Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life--in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later--and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.
Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor--and alienates women at the court. But when her father's life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.
In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-02-25
- Reviewer: Staff
The second chapter in the history of the ancient China–inspired empire of Kitai is exquisitely rendered alternate historical fantasy. Several hundred years after the events of Under Heaven (which was set in the equivalent of the Tang Dynasty), teen Ren Daiyan demonstrates legend-level archery prowess and becomes a marsh outlaw. Years later, when a cloistered emperor’s hobby begins destroying lives, Daiyan tries to redeem his honor by joining the imperial army to halt the empire’s decline. In a world ruled by gentleman scholars, female artist Lin Shan is lauded for her unique talent in the masculine arts of poetry and calligraphy. Shan’s courtly skills will prove vital to Daiyan as he navigates around scheming ministers, supernatural fox-women, and horsemen who drink from the skulls of their enemies. Students of Chinese literature will delight in allusions to Song Dynasty poetry and Chinese classics, and even casual readers will savor a flawed, complex culture, meticulously researched and recreated in powerful prose. Agent: John Silbersack, Trident Media Group. (Apr.)