own. It's more "alternative historical fantasy," which takes elements of our familiar world (in this case, parts of Europe and the Middle East), places them on a similar but tilted map, and turns the time to a sort of fourteenth century feel. In his note at the back of the book, GGK calls his books "historical fiction with a twist," which I guess sums it up. Second, since this was set in a European-type world, most of the characters are white, and that got me wondering, if you're going to come up with an alt-Earth, why not be a little more creative with the human diversity while you're at it? All the familiar Europe-type places and people felt just a bit bog-standard to me. But that was really the only thing that dulled my enjoyment of this book, so the five stars stand. Highly recommended!!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    Actual rating: 4.5 stars I am admittedly and unabashedly a GGK fan girl. Since I read Under Heaven three years ago for my real life book club, I have been gradually chipping away at his works and have adored every single one of them so far. This too was a big, thick book and I read it in two days. But this one wrapped up so neatly and completely—and I’m a person who loves ambiguous endings or slightly unhappy endings, the non-traditional unhappily ever after. That’s why this book didn’t rate the Actual rating: 4.5 stars I am admittedly and unabashedly a GGK fan girl. Since I read Under Heaven three years ago for my real life book club, I have been gradually chipping away at his works and have adored every single one of them so far. This too was a big, thick book and I read it in two days. But this one wrapped up so neatly and completely—and I’m a person who loves ambiguous endings or slightly unhappy endings, the non-traditional unhappily ever after. That’s why this book didn’t rate the entire 5 stars for me. There were no threads left hanging, nothing unresolved, nothing that I could daydream about after it was done. Still, the political machinations were fascinating and I’m thinking that I must read the historical text that Kay mentions in his afterword, namely The Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II by Fernand Braudel. I have some ideas of which cultures Kay based his characters on, but I would like to have a bit more background. Even without an extensive knowledge of the history of the Mediterranean area of that period, I enjoyed the storyline. It was convoluted and told from many different points of view. As always, GGK provided some admirable female characters (and a couple of not so honourable women too, of course) that prevent this novel from being solely about scheming men. He is masterful at creating believable women, apparently believing that women are people. As we are. I enjoyed it immensely, but would probably not recommend it as a first book to introduce oneself to GGK—for that honour, I would nominate either Under Heaven or River of Stars, both of which are set in an Ancient China-like setting and are absolutely stunning.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    This is the first book I have read from Canadian writer Guy Gavriel Kay and reviews about the quality and originality of his work is earned. Children of Earth and Sky, his 2016 novel, is set as so many of his works in a fantastic world but one not far removed from our own. This seems like an alternative history Europe, perhaps Middle Ages eastern Mediterranean. The fantasy is minimalistic and oblique, the real magic here is Kay’s inspired writing and his disciplined imagination. Kay’s skilled worl This is the first book I have read from Canadian writer Guy Gavriel Kay and reviews about the quality and originality of his work is earned. Children of Earth and Sky, his 2016 novel, is set as so many of his works in a fantastic world but one not far removed from our own. This seems like an alternative history Europe, perhaps Middle Ages eastern Mediterranean. The fantasy is minimalistic and oblique, the real magic here is Kay’s inspired writing and his disciplined imagination. Kay’s skilled world building is also on full display and his attention to detail in his creation is absorbing. The reader is introduced to a world of intrigue among competing empires and city-states. Kay’s characterization is as elaborate as the world he has created and the group dynamic amongst the players is mesmerizing. Using a shifting perspective narrative style, the author applies omniscience to further explore the psychology of the interactions between the characters. Sociological and cultural distinctions between the nations are also fascinating. Kay’s work resonates with a genius inventiveness and the scale of his vision, from personal reflection to the massing of great armies, is impressive. *** A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I'm really torn between giving this a 2 or 3 star rating. I'm going with 3 just because I do love all the other GGK books I've read. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for free in exchange for a review, but I just can't say that I loved it when I didn't. I'm not even sure how to describe what this book is about. I finished reading it and wasn't even sure what the point was. The book gets off to a very slow start introducing 7-8 different people who have their own POVs in the story. The I'm really torn between giving this a 2 or 3 star rating. I'm going with 3 just because I do love all the other GGK books I've read. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for free in exchange for a review, but I just can't say that I loved it when I didn't. I'm not even sure how to describe what this book is about. I finished reading it and wasn't even sure what the point was. The book gets off to a very slow start introducing 7-8 different people who have their own POVs in the story. There's a banker's wife who isn't what she seems, an orphan warrior teenage girl, a merchant's son, a painter, an ambassador, a teen age boy who is a soldier for the "bad guys" (brother to the warrior girl) and a few others. The book is just a broad sweeping view of their lives as they interact with each other (although it takes forever to get to that point). There isn't a main story or main character like you'd find in other GGK novels. The plot just felt all over the place. There was one character who was pretty prominent in the beginning, and then just disappeared about halfway through - others who seemed like they were going to be important, but didn't really matter. There are so many characters, I didn't know who to focus on, nor did I particularly care about any of them. I think the first chapter of the book has the potential to be very confusing for anyone who is new to GGK. There's a lot of information given about the politics/geography/religion of the world, but there are no explanations for what any of it means. For example, it calls some people Jaddites and some Asharites and Kindath - he talks about Osmanalis but later refers to them as Asharites. There are five main cities involved and it was a lot to absorb in the first chapter. I've read several GGK books set in that same "world", but even I was getting confused. One of the things that really drove me crazy was the change in tense used for one character. Most of the book was written in "normal book tense" (3rd person past tense?) but the character of Marin was written in 3rd person present tense (It's been a long time since grammar class so I might have the name of it wrong). For example: John walked down the road, and stopped to look at the sky. He smiled. vs Marin walks down the road, and stops to look at the sky. He smiles. It was really jarring to read and I thought disrupted the flow of everything. I didn't see the point of just that one character being written differently. I hated it. Another issue is that a lot of scenes in the book are repeated from a different characters POV. For example, a "big thing" happens, followed by something bad. It all gets taken care of and the storyline wraps up. Then, the next paragraph switches POV and you're back to the middle of the "big thing" that happened and you're reading it all over again - and it almost never served to offer anything new that made it worth repeating. In fact, the book was overly wordy in general. I think at least a hundred pages could have been cut with no loss. I did like that there were nods to the Sailing to Sarantium books (which are a GGK favorite of mine). This book happens a long time after those, but it made me nostalgic reading about the ruins of the chariot racing arena, or a few references to ruined mosaics. All I can say is this book didn't do it for me. I wish that I liked it. I've been looking forward to reading this one for nearly a year. I think if you're new to GGK this isn't the book to start with. Try The Lions of Al-Rassan or Sailing to Sarantium or Tigana.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay Publisher: NAL Publication Date: May 10, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: Review copy sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, 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 borderlan ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay Publisher: NAL Publication Date: May 10, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: Review copy sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, 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... What I Liked: I don't even know where to begin, with my review of this book. Like most adult fiction novels, it's complex. Complicated. Intricately yet intensely written. If you find this review lacking, well, it's because this book is not easy to review! I was very satisfied with this book, and highly enjoyed it. There is conflict, between the lands of Senjan and Seressa. An artist is sent to spy on the Khalif, as well as a young woman posing as the wife of a young doctor. A young Senjan woman wants revenge for her lost family. A second son of a merchant owns a ship, and is ferrying the artist, the doctor, the and the doctor's fake wife to Dubrava. A young boy is training as a djanni to be a soldier in the infantry of the Khalif. The lives of all of these people will intersect, as a war is emerging. I love how this story unfolds. There are so many characters, so many protagonists, so many names to keep track of. In the beginning of the book, there is a handy list of all of the important characters. That was really helpful! Overwhelming at first, but definitely helpful. The story is told slowly in each character's third-person perspective. Within each chapter, the perspective switches (in an obvious way), and between each chapter. Information is revealed slowly, and I like how everything comes together like a puzzle, as the story progresses. There are so many characters that I could name and discuss. Pero is the young artist who is sent to spy on the Khalif by painting his portrait. Pero is quiet and not a violent man, but his role in the story is pivotal. Danica is the young Senjan woman seeking revenge, who joins the crew of the ship with Pero, the doctor, and the doctor's wife. The doctor, Jacopo, is no spy, but his fake wife Leonora is to be one. He is instructed to "marry" her (and she him) so that she will gain entry into Dubrava. I felt bad for Leonora! Not that she had to marry the doctor - no, Jacopo is kind and gentle and she has no issue with him (or he her). But her past life is so said. My favorite characters are Marin, the second son of a merchant and owner of the ship, and Danica, the young Senjan. The Senjans are hated by many, and so Danica is never really welcomed. She's a raider, which is how she "meets" Marin and his crew. But she joins his crew for protection from her fellow raiders. Danica is so fierce! She is a strong young female character that I admire. Marin is a ladies man, a very handsome and very charming second son who is extremely clever as well. He's just as good with a sword as Danica is with a bow and arrow. I like him because he is very intelligent, but he's also a flirt (very roguish). Each of the character's lives intersect with each other, in complicated ways. As one would encounter in adult fiction novels, there is a lot of slow-building action, and things can change in the blink of an eye, from one paragraph to the next. The pace of this book is slow, but skip a paragraph or a page and you've missed crucial information. I didn't mind the pacing too much. This book is long, but so detailed. A lot of time passes in the story, from start to finish. While it is written in third-person and there are many perspectives, we get to know all of the characters extremely well. Especially Danica, Marin, Pero, and Leonora. There is some romance! There are a few couples, and my favorite was Marin and Danica. As with many adult fiction novels, the relationships start with sex, and there is some somewhat explicit scenes (so this is definitely not for children). Marin is a ladies man, and so it's not surprising that he and Danica attract each other. What is surprising is the development of feelings - from both of them. None of the romances (there are several pairs) are terribly significant in the book, but they are there, in a peripheral sense. And there is some messiness to the relationships. So I would not read this book for the romance (and why would you, it's not a focus in the book). On that note, this book is SUPER adult fiction-y, guys. Lots of sex, sexual acts (though not as explicit as adult romance novels), violence, and such. Some of the deaths totally caught me off guard, and I didn't see them coming. My feels! Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Probably more than I thought I would (though I don't really know what I had been expecting!). This is my first book by Kay that I've read, and I liked it. While the first half (ish) of the book was a little slow, things really started to pick up about halfway. What I Did Not Like: This is the romance reader talking, but I would have loved to see more from Marin and Danica! The ending was incredibly sweet and made up for a lot of things, but still. There is magic/spirits in this book, and I think I would have liked more explanation on that? Maybe it was supposed to have been explained by religion and faith, but I wasn't sure. Still, I liked the (small) presence of the supernatural. Would I Recommend It: I'd recommend this book but ONLY to seasoned adult fiction readers, or adult readers in general. Definitely not young teens or adolescents. It's an excellent historical-esque fantasy novel, but there are graphic scenes that I don't think would be appropriate for all ages. Rating: 4 stars. I am glad I took a chance on this book! The length had me hesitating, but this was worth the read. I'll be looking out for books by this veteran author in the future.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Copy received courtesy of NetGalley This book is set twenty-five years after the fall of Byzantium, that is, Sarantium. The veneer is pretty thin in places: the Ottoman Empire has become the Osmanli Empire, the Venetia Republic is now the Republic of Seressa, Dubrovnik is now Dubrava, and the other major players in Europe have their analogs, but Kay plays around with history in boosting the fascinating and problematical Hapsburger Emperor Rudolph II back a hundred years and turning him into Rodol Copy received courtesy of NetGalley This book is set twenty-five years after the fall of Byzantium, that is, Sarantium. The veneer is pretty thin in places: the Ottoman Empire has become the Osmanli Empire, the Venetia Republic is now the Republic of Seressa, Dubrovnik is now Dubrava, and the other major players in Europe have their analogs, but Kay plays around with history in boosting the fascinating and problematical Hapsburger Emperor Rudolph II back a hundred years and turning him into Rodolfo II, and bringing in sixteenth-century Eastern European politics as a counterbalance. Kay makes it work, especially if you can enrich your perceptions with images of the various settings. (Take some time to Google the Rector’s Palace in Dubrovnik if you’re unfamiliar with it.) Pero Villani, who seems to be based on Giovanni and Gentile Bellini (the latter’s trip to Istanbul, where it is said he painted Mehmet II, recent conqueror of Constantinople; the former being, by historical reputation, a far better painter, mastering the new oil techniques as he shed the restraints of the Quattrocento style) has only completed one piece of art, which was so revealing it was destroyed. He’s living over a tannery, working for pennies, when he’s summarily brought to the palace of the Duke of Seressa (the Doge), and given a choice between going to paint the Khalif of the Osmanlis--and attempting to assassinate him--or death. He sets out on board a merchant’s trip for the dangerous crossing, with him more spies from Seressia in the guise of a merchant and his wife. The inevitable pirate attack brings Senjans, people whose lives hardened by constant invasions from various armies, especially the Osmanlis, had turned them all into guerillas and pirates. They are led by eighteen-year-old Danica, a talented archer and knife fighter, who lost her family to Osmanli attack. Most died, except her four-year-old brother Neven, who had been carried off by the Osmanlis, they assumed to be gelded like the rest and sold at the slave market. I say "they" because unaccountably, she hears the voice of her grandfather, also dead. Danica is accompanied by her faithful dog Tico (view spoiler)[and I am delighted to say that Tico is not there as an easy plot device for wrenching sentiment (hide spoiler)] . These characters, and a few others introduced through the action (including a number of fascinating female characters), are at the heart of this tale about the clash of cultures and trade, shadowed by a century of plague attacks during summer. Kay uses an omniscient narrator whose voice evokes storytellers in long winter evenings by the fireplace, the pacing leisurely until action is sudden and shocking. Kay’s characters are complex, their personalities and motivations and passions keeping them from being overwhelmed by the larger picture, a difficult achievement given the vast scope here. There is just enough of a fantastical element to evoke a shimmer of the numinous over the colorful (indeed, sanguinary) tapestry of interactions and consequences, some of them real white-knuckle moments. My only complaint is that an omni voice gives one the chance to keep the flow linear, unlike limited third epics, which have to jolt and jerk back and forth in time, sometimes repeating whole conversations as one POV then another gets its airing. There are several of these jolts here, including repeated exchanges, which could have been worked seamlessly by the all-seeing narrator, but that is a small problem given the scope, the imagination, the elegiac observations about the fragility of human life under the inexorable threat of war, pestilence, and time. Kay brings the story to a poignantly triumphant and satisfying close, as the narrator slowly weaves inward and then outward again for the long view, then ends gently, and perceptively, with characters we have come to love.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Implausibility of Happenstance: "Children of Earth and Sky" by Guy Gavriel Kay Rick in Casablanca notices the vast implausibility of happenstance: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Is serendipity a good thing in fiction ever? For me, one of the precepts of good writing has always been that coincidences are only permissible when the writer is setting up the narrative. Indeed, they’re oft If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The Implausibility of Happenstance: "Children of Earth and Sky" by Guy Gavriel Kay Rick in Casablanca notices the vast implausibility of happenstance: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Is serendipity a good thing in fiction ever? For me, one of the precepts of good writing has always been that coincidences are only permissible when the writer is setting up the narrative. Indeed, they’re often necessary: Circumstances have to come together in some way to launch an extended action. A sudden hailstorm brings man and woman together under the same awning, creating the necessary meet, and things can build from there, as it happened with Rick and Ilse. But, in my Tomus Primus of Good Writing wisdom says: “don’t use a coincidence to develop or resolve the plot.” It seems Kay forgot this cardinal rule.     If you're into SF, read the rest of the review elsewhere.   SF = Speculative Fiction.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Review from The Speculative Herald: http://www.speculativeherald.com/2016... Children of Earth and Sky is Kay's latest novel, set in war torn lands. The cast is comprised of a variety of characters, characters that are unlikely companions, crossing paths only by chance. As with Kay's other books, this is set in a fictional land/world, but quite closely matches our own. There are a good number of characters in this, but I think it works extremely well as it helps give perspectives and information f Review from The Speculative Herald: http://www.speculativeherald.com/2016... Children of Earth and Sky is Kay's latest novel, set in war torn lands. The cast is comprised of a variety of characters, characters that are unlikely companions, crossing paths only by chance. As with Kay's other books, this is set in a fictional land/world, but quite closely matches our own. There are a good number of characters in this, but I think it works extremely well as it helps give perspectives and information from a variety of sources. This always helps paint a broader picture. As one might expect, this world can brutal, and there are great hardships that help steer our characters onto their current courses. Danica is a determined young woman, set of on vengeance for the loss of her family. She is fiercely independent and not afraid of calculated risks. Honestly, she does not seem to fear much in this world. Perhaps that comes from losing so much. At some point, what is left to fear when everyone you love is dead or taken? She is also extremely talented with the bow and has worked to earn her place among the raiders (pirates) of Senjan. This sets her on her course for the book, her life never to be the same. I found Danica's character very likable, but as a reader, it could be hard to see her almost always choose the course of vengeance over anything else her life. She is young and determined, which can be extremely good and give her character determination to overcome barriers. But at some point you also wonder if it is also a cause of blindness, even if she can see a more sensible or safer path, that is not her, that is not what she is living her life for. I had to respect it even if I wanted something different for her at times. Marin is the younger son of a successful merchant. He has a bit more freedom than an older son who is tied down with more expectations and commitments. You could sum him up as a handsome ladies man; One that may be seen climbing down from the windows of young women. But he is more than just that. He is very likable and relatable. He sails with his crew and you see he has a level of respect for those that work with him, and he is every bit as willing to work as they are. He is not a lazy commander that only doles out work without thought of his own part in things. He also has a very keen eye for reading people and situations, a skill which serves him quite well at crucial times. Pero is a struggling artist. One that has been given the chance of lifetime, to paint the grand khalif. Seeing as he is from a land that is not under the khalif's reign and so will be considered an infidel by the khalif and all in that land, this is also a very dangerous task. One that he is quite aware he may not return from. I really enjoyed seeing the world through Pero's eyes. He has not been to war and while he may have been a bit down on his luck, he has been spared many of the hardships some others have faced. There are many characters in this book, so I may not highlight them all. There is also a young woman who has shamed her family by conceiving a child out of wedlock with a young man deemed not worthy of her. Her father is far from a forgiving a man and has sent her to live her days out as part of a secluded religious order. She unexpectedly receives an offer to leave that life her father arranged for her and serve as a spy. The contingency is that she must pretend to be married to a doctor she has does not know. We quickly see she is quite bright and resourceful. And then there is also a young man quickly rising through the ranks to serve the military for the grand khalif. The price he pays to get there is harsh, as one may expect for the life an elite soldier trained from a very young age. All of these characters were intriguing to me. I wanted to know what happened with everyone, and I wanted them all to find happiness and success. My only complaint for this book is that there were a couple of sections where the pacing really slowed for me. They were areas where I felt the focus was more on giving historical or strategical background. They may have helped for understanding the greater picture, but they also were much dryer to read. I felt my self impatient to get back to the actual characters I had been following. The good news is that means I was very invested and interested in the characters. I just would have preferred if the information in a couple places could have been presented more naturally within their storylines. But overall, I can't complain. The fantasy element to this is minimal but does add an interesting element. This is not a story of magic by any means, it is the story of people surviving through wars and conflicts. People trying to find happiness and peace in a world that can make that harder than it should be, a world full of loss and war. While this story has many tales of tragedy, it brings with them a great sense of hope and love, recovery and survival. It is a story of perseverance and acceptance; Taking what life you have been given and learning to make the most of it before you find it is too late. Children of Earth and Sky is a touching novel that highlights the importance of picking up the pieces and appreciating what you can make with them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    I'm not sure what to say to do justice to this book. Kay is a master of creating worlds just inches from our own, drawing on real history and then twisting it to his own ends. With several protagonists, and a prose style that leaps from one to another, sometimes within a single scene, this could have been overdone. But it isn't. I loved the different voices and characters and was never bored or impatient to get back to one or the other. Kay plays with time and space in a way that bound all of th I'm not sure what to say to do justice to this book. Kay is a master of creating worlds just inches from our own, drawing on real history and then twisting it to his own ends. With several protagonists, and a prose style that leaps from one to another, sometimes within a single scene, this could have been overdone. But it isn't. I loved the different voices and characters and was never bored or impatient to get back to one or the other. Kay plays with time and space in a way that bound all of them together, choosing his narrators carefully--even