Last night I stayed up late into the night reading and finishing Guy Gavriel Kay’s most recent fantasy novel, “Under Heaven”. Published in 2010, this is the first work I have read by the established Canadian author of eleven novels.”Under Heaven” was a gripping read. The author does a wonderful job of taking his audience into 8th century China and creating a colorful and dazzling tapestry full of engaging stories. I literally felt like I was there as the author has the gift of making his characters come alive. The imagery he creates is exceptional and the characters and storyline kept me riveted throughout. While this is a fantasy novel, it does run parallel to recorded events involving the Tang Dynasty of China and the An Shi Rebellion and has been noted as a fantasy novel of historical fiction.Lured into the empire of Kitai, I was enthralled by first person accounts of courtesans, poets, politicians, soldiers, scholars, generals, princes, and emperors. This cleverly written novel covers love, loyalty, and friendship which we can easily identify with. There is also the exciting background of political intrigue and rivalry. Constantly unfolding, vivid pictures and descriptive scenes are painted, breathtakingly beautiful and sometimes as chilling as ice. Following lead character Shen Tai from an abandoned frontier outpost to Xinan, we are introduced to his overcoming trials and tribulations and rising to greatness. I was quickly captivated and amused by Siam Zian, a wandering poet of great renown who enjoys living the good life. We are invited to enter the world of Spring Rain, a courtesan, and she has prospered from humble beginnings. We meet Wei Song the Kanlin, a warrior who possesses ninja like qualities. Then there is Wen Zhou, a politician of Machiavellian stature, not to be crossed.While this is a work of fiction, it addresses many important concepts which are as relevant today as they were in 8th century China. We are brought to consider the importance of loyalty and bonds that hold us together in relationships. Through finely drawn characters, we are reminded of the fragility of life and the decisions we are called to make.Guy Gavriel Kay’s next stand alone novel is “River of Stars” which is expected to be released in 2013. It will be set in China, following a different dynasty three to four hundred years later. I am looking forward to it.