As always, a new novel by one of my favourite fantasy authors is a cause for celebration. In Children of Earth and Sky, Kay returns to the nearly-Europe of some of his earlier novels, with a story set in cities and landscapes that closely parallel Venice, Dubrovnik, Istanbul and the lands around them, a generation after the fall of Constantinople. Kay’s fantasy world is, as always, not quite our world, so he has the freedom to play around with characters and events. This lightly fantastic genre also allows elements of mystery, magic and the supernatural to brush the edges of the story — like a dead character who speaks inside his granddaughter’s head, or a god-touched grove where inexplicable things can happen.
A disparate group of characters — a female archer bent on revenge, a reluctant nun turned spy, a merchant’s restless son, a doctor with a secret mission, and an artist on his way to an enemy court, all meet on a ship in the middle of the not-quite-Mediterranean. Out of this chance and violent encounter between these five people comes death, romance, heartbreak and new directions in life that none of them could have predicted. As always, not only is the world these characters inhabit vividly realized, the characters themselves are people so real they can — and often do — break your heart. This will take its place on my Guy Gavriel Kay shelf as another favourite book.