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The Last Light of the Sun (Kay, Guy Gavriel) Hardcover – March 2, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Kay, Guy Gavriel
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Roc Hardcover; 1St Edition edition (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451459652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451459657
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,243,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this wonderfully imaginative historical fantasy from Kay (A Song for Arbonne), seemingly random deeds connect Erling (Viking) raiders and Anglcyn (English) and Cyngael (Welsh) princes: If only Bern Thorkellson hadn't stolen that horse in a desperate act of vengeance against his sorry fate; if only Dai ab Owyn hadn't stepped outside the safety of Brynfell right at the moment when the Erlings attacked; if only Ivarr Ragnarson hadn't been born ill-formed and downright cruel; if only Aeldred hadn't been king of the Anglcyn; if only Thorkell Einarson had murdered only one man and not the second; if only Alun ab Owyn hadn't stepped into that pool on a moonless night and seen the Queen of the Elves in procession. At first glance, each individual's act appears to be a normal human response. It's only later, as the characters' paths cross, that the pieces come together to weave a dazzling tapestry of conjoined fates. Solid research, filtered through vibrant prose, serves to convey a sense of how people really lived and died in Viking and Anglo-Saxon times and how they might have interacted with the realm of magic on a daily basis. Readers of lighter fantasy should be forewarned—the novel contains a lot of gruesome killing and the fairy world plays a relatively minor role, as do women.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kay's third excellent fantasy set in the world of The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995) and The Sarantine Mosaic (1999) begins about three centuries after the events of the latter. The place is an alternate Britain, the specific time the era in which a king modeled on Alfred of Wessex (849-99), called the Great, began to make headway against raiders from the north. The times and the battles are presented from several points of view, including those of Bern Thorkellson, a young northern outlaw; Aeldred of the Anglcyn (Alfred); his children; and Cenion, a learned cleric of Llywerth (Wales). Not all the battles involve weapons. The princes of Llywerth struggle with the half-world not accepted by the new faith of Jad, and Aeldred fights to get his lords to learn to use more than their weapons. The Erlings (northmen) struggle for a living, as their lives and land are hard, but realize that raiding is harder than it used to be. A distinguished story that, for those so inclined, poses intriguing historical riddles. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Genevieve M. Ellerbee on March 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Among the many things he does well, Kay specializes in writing about a court - the intricacies, the intellegence, the glittering people, the poison behind the smiles, the price of ruling and the penalties of power. This book (although it still contains a small amount of this for one of the three groups of intermingling characters) reads very much like a Kay stripped of courtliness, artifice and glamor, and well it should. It is set, unlike his other books, in a place where people are still hacking out civilization from the surrounding forests. The courts we do see are precarious, new entities still fighting for their survival. Blood and death are much closer to the surface here, with no overlay of manners or graces to soften the blow. Kay's writing reflects this, by growing slightly choppier, cruder, more blunt. As an evocation of the timeperiod and the nature of the people that inhabit this world, it works marvelously. While not as bleak as George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books, this is probably the bleakest of Kay's works.
I am writing this after only one read, and if there's anything I've learned, it's that Kay's writing deserves more than this. He is a master of nuance and subtlety, so I know that when I go back to the book I will discover new things. But as of this moment, it doesn't rank first among my personal hierarchy of Kay's work. The characters I grew most attatched to in the book did not have central roles, and I admit to finding Bern and Alun difficult characters to relate to. It is a good example of reading a book that you know, technically, is very good, but still have difficulty warming up to.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that although I didn't enjoy the book as much as others by Kay (the Sarantine Mosaic duology and Song for Arbonne, specifically), saying you have a bad Kay is like saying you have a bad painting by Da Vinci. Such a beast is still head and shoulders above most other books written today.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Indy Reviewer VINE VOICE on March 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Every Kay novel is worth reading compared to much of the drivel that is formulaic fantasy. But The Last Light of the Sun seems to be typical of Kay's more recent efforts. It's brilliantly researched, well written, has intriguing characters - but unlike his earlier works like Tigana or the Fionavar Tapestry missing a truly compelling plot. Still, very much worth a read.
The tapestry is set amid the decline of Viking influence in say 8th or 9th century England. The plot revolves around Vikings seeking vengance against the Welsh/Irish who scored the first victory against the Vikings in memory, and then moves to the English side of the border as a couple of Welsh principals ally with the first Anglo-Saxon king to both defeat and build his kingdom up against the Vikings before the main characters return to Wales for one final battle. Throw in a bit of Celtic myth as the magic/fantasy side of the plot and some interesting backplot on how the Viking raiders got to be where and who they are and you have the book. Kay does his usual great job in making all the characters, their culture, and their motivation extraordinarily well detailed and believable.
Why only 4 stars? It's the plot. I think part of the problem is that for the first time since the Fionavar tapestry Kay is back on ground that most readers know well; part of the glory of Tigana and The Lions of Al-Rassan is that the average reader probably doesn't have a good grip on medieval Italy, Germany, France, and Spain, where Anglo-Saxon England has been rehashed in hundreds if not thousands of fantasy novels.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nick - Former Book Store owner on February 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Guy Gavriel Kay has been expanding the borders of the Fantasy genre ever since he began the Fionavar Tapestry (in 1984). This is his strength, what makes his novels a cut above the rest. "The Last Light of the Sun" is set in a world we might recognize as 9th century Britain / Scandinavia, with a few names changed and some major "philosophical" tweaks. I have read the legend of The Marsh King (aka Alfred the Great) many times, but never in such vital prose or with such pace. It is very difficult to put down, right from the start. Other authors who attempt this sort of fantasy, such as Jack Whyte, do an equally impressive job researching, but cannot convert the material into such a gripping story, or the characters into such engagingly real people. Of course, the main characters seem to be male, because it is a story of struggle between cultures, and women do not, as a rule, take up arms in such causes. Kay's women do the logical thing, influencing the male characters, which gives them as large a role, in keeping with their abilities and their culture. Many of the events hinge on the decision of a female character, and readers ignore this at their peril. Occasionally, Kay takes a few pages to illuminate a character who only brushes the central story for a brief moment. This is refreshingly original, adding to the depth of the tapestry, without cluttering the central picture with undue detail in the manner of the much maligned (but still popular!) Robert Jordan.

Kay's novels (except the Fionavar trilogy) do not deal with Great Evil & Great Good, like most fantasy, but rather with ordinary people who are more or less Good or Evil, and conflicting cultures, each with better or worse features, and their ability to adapt to each other in order to survive.
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