Like much of his work, Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest novel is generally classified as “historical fantasy.” Children of Earth and Sky is set in a world very much like Renaissance Europe, but with understated supernatural elements. In interviews, Kay has described this as history “with a quarter-turn to the fantastic.” The most noticeable manifestation of this in Children comes in the form of Danica, a raider whose deceased grandfather still speaks to her and offers her guidance. The influence of the past upon the present is one of the major themes of this novel, and I liked how that theme is made explicit through the device of a character who literally hears the voice of an ancestor speaking in her mind.
Children is set in the same world as Kay’s Sarantine Mosaic duology and his novel The Lions of Al-Rassan, though it takes place about a thousand years later. There are some references to those earlier works in Children, including a brief mention of Al-Rassan itself, but you don’t need to have read them to understand this book.
In a technique that will be familiar to ASOIAF readers, Kay allows us to see the story from the point of view of a fairly large cast of characters. These characters come from different cultures and walks of life, so allowing us to see events through their eyes adds a richness to the story. It also gives us a fuller view of the political intrigues that weave together throughout the novel. One downside is that there are one or two plot threads that seem to get forgotten about later in the story—for example, the Seressini ambassador Orso Faleri’s realization that the Emperor Rodolfo is far more intelligent and cunning than popular opinion give him credit for. After that, I expected a significant chunk of the book to take place at Rodolfo’s court, and was disappointed when it didn’t.
The only Kay book I had read previously was Tigana, which is set in a completely different world. Reading Children of Earth and Sky has piqued my interest in the Sarantine Mosaic stories, and The Lions of Al-Rassan is now on my to-read list.