Under Heaven

by Guy Gavriel Kay

4 avg rating
Book 2 of 36 in the Best Asian Fantasy Books
91 votes 13 comments
An innovative story of honor and power from the award-winning author of Ysabel.

In Under Heaven, Kay tells a story of honor and power, this time in a setting that evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of eighth-century China.

In recognition of his service to the Emperor of Kitai, Shen Tai has been sent a mysterious and dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses. Wisely the gift comes with the stipulation that the horses must be claimed in person. Otherwise, he would probably be dead already.

Other books in series

Book Awards

Nominated 2 times in total

World Fantasy

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Under Heaven ranks on the following lists

leave a comment

Meles | 2015-04-08 09:13:36
At first it takes some time to digest the new characters and culture, but then the very intricate plot just takes off and you can't put these two books down. Dynastic intrigue combined with the historical basis for these novels fascinates.
Roo Bear | 2015-06-23 04:51:45
I can't possibly agree on this. There's no question that Kay deserves to be on the list, but Under Heaven was one of his most disappointing books (not just my opinion, goodreads seems to back this up). First time readers of Kay should start with the Lions of Al Rassan or the Sailing to Sarantium series, both of which are substantially more impressive.
Acro | 2015-07-25 09:57:43
This was one bad book in my opinion. Very poor writing.
Rtsfan | 2015-11-11 04:50:17
Reading Under Heaven was a transporting experience. It is one of my favorite fantasies because it completely envelops the reader in the rich culture of ancient China at a time of change. The opening chapters alone make the book worth reading - how do we atone for the sins of the past? How do we reconcile the beauty (in every culture) with the terrible effects of grasping for power, greed, cruelty, and indifference to suffering. River of Stars did not have the same power for me, but I have gone on to read many others by Kaye and found the stories and his writing leave an indelible haunting impression.
Rtsfan | 2015-11-11 04:56:35
I would rate it #5 - I would reread it in a heartbeat. I recently read Amercan Gods by Neil Gaiman and it is undeniably a powerful story that explores many themes. But I do not see myself ever rereading it - but the again it will haunt me for quite some time.
Anonymous | 2016-01-08 08:30:39
This is a solid book from a master fantasy author but Tigana was more entertaining and an overall better read IMO.
Anonymous | 2016-12-29 02:50:08
I have 1 word for this book: boring
william smith | 2017-06-20 07:35:49
I bought this book through amazon
william smith | 2017-06-20 07:37:06
I bought this book through amazon
Jake | 2017-08-08 04:27:22
This book falls in a weird category for me. The opening chapters are incredibly strong and undeniably belong on this list. But the book seemed to weaken as it went along, and I struggled to finish the third act. It's unusual to read a book that gets worse the further in you get, but given how strong it started it was still worth the read.
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