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Extended Audio Sample Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (3,956 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Guy Gavriel Kay Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Inspired by the glory and power of Tang dynasty China, Guy Gavriel Kay has created a masterpiece.

It begins simply. Shen Tai, son of an illustrious general serving the Emperor of Kitai, has spent two years honoring the memory of his late father by burying the bones of the dead from both armies at the site of one of his father's last great battles. In recognition of his labors and his filial piety, an unlikely source has sent him a dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses. You give a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor. Wisely, the gift comes with the stipulation that Tai must claim the horses in person. Otherwise he would probably be dead already…

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Kay is peerless in plucking elements from history and using them to weave a wholly fantastical tale that feels like a translation of some freshly unearthed scroll from a time we have yet to discover…Lovers of historical fiction should also give Under Heaven a try.”

    Miami Herald

  • “A magnificent epic, flawlessly crafted, that draws the reader in like a whirlwind and doesn't let go.”

    Huffington Post

  • “Completely transporting.”


  • “Kay has chosen a spare, slightly courtly style, but nonetheless moves his plot along at a rapid clip. At the same time, he continually thickens his novel with appealing minor characters, thus adding to the story’s overall richness as well as suggesting that much else is going on just outside our narrative field of vision.”

    Washington Post

  • “Historical fantasist Kay delivers an exquisitely detailed vision of Kitan, a land much like Tang Dynasty China…Kay writes deftly of women who are sexually suborned by their societies, neither minimizing their constraints nor denying their agency, and the complex intrigues of poets, prostitutes, ministers, and soldiers evolve into a fascinating, sometimes bloody, and entirely believable tale.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Meticulously researched yet seamlessly envisioned, the characters and culture present a timeless tale of filial piety and personal integrity.”

    Library Journal

  • “I loved, loved, loved Under Heaven. It had everything in it that made me such a fan of Guy Kay in the first place. I thought the new one was perfect.”


  • “Guy Gavriel Kay’s fictional rendition of the Tang dynasty of ancient China in Under Heaven reads almost as a historical document. For anyone who enjoys a smart political thriller, a historical recreation, or a good ghost story, this novel offers all three in an immensely readable union.”


  • “A shimmering novel…A beautiful, compulsive read.”


  • Under Heaven is virtually everything a reader could want in a book: a thrilling adventure, a love story, a coming-of-age tale, a military chronicle, a court-intrigue drama, a tragedy, and on and on. It is a sumptuous feast of storytelling, a beautifully written tale with a beating, breaking heart at its core that will have readers in tears by its final pages.”

    Globe and Mail (Toronto)

  • A 2010 Washington Post Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2011 Mythopoeic Award Nominee
  • A 2011 World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel
  • Winner of the 2011 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Phil | 2/12/2014

    " Very enjoyable read. Kay seemed to fall back to the style he used in _A Song For Arbonne_ so the pacing of this book felt very familiar. The last 100 pages felt a bit rushed, but that didn't detract from the experience in any great way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Leani | 2/7/2014

    " Always nice when you learn a bit about a historical culture by reading a fictional work :) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Tanglebones | 1/24/2014

    " Yet another beautiful, haunting, melancholic book from Guy Gavriel Kay. With the one blip of Ysabel, everything he's written has been extraordinary. Like the Lions of al-Rassan and The Sarantine Mosaic, Under Heaven is an emotional look at the end of an age, through the eyes of characters who have come to love the time and place they inhabit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Carrie | 12/27/2013

    " Courtiers, wine, horses, poets and the pleasure district. It had it's moments, but this may not be my moment in history to read about. "

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