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Children of Earth and Sky    by Guy Gavriel Kay order for
Children of Earth and Sky
by Guy Gavriel Kay
Order:  USA  Can
New American Library, 2016 (2016)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'm a long-time fan of Guy Gavriel Kay's superb historical fantasies, so opened Children of Earth and Sky with the usual high expectation and anticipation, both fully justified by another extraordinary read. Kay is a master of the genre, distilling the essence of a past era and serving it up as a new and unexpected tale in an alternate history that is steadily growing in scope. This time he takes us to his version of Renaissance Europe.

His Venice is Seressa, 'a cynical, calculating republic' whose Council of Twelve has just sent a new ambassador, Orso Faleri, to northern Obravic, ruled by Jad's unpredictable Holy Emperor Rodolfo. Faleri's main task is to stop Rodolfo's support of the pirate Senjani, who raid Seressa's ships and destroy her commerce. But the coastal Senjani raid Asharite villages and are 'fierce (unpaid) soldiers of the emperor' in his struggle against the Osmanlis (think Ottomans), so this will be a challenge.

Danica is a young Senjani woman whose village was destroyed by Osmanlis and younger brother Neven taken and possibly trained to fight for them as a djanni. She's a warrior desperate to be accepted as a raider, despite her sex. Danica sets out to prove herself, advised by her grandfather, whose voice she has heard counseling her since his death. Her raid succeeds and her reputation grows.

Marin is a merchant in Dubrava, who will play a key part in events. Dubrava pays tribute to the Osmanlis. Pero is a talented painter in Seressa, who is sent by the Council to spy on the Grand Khalif in Asharias, who 'desires his portrait done by a western hand.' They also enlist Leonora, a lovely aristocrat banished by her father to the Daughters of Jad after she became pregnant, as a spy. She is to pose as a physician's wife in Dubrava.

Of course, we know that all these characters' paths will cross and they do, on land and at sea. Marin saves Danica's life and she returns the favor. Friendships are made and romances kindled. Leonora finds a new life - on Sinan Isle, thanks to the empress-mother, who had taken refuge there. Pero, Marin and Danica continue en route to Asharias, and encounter the legendary Skandir, leader of resistance against the Osmanlis. Their stories change, again and again.

Those who reach Asharias encounter treachery and danger and rate their chances of survival low. But what they do there changes the course of history. Children of Earth and Sky is another marvelous offering from Guy Gavriel Kay, absolutely not to be missed.

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