ARC Review : Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

25332566Title : Children of Earth and Sky

Author : Guy Gavriel Kay

Publisher : New American Library (NAL)

Release date : May 10th, 2016

Rating : 6/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

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…

Review :

Thank you to NetGalley and to Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with this one!

Children of Earth and Sky was wonderful, but is a hard book to review.

It reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones, and was just as genius (or even more so?) as George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series. The plots are complex, intertwining economics and politics and religion, and the characters are less psychotic than in GoT, but they are just as realistic and admirable. The story is told in their third-person perspective, shifting from narrator to narrator within the same chapter, so we have different point of views on same events.

This society’s issues and their importance are all put on the table, and we know exactly what needs to be done and how. The only uncertainty is the characters’ actions, and they surprised me quite a few times, always keeping me on the edge of my seat. Our protagonists’ names are Danica, Pero, Leonora and Marin. They are all delightful! Even the minor ones, like Neven or the Emperor, shone through during the (kind of) short time they were mentioned. Every dialogue involving one of these characters is witty and clever, and it brought out from the story a lot of liveliness. Their personalities were very distinct and well described through their actions, and nothing ever felt out of character. I was always entertained when they spoke, and enjoyed their cleverness immensely. I didn’t expect romance, but there was some, though it never took too much space in the storyline. My romantic heart did ask for more, but I knew it couldn’t be done this way, or it would take something away from the essence of the story.

One of the things that happen to me a lot when I read epic fantasy like this, is I get overwhelmed by the number of foreign names. Characters, kingdoms, social roles, alliances, and so on. It’s always hard to keep track, and truthfully, I only grasped all of it by the first half of the book. Thankfully, Kay had the bright idea to include a map and a list of all the characters, so it did help, and wasn’t all that bad. Also, there weren’t many confusing times, so I’m ready to dismiss this inconvenience (and partly because I’m used to it by now). Kay’s world is so vast and rich, there were bound to have a lot of characters, you know? If you have read Game of Thrones, Children of Earth and Sky will be just as easy to understand.

Finally, the real star in Kay’s novel is the writing. The author deserves a standing ovation and all my praises. As it seems to be the custom for epic fantasy authors, Kay writes in a… dignified way, very elegant and subtle and polished. But with Kay, he adds wittiness to his writing, not just in dialogues but even in the descriptions (appearance, events, etc.). It feels like a very smart erudite is talking to you. It’s true story-telling, in all its beauty. Kay writes with solemnity, bringing forth the enormity of every event. The book isn’t nearly as heavy as Game of Thrones, thankfully. It’s a much more enjoyable read. Its cutting precision and cleverness had me devouring the pages. The timeline doesn’t go from event to event. If I could compare the author’s writing style, I would say it is like taking twists and turns amidst a colorful, dynamic little market, where merchants give you little items in order to reach your destination. Or, I could compare to solving a puzzle. Every piece finds its place, eventually.

In conclusion, Children of Earth and Sky was a delight to read! I will certainly read other works of Kay’s, but I only recommend this book to seasoned fantasy readers!

Picture sources : 1, 2


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