the ones who are only there to narrate their deaths. If I had a complaint, it's one I think I had with River of Stars, and that's the seemingly random choice to have one of the characters' scenes be in third person present tense. It didn't make that character more interesting (Marin is already plenty interesting on his own) and I don't think it added any immediacy to those sections. If I were going to make a critical analysis here, I'd say it indicates Marin's always living in the now--but I wouldn't take myself seriously. More interesting to me is the way the narrative gets tossed between characters, at some points even overlapping, and in one key scene revealing the difference between perception and reality. I found the whole thing fascinating and tension-building. I'm not as certain how I feel about the third person omniscient passages, though they're usually used to reveal the future and are satisfying in that way. They did tend to drag me out of the story, and I think I accepted them mainly because I did want to know what happened to the characters in the long run. For much of the book I was so, so grateful to live in a more civilized time and place, one where women's power isn't so dependent on their ability to please men. This is a brutal time, where honor killings are acceptable if you've got enough gold to pay the victim's family off, where men and women are vulnerable to the vicissitudes of climate and weather, where a father can condemn a wayward daughter to a lifetime shut up in a religious retreat because she fell in love with the wrong man. And yet there's great beauty here as well, people showing love and kindness even when it doesn't benefit them. Beauty, and courage in all its guises. The contrast gives the book great power. I love that Kay is a romantic and that everyone who deserves it gets a happily ever after. I love that in this story, the miracles that exist feel natural, part of the world. (view spoiler)[I love that Danica's voice speaks to her granddaughter after her death, just as Danica's grandfather spoke to her. It's just the tiniest stroke of magic that makes the whole thing feel otherworldly. (hide spoiler)] It's a marvelous book, and one I'm sure I'll revisit.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    after reading a few pages this looks fabulous like the best GGK novels (Sarrantium, Lions...) - have not really been that enthusiastic about his recent Chinese themed novels for various reasons (I think he is very "orientalistic" among other things in said novels using all the usual stereotypes about the "fabled East" especially in the second one), though they definitely had their high points and I enjoyed them well enough, but books like the two Sarrantium one and Lions of al Rassan are still a after reading a few pages this looks fabulous like the best GGK novels (Sarrantium, Lions...) - have not really been that enthusiastic about his recent Chinese themed novels for various reasons (I think he is very "orientalistic" among other things in said novels using all the usual stereotypes about the "fabled East" especially in the second one), though they definitely had their high points and I enjoyed them well enough, but books like the two Sarrantium one and Lions of al Rassan are still amazing and among the best fantasies I've read and this one could get there; Finished the novel though it took me somewhat longer than I expected but the last half or so of the novel went really fast as action kicked in high gear and I wanted to see what happens. The book follows 5 main characters, while a few important men and women (the Duke of Seressa - "Venice", the Khalif of Ashar - Istanbul/Ottoman Empire, the former dowager empress of Sarrantium - "Byzantium/Constantinople", the Chancellor of the Empire - "the Holy Roman Empire" and a few others somewhat less prominent) have important secondary roles and a decent chunk of pages. In order of appearance: Danica Gradek a refugee to Senjan (a borderlands small city of raiders and fighters sponsored by the Empire against Ashar but whose second main enemy is Seressa whose ships trade with the infidel and are charged to keep piracy from occurring) from the hinterland of the Southern Balkans analogue and who is a peerless archer who wants to prove herself in a man's world and be accepted on equal terms on raiding parties and go kill Asharites to get her revenge for the burning of her village, the death of most of her family and the abduction of her younger brother to become either a palace eunuch or a Djanni (Janissary); when she discovers a plot by Seressa to destroy Senjan and uncovers one of their main spies while killing a bunch of Seressan attackers on her own she gets her chance but things don't turn out quite as expected Marin Djivo - younger son of an important Dubravan family (Ragusa - Dubrovnik, a medieval city state across the Adriatic from Venice who bent with the wind and paid well to keep all the hostile neighboring powers - Empire, Venice, Ottomans - from conquering it as an indispensable dealing/meeting neutral sort of place); highly successful with the local noble women, Marin is thinking to settle down but he much prefers trading on the high seas or on land to the stuffy small town atmosphere of Dubrava where anyone knows anyone else; when his path meets Danica's, his life becomes even more interesting Pero Villani - Seressan and son of a somewhat renowned painter who sadly died in debt and left him poor and whose one very successful portrait had to be destroyed on spurious grounds of being bad (but to save his life and a noblewoman's reputation in fact as the portrait was actually too good and revealing), so he is working as a bookbinder and trying to rebuild his unfairly tarnished artistic reputation; when he gets a surprising but very dangerous offer from the Duke, he knows he cannot refuse it, so his adventure begins Leonora Valeri - a noblewoman of Miucci (a small town, ally of Seressa) with a cruel and overbearing father who goes ballistic when he finds out she became pregnant with the son of a lesser nobleman, so he has her lover killed and Leonora sent to a convent near Seressa for the rest of her life, while the baby is taken away at birth; but the secret council of twelve of Seressa needs a woman like Leonora so they make her an offer she cannot refuse either if she wants to escape the convent and make a life for herself Finally - Damaz/Neven Gradek, who is now a Djanni in training and actually becomes accepted as one after a brave deed that ends well; he is ready to march with the Asharite army in their ritual spring attack on the Empire, but fate has something different than the usual djanni army life for him Some magic (similar to the one in the other books from the loose series), action, twists and a superb ending, while the book alternates narration from the above pov's with a chronicler "and this happened later" interventions that bring a distance from the immediacy of the storylines Top 10 book for 2016 and highly recommended

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    3.5 stars

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tudor Ciocarlie

    I have not yet read the The Sarantine Mosaic and I admit that I'm a little biased because Children of Earth and Sky also indirectly recreates the history of my country (Romania, that was under influence of The Ottoman Empire for 500 years), but this is the best novel of all the wonderful books by Kay that I've read. It is a book about the clash of cultures and every shifting borders, and their influence on people that must learn to adapt or to fight the merciless changes that history brings upon I have not yet read the The Sarantine Mosaic and I admit that I'm a little biased because Children of Earth and Sky also indirectly recreates the history of my country (Romania, that was under influence of The Ottoman Empire for 500 years), but this is the best novel of all the wonderful books by Kay that I've read. It is a book about the clash of cultures and every shifting borders, and their influence on people that must learn to adapt or to fight the merciless changes that history brings upon them. The people, but also the cultures are the characters of Children of Earth and Sky, and all of them are so alive that the reader feels that this book is the pinnacle of storytelling and the reason why literature was invented.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (Kalanadi)

    DNF'ing at 41%. This was SUCH a hard decision! The book is NOT bad! But I had two problems: 1) This is a very slow-moving book. Lots of subtlety. It has not suited my mood at all. I've been finding excuses for the last 3 weeks to read other things rather than pick up this book. 2) I received this as an ARC from NetGalley (so thank you to them and the publisher!), and the ebook displayed horribly on my Kindle. The formatting was so inconsistent, with dozens of hyphenated words in the middle of para DNF'ing at 41%. This was SUCH a hard decision! The book is NOT bad! But I had two problems: 1) This is a very slow-moving book. Lots of subtlety. It has not suited my mood at all. I've been finding excuses for the last 3 weeks to read other things rather than pick up this book. 2) I received this as an ARC from NetGalley (so thank you to them and the publisher!), and the ebook displayed horribly on my Kindle. The formatting was so inconsistent, with dozens of hyphenated words in the middle of paragraphs and complete lack of paragraph breaks or indentations for pages upon pages... plus the usual mistakes in uncorrected ARCS, like missing words... it was too slow going. I kept tripping up on these things. I'm trained to notice these problems because I do copy editing and proofreading for my job, so this isn't something I can "turn off" in my brain and just enjoy the meaning of the text. It was beginning to diminish my opinion of the book, which was unfair to the story and the writing! So I stopped. If I see this on the New Books shelf at the library, I will gladly pick it up in physical form and give it another go, when I'm in the mood for it... and the formatting is nicer :-)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fantasy Literature

    A new Guy Gavriel Kay novel is cause for great celebration and anticipation in our household, as he has authored some of our most beloved novels over the decades (by “our” I mean my wife, my fifteen-year-old son, and myself). A consummate storyteller and stylist (the two don’t always go hand in hand), his long-term consistency is remarkable, and his newest work, Children of Earth and Sky, finds him still at the top of his form. One way to describe a Guy Gavriel Kay novel is that it’s a bit like p A new Guy Gavriel Kay novel is cause for great celebration and anticipation in our household, as he has authored some of our most beloved novels over the decades (by “our” I mean my wife, my fifteen-year-old son, and myself). A consummate storyteller and stylist (the two don’t always go hand in hand), his long-term consistency is remarkable, and his newest work, Children of Earth and Sky, finds him still at the top of his form. One way to describe a Guy Gavriel Kay novel is that it’s a bit like peering at history as it unfolds at the bottom of a pool of water (think of the water as Kay’s artistic imagination) — you mostly recognize what you’re looking at, but thanks to the effects of refraction and distortion, it’s just a little off, both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The same holds true here, with mostly clear analogues to time ... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ctgt

    Eternity is too long for us. It is not a scale for men and women. We live by different, smaller measures, but there are stories we tell.... Just so you know, I love the books of Guy Gavriel Kay. It's one of those things that is difficult to explain. His ability to evoke feelings in me is unequaled by any current author. His writing style seems to flow off the page and reach right down in to my soul. There are very few characters I have cared about with the same depth as those that are brought to Eternity is too long for us. It is not a scale for men and women. We live by different, smaller measures, but there are stories we tell.... Just so you know, I love the books of Guy Gavriel Kay. It's one of those things that is difficult to explain. His ability to evoke feelings in me is unequaled by any current author. His writing style seems to flow off the page and reach right down in to my soul. There are very few characters I have cared about with the same depth as those that are brought to life in his books. And with my interest in history his settings never fail to pique my curiosity. Dubrovnik, Venice, The Ottoman Empire and Prague provide the inspiration for this story. As usual, the characters are the emphasis here and while there may not be any driving plot line it just doesn't matter. I can't help being pulled in to the lives of these characters. Pero Villani, a young, struggling artist who is commissioned by the Council of Twelve in Seressa to travel to Asharias and paint a "western style" portrait of the Grand Khalif Gurcu. Leonora Valeri, a young woman with a past who agrees to "marry" a physician and spy for Seressa in the city of Dubrava. Danica Gradek, a young woman whose family was seperated and forced to flee after a hadjuk raid. She now lives in the city of Senjan and yearns to be allowed to join the bands of Senjani raiders. Marin Djivo, the youngest son of a Dubravan merchant family involved in shipping. Just a few of the memorable characters whose lives and stories weave together to create another fascinating and heartbreaking book. We live among mysteries. Love is one, there are others. We must not imagine we understand all there is to know about the world.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    Guy Gavriel Kay is someone whose work I have struggled to appreciate to its fullest. Yet here is Kay at his sublime best, writing with poetic elegance and in a unique present tense with omniscient voice that few other authors could carry off with the skill Kay does. The essential premise of this novel focuses on several different characters all travelling to a distant city and beyond. Each of these characters are unique heroes: merchants, painters, pirates, child-slaves-turned-warriors, false-wiv Guy Gavriel Kay is someone whose work I have struggled to appreciate to its fullest. Yet here is Kay at his sublime best, writing with poetic elegance and in a unique present tense with omniscient voice that few other authors could carry off with the skill Kay does. The essential premise of this novel focuses on several different characters all travelling to a distant city and beyond. Each of these characters are unique heroes: merchants, painters, pirates, child-slaves-turned-warriors, false-wives, and so on. There is no grand plot to tell in this narrative, because this is a narrative driven by a fantastical history. Essentially, Kay is narrating a fictitious history and conveying truths about the world through a story of interlocking lives and it is beautiful. The one reason I did not give this the full five star rating, however was due to the way in which one of the main female characters simply hopped into bed with several main characters. It was not the action of this occurring but the way such scenes were described which I disliked, yet others may find these elements perfectly acceptable. This is a slow-burning, beautifully elaborated novel. One that, like a fine wine, is to be sampled by the correctly attuned palate. If you do not love language and only wish to try the thicker ciders and beers of fantasy look to more populist authors. If you love language, then certainly do read this novel. It has plenty of fantasy elements and is a showcase of beautiful prose.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aidan

    As can be expected of Kay, he once again delivers a beautiful, thoughtful, and intricately-plotted novel. His characters are rich and layered, his worldbuilding deep, but never overwhelming. There's a care for his creation, a love and respect for his characters, that is rare among authors. Tremendous.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Children of Earth and Sky: An alternate history of Venice, Dubrovnik, and Constantinople This is another of Guy Gabriel Kay's magnificent historical reimaginings (not fantasies, for the most part), told in luxurious prose, assured style, and great skill in evoking era and place, along with compelling adult characters. He's really mastered this sub-genre of his own creation, and this book is set in the same shared world that was featured in The Lion's of Al-Rassan (set in Moorish Spain) and The Sa Children of Earth and Sky: An alternate history of Venice, Dubrovnik, and Constantinople This is another of Guy Gabriel Kay's magnificent historical reimaginings (not fantasies, for the most part), told in luxurious prose, assured style, and great skill in evoking era and place, along with compelling adult characters. He's really mastered this sub-genre of his own creation, and this book is set in the same shared world that was featured in The Lion's of Al-Rassan (set in Moorish Spain) and The Sarantine Mosaic (Constantinople). Other reviews have captured the salient points and described the plot, so I will just add that I really enjoyed the descriptions of Dubrava, his analog for the real-world medieval oceanside walled town of Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. Having visited there last spring as one of our first visits to Europe, it was such an incredibly atmospheric place (and the setting for King's Landing in Game of Thrones), that it was a particular pleasure to read his descriptions of it since I had walked those wall and streets and narrow alleyways and churches and palaces. It was so easy to picture the events of the story there, along with those of the characters who were for the most part not royalty or generals or high priests, but rather less prominent people who were nonetheless extraordinary in their own right, and their adventures and tribulations in this epic story were told very well indeed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Sometimes you can read a book and it is just exactly what you need at that moment, like draining a cool drink on a hot summer day. In truth, I did not even know that I needed Children of Earth and Sky until I began reading it. This book hit the spot. It's not much of a surprise that I would enjoy a Guy Gavriel Kay novel. I have read all of the others and so I go into it knowing what I am going to get - and that, I know, will be something good. Kay's style of writing is something unique. There is Sometimes you can read a book and it is just exactly what you need at that moment, like draining a cool drink on a hot summer day. In truth, I did not even know that I needed Children of Earth and Sky until I began reading it. This book hit the spot. It's not much of a surprise that I would enjoy a Guy Gavriel Kay novel. I have read all of the others and so I go into it knowing what I am going to get - and that, I know, will be something good. Kay's style of writing is something unique. There is something at once lyrical and philosophical about his prose, with the narrator's voice achieving true omniscience in a way that is honestly at times just a little bit insufferable, but then all the rest of the time is magnificent. The narrator knows all that has happened, all that is happening, and in a way that I can't recall offhand encountering anywhere else, all that will happen, too. In this way there is real satisfaction in reading about certain things that happen in the story because the reader can pause briefly to appreciate the consequences for the character and for history in general without having to have this be relayed in a sequel. In a big way, Children of Earth and Sky is the result of one of these looking-forward passages from one of Kay's previous works, the Sarantine Mosaic. Those two books, set heavily in Sarantium (Constantinople) in a time where chariot races were the big entertainment, are set in Kay's thinly-veiled Europe/Asia analogue (visited also in The Lions of Al-Rassan - the story of El Cid - and The Last Light of the Sun) and one passage that still stands with me is one in reference to a charioteer who is a legend, and the narration pauses to note that there was a statue built for this rider that lasted for nine hundred years, until the changes came. For born out in the desert, almost entirely tangential to the plot, is the Asharite religion, one that will, much much later, achieve conquest. Though set those 900 years forward into the future, the echoes of that history still figure into Kay's latest, here. The political world looks different. There is a Venice-type merchant republic, an upstart Dubrovnik-like merchant republic (Dubrava, natch), the Holy Jaddite (Roman) Empire - and the recently-toppled empire of the east, toppled 25 years ago when the Asharites conquered Sarantium and killed its last emperor. It's called Asharias now. One imagines that the future musicians of Kay's world will need to come up with a different lyric than, "Why did Sarantium get the works? That's nobody's business but the Osmanlis!" Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. All roads lead there for our principal characters, though of course that doesn't stop us from checking in elsehwere - as in the opening of the story, with the Seressini (Venice) ambassador to Obravic (HRE) settling in to some new digs with a demand of that emperor to help take out some pirates. Those pirates, from a town called Senjan, are legendary raiders of the Asharite world. But eventually we settle in and meet Pero Villani, the Kay-requisite artist/poet/musician-type character. Also in the mix are the second son of a Dubrava merchant family; a lady pirate from Senjan who has her own reasons for wanting vengeance against the Asharites; and a woman who is pressed into service to be a spy, pretending to be a doctor's wife. The world is anxious. Will the Asharite khalif attack this spring? Of course he will, or there wouldn't be much of a book. And so these characters, who meet up with others on their various sea and land journeys, are swept along with the tide of history for a time - Sailing to Sarantium, as the old saying went. It's not exactly essential to have read the previous works in this universe to understand the story here. After all, it is 900 years later. A new person to the universe should be able to fairly quickly grasp what is going on with Jad and Ashar and the Kindath and all of that. But the reader of the Sarantine Mosaic will undoubtedly be delighted by all the little callbacks to that duology, both broad, thematic callbacks (Pero being very similar to the artist of the Mosaic) and specific references to things like the half-world and various mystical elements of his older story, or even the reappearance of the once-forbidden mention of Heladikos, son of Jad. There are many and I don't even want to start listing them because it will be a treat if they are all surprises. (view spoiler)[Some themes from non-Sarantine works pop up in here as well. It's impossible not to view Danica and Neven, the separated siblings on opposite sides of the conflict, as being a version of what's-his-face and Dianora (?) from Tigana. You know who I mean. But Danica and Neven, it seems, have some magical or even divine protection that the Tiganans could not have ever had. (hide spoiler)] I am happy Kay revisited this universe. From the outcome of this book I can only figure that he is happy to be revisiting it too. It's like hearing from an old friend and finding out that they are doing just great.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    An absolute joy to read! I'm not enamored of the heavy magic, dragons, wizards, and outlandish fantasy world elements of that genre, but Kay fills the fantasy niche for me, being a past master at marrying thinly-veiled elements of a real historic period with a light hand on the "unexplained". This novel told of a faux Italian Renaissance period and Balkan [called herein by several names] war with the Ottomans [Osmanlis]. Seressa, the "Queen of the Sea", [read Venice], with her emphasis on tradin An absolute joy to read! I'm not enamored of the heavy magic, dragons, wizards, and outlandish fantasy world elements of that genre, but Kay fills the fantasy niche for me, being a past master at marrying thinly-veiled elements of a real historic period with a light hand on the "unexplained". This novel told of a faux Italian Renaissance period and Balkan [called herein by several names] war with the Ottomans [Osmanlis]. Seressa, the "Queen of the Sea", [read Venice], with her emphasis on trading and on duplicity sends a doctor and wife, the latter to spy and report back, and also a young, talented artist, Pero Villani, [read Gentile Bellini] to portray on canvas the Grand Khalif Gurçu [read Mehmed II], Conqueror of Sarantium [Constantinople]. Besides painting the ruler, the young man is to spy. Seressa also has a darker, more dangerous mission in mind for him. They all meet on the trading ship of a prominent merchant family and their lives entwine. Danica, a young woman and excellent archer, from a town of raiders and pirates, figures strongly in the story, as well as a rebel chief, based, I assumed, on the real-life Skanderbeg. I loved the interplay among all these characters and I really felt strongly about them and compassion for Danica's young brother. Kay made the characters so realistic. I feel this is almost a sequel [but not quite] to Kay's Sarantium duology, due to the importance of Empress Dowager Eudoxia, who has found refuge here after the devastation of her homeland. I felt the story could have been cut shorter in places. I felt there was repetition and sentences could have been combined or excised here and there. Also events at the court of Emperor Rodolfo, were confusing to me, all except the final decision made by Rodolfo, in fighting the Osmanlis. Highly recommended. I thank Goodreads First-Reads for sending this to me in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vedran Karlić

    It's hard not to be biased, Kay is my favorite author and this book is set in my country (well, not fully, some parts are). But that is not the reason I’m giving it a five-star rating. It’s a wonderful story about small people and their role in ‘big world’ and how can they shape it. But it’s also a story about the different types of heroism, about tragedy and love, sometimes more than one of those, written through few great characters. Based on historical things with a dose of supernatural, which It's hard not to be biased, Kay is my favorite author and this book is set in my country (well, not fully, some parts are). But that is not the reason I’m giving it a five-star rating. It’s a wonderful story about small people and their role in ‘big world’ and how can they shape it. But it’s also a story about the different types of heroism, about tragedy and love, sometimes more than one of those, written through few great characters. Based on historical things with a dose of supernatural, which is nothing new to Kay, it’s his ‘trademark’. It’s fun, it’s very well written, it has a great pace, grand scale and overall is a very enjoyable book. One of his best works? No, but better than last two.

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