Sunday, February 2, 2014

Discovering River of Stars' structure

In an unprecedented move, the shift into part five is virtually nonexistent. In every other move between parts in River of Stars Kay has had us move ahead in time or jump into a radically different perspective. As part five opens, however, it seems likely that minutes have passed - or even that the events described are happening simultaneously with those of chapter XXIV.

Along with shocking me and giving this part a definite climactic feel, it confirms a suspicion.

River of Stars is a tale of fantasy inspired by Chinese history and culture. Within Chinese culture the number six has special significance, appearing again and again in hexagonal designs and architecture. Each of the books parts has six chapters.

According to ancient Chinese thought, the world followed cycles that five elements or phases (water, wood, fire, earth, metal) expressed. River of Stars has five distinct parts. As long as Wikipedia's order and explanation of these five phases is accurate, Kay's parts mirror them exactly.

I've expected this sort of correlation for some time, since he does a fine job of paying respect to Chinese culture in other aspects of the book.

Within the cycle of the elements, part five is a perfect fit for water. Chapter XXV is all about retreating and regrouping.

Chapter XXV is also set up to be the climax for Ren and Shan's romance. They are set to part once more, something that can really hit you if you've ever been in a long distance relationship.

Ultimately, though, the twenty-fifth chapter of River of Stars is a medley of important events and perspectives. My sense going forward is that the book's final five chapters will mostly be dealing with the fallout from these events rather than anything new. Aside, probably, from the child that Ren and Shan conceive on their final night together.

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