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The Lions of Al-Rassan Mass Market Paperback – March 22, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian attorney Kay has eschewed the courtroom thriller for fantasy (A Song for Arbonne, etc.). Here he draws on the crumbling empire of medieval Spain to inspire this tale of brutality and romance. Though the setting is the fictitious Al-Rassan, and there are passing references to the "Star-born," any ancillary connection with science fiction is almost irrelevant to the story. Kay provides insightful glimpses into the goals and motives of his many characters, including King Almalik of Cartada, his advisor Ammar ibn Khairan, a young soldier, Alvar de Pellino, and the compelling female physician Jehