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Under Heaven

Under HeavenUnder Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In short: Kay promises a lot, but in the end he falls short to deliver.

A book always comes with expectations. General ones you have towards all books and specific ones for a particular one.
I read „Under heaven“ with the „SciFi and Fantasy Book Club“. I had not read anything by Guy Gavriel Kay before and didn’t know what to expect. I was just curious and decided to give the Kindle sample a try.

I was imediately hooked. Poetic prose, slow and deliberate development of story and character, a familiar and yet exotic setting with hints of more to come. First signs of some supernatural forces, an assassin, an intrigue, political machinations, some fascinating characters, great suspense building. All that interwoven like an emerging tapestry.
I wanted to see this cloth woven, wanted to see the image developed. I bought the book. The expectations now were high.

And then something strange happened. All the strands that got me started, disappeared – one by one. All the promises made about mysterious intrigues, powerhungry politicians, and troubled characters vanished. Vanished in lame resolutions, uninspired character building and a rising sense of loss. Like a river starting from a clear mountain spring meanders through the low lands just to seep away into sand.

The threads of silk and velvet dissolved, replaced by mundane cotton and linnen. The tapestry became a rug.

My reading became desperate. Desperate to find more in a book that had promised so much, and went on disappointing.

There were some bright moments even in the later parts of the book. When there was room for the author’s prose to become enthralling: descriptions of scenery, some character’s inner life evolving slowly, poetry, the beauty of a woman, a death scene like in a greek tragedy, the final farewell chapters.
But in the end beautiful prose is not enough, if you start out promising more.

I find it always hard to be disappointed by a book, so I’ll give Kay a second chance with one of his other books (The Lions of al-Rassan maybe) recommended to me.

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