I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Shen Tai, son of an illustrious general serving the Emperor of Kitai, has spent two years honoring the memory of his late father by burying the bones of the dead from both armies at the site of one of his father's last great battles. In recognition of his labors and his filial piety, an unlikely source has sent him a dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses.
You give a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.
Exquisitely written, completely engrossing and extremely satisfying. Shen Tai is an unusual man--thoughtful, but also a man of action. A scholar, but capable with a weapon. He must decide if he will pursue the dangerous life of a man at court when he returns from his self-imposed exile among the ghosts of the battlefield, and he must make his decision at full speed with assassins pursuing him and members of the Imperial Court trying to use him.
Kay's poetic writing is perfect for this Tang Dynasty China adventure. There is rarely a word out of place. I will look forward to reading the next book in this setting, River of Stars.