You know when you read a book, and you expect you're going to like it, but you don't expect to totally become obsessed with it? I didn’t expect to love Children of Earth and Sky. I thought I would enjoy it and I knew I wanted to read it, but it really blew me away. I saw the ARC of Children of Earth and Sky listed on the Goodreads giveaways, so I entered. Guy Gavriel Kay is a bestselling Canadian author, who for some reason I hadn’t read yet, but have always wanted to. There were three of his books listed and... umm... I won two of them (I’ll read the other one soon, because if it’s anything like this one, I’m going to love it.) It’s not a short novel either, I thought it was going to take me a while to finish, but once I got past the beginning, I couldn’t put it down.
The beginning is a little slow, but after reading the whole novel, totally necessary. Kay takes you on a journey, introducing his characters, some are main characters, some are minor characters, but all are important to the story. There's even a "cast of characters" in the beginning. As I read that, and moving though the beginning of the story, I was thinking I was going to need it. Admittedly, I did have to refer to it a couple times in the beginning, to remember who the Seressini ambassador was and who certain people were in Dubrava. But that's really it. Kay created such real and memorable characters, that the main ones, the ones you love, stay with you.
Danica was amazing. I thought she was brilliant. From the first moment we meet her and her dog, I knew she would be my favourite in this book. I love how she sticks to her mission, but also finds room for more. I love when she's with her grandfather. I love her instincts. I loved Zadek, Neven, Marin, Leonora and Pero. I read each page just to be closer to them, just to see what would happen. Marin was brilliant. I love how he grew and how he changed from the first moment he met Danica, to when they meet again.
I thought I was going to hate the khalif, but I didn’t. I thought I’d at least dislike most of the rulers, based on how many of the people lived, but I didn’t. Except for maybe the adviser in Obravic, he was terrible. What happened to all those people, based on his decisions, his indiscretions, is terrible. The khalif was nice, sort of. I liked his easy way with Pero. I liked that he just wanted and appreciated honesty. How rulers treated their children though, the khalif and Eudoxia, was just awful. I know they were both revered by their own peoples, heroes to their peoples, but to me, they were just opposite sides of the same coin. I enjoyed Eudoxia a lot though, liking her more than I expected.
The way women were treated in this novel was terrible. It's not that Kay was writing them poorly, Danica and Leonora were intelligent, multi-dimensional, fascinating women. It's that this novel is based on life during the 16th century. Women weren't equal back then (not that they are now), and there were a lot of women being used for their bodies or hidden away because of them. Fighting through that, there are some powerful women in this world, doing their part to make their own way, finding ways to change the minds of the men around them. Even women we only see for a short time, are finding small ways to make their own decisions. With women like Danica and Leonora, it gives hope to the women of that world.
I've read that Kay has described his novels as historical fiction with a quarter turn towards fantasy, and that's pretty accurate. There are all things you would expect from a story set in 16th century Europe, but there's just a little hint of magic, something "pagan" going on in addition to something else. I kept expecting that this would somehow result in the fall of the khalif and the Asharites, but maybe I've been reading too many epic adventures lately. This novel didn't need the fall of a kingdom, it just needed characters to live their lives.
Children of Earth and Sky was a fantastic novel, by an amazing Canadian author. I definitely want to read the other novels set in this world, as well as Tigana, since it's the other book of his I was lucky enough to win. It was really great luck to have had this book land in my hands. Children of Earth and Sky is a beautifully woven tale that transports you to another world.