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Literature / Children of Earth and Sky

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A 2016 Historical Fantasy novel by Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay, set in the same world as Kay's earlier novels The Lions of Al-Rassan, The Sarantine Mosaic and The Last Light of the Sun; but at a time period equivalent to the early stages of The Renaissance.

Children of Earth and Sky tells the interweaving stories of a varied group of people 25 years after Sarantium, glory of the Jaddite world is conquered by the armies of the Asharite Osmanlis. In the present day, from the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif of the Osmanli Empire at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.


The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif — to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming

Tropes featured include:

  • Action Girl: Danica Gradek is one of the deadliest characters in the entire novel, having the single largest individual body count bar none.
  • Archer Archetype: Danica Gradek is deadly accurate with the bow, her weapon of choice.
  • Badass Army:
    • The Osmanlis field the finest army in the known world.
    • The Senjani’s numbers are tiny compared to everyone else, but they make up by sheer badassness.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Because the novel takes place over the same geographic territory as The Sarantine Mosaic, there are numerous references to the events of that duology:
      • The twin mosaics that Crispin created in Varena become a minor plot point.
      • The ambush that Skandir sets up for the Osmanlis takes place in the same spot where the sacrifices to Ludan took place and Pero even finds Zoticus’ metal birds right where he left them.
      • Pero walks through an underground corridor which is heavily implied to be the same one where Valerius II was assassinated.
      • While exploring the ruins of the Hippodrome, Pero runs into broken statues commemorating Taras the charioteer.
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    • The exploits of Fernan Belmonte in the conquest of Al-Rassan are told to children across the Jaddite world.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Emperor Rodolfo is quite an eccentric whose court is full of astrologers and alchemists, so it is easy to dismiss him as a threat, until one realizes that he has ruled for many decades and is capable of recalling the face of a person he saw only once over 40 years ago.
  • Cool Old Lady: Empress Eudoxia of Sarantium is one of the most awesome people you will ever meet, provided she likes you, that is.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The main religions of the setting are all counterparts of real world religions: Jaddites=Christians, Asharites=Muslims and Kindath=Jews.
  • Elite Army: The djannis, the elite of the khalif’s infantry, and the red-saddle rider, the cream of his cavalry.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: As is Kay’s standard procedure, the serial numbers are still visible in most of the cultures and kingdoms of the setting:
    • Seressa is Venice
    • Dubrava is the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik)
    • The Senjani are the Uskoks
    • The Osmanli are the Ottoman Turks.
    • The Holy Jaddite Empire is the Holy Roman Empire
    • Sauradia is the Balkans and Trakesia is Greece.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted. The Osmanli army's main weapon for the sieges of Worberg Fortress are massive bronze canons. Their infantry also have hand-held guns, but they are slow to reload and very inaccurate, so bows and arrows are still the ranged weapons of choice.
  • Ghostly Advisor: Danica's grandfather takes up permanent residence in her head until he runs out of ghost juju saving Danica from her brother's arrow. He also helps his grandson win a knife fight and prevents Leonora from Suicide by Sea along with her recently deceased assumed husband
  • I See Dead People: Danica.
  • Intrepid Merchant: Being one is practically a prerequisite to engage in trade in the dangerous territories between the Osmanli Empire and the West. Marin Djivo is the premier example among the main characters.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): The fall of Sarantium and its renaming to Asharias is this trope verbatim.
  • Merchant City: Trade is the life blood of both Seressa and Dubrava, where power and wealth revolve around commerce.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: As is customary for Kay's novels, lots. Some are more obvious and historically accurate than others. A sampling, in rough order of appearance:
    • Orso Faleri = Andrea Gritti, Venetian ambassador and later Doge
    • Emperor Rodolfo = Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor
    • Chancellor Savko = Wolfgang Rumpf
    • Pero Villani = Gentile Bellini, Venetian artist
    • Duke Ricci = Leonardo Loredan, Doge of Venice
    • Empress Eudoxia = Helena Dragaš, last Empress of Byzantium
    • Hrant Bunic = Nikola Jurišić of Serj
    • Grand Khalif Gurçu “the Destroyer” = Mehmed II the Conqueror
    • Prince Beyet = Bayezid II, Mehmed's son and heir
    • Prince Cemal = Cem Sultan, Mehmed's younger son
    • Yosef ben Hananon = Moses Capsali, Chief Rabbi in Mehmed's court
    • Rasca Tripon "Skandir" = Skanderbeg, war lord and national hero of Albania
    • The Djivo family shares several first names and some similarities to the Kaboga family, part of Dubrovnik’s aristocracy for generations.
  • Not So Different: The Senjani raiders are fully aware that their methods are virtually identical to those of their enemies. They don’t care.
  • Open Secret: Everybody in Dubrava is well aware that the doctors sent by Seressa are also spies.
  • Pirate Girl: Danica starts off as this among the Senjani, but her first raiding expedition doesn’t end well.
  • Please Select New City Name: After its fall to the Osmanlis, the city of Sarantium was renamed Asharias.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Senjani dedicate their entire existence to fighting the Asharites for the glory of Jad and their Emperor.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Chancellor Savko orders the Senjani to send 100 fighters to reinforce the garrison of Woberg fortress in order to weaken them an appease the Seressini. They end up crippling the Osmanli army and stop the invasion all by themselves.
    • Savko's intent was not to weaken them, although he acknowledged that it was possible that their vulnerability would lead to their downfall. Primarily, giving them that order gave the appearance of being incredibly unreasonable, while knowing that the Senjani would go through with it without question. It allowed them the opportunity for glory in the face of the Osmanli Army, which, if achieved, would serve as more than enough reason for Rodolfo to shield them politically from the Seressini demands, which otherwise he would have been obligated to acquiesce to because they owned seemingly all of the Imperial debt. From the chapter:
      "He thought about Senjan, the orders he'd just given to his secretary to have carried the long way south. They would obey those orders. He knew it...
      And in obeying, they would be terribly vulnerable, of course. But, Savko told himself, it was necessary. It was his way of trying to protect them against the demand coming from Seressa here in a day or two. The republic had given the emperor money he needed. And they would need more. You owed someone a debt and it would be called, one way or another.
      Seressa wanted Senjan destroyed. And though Rodolfo wouldn’t want to allow it, would feel strongly (as strongly as he felt about anything not alchemical) about the matter, his chancellor might have the duty of telling him that a town of raiders, howsoever brave and loyal, could not be measured in the scales against Woberg, which could not be allowed to fall.
      He might buy some time for Senjan with that letter he’d just written. Or he might have killed a great many heroes of that town. You could do that, kill people with a letter scribbled in a palace room, copied and carried across hills and rivers and valleys."
  • Rebel Leader: Rasca Tripon, known as Skandir, is a former Sarantine noble from Trakesia who continues the fight against the Osmanlis as a guerrilla, even though he has no hope of ever defeating them.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Every time the Seressini are caught red-handed doing something they shouldn't, they tend to get out trouble by throwing massive amounts of money at the problem.
  • You Killed My Father: The main drive of Danica’s hatred of the Asharites is that they destroyed her village, killed most of her family and took her brother.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The raiders of Senjan are considered heroes by most of the Jaddite world, but as far as the Osmanlis are concerned, they're nothing but brigands and rebels. This also applies to their activities at sea, as the Serenissi and Dubravae consider them nothing but pirates and utterly loath them.

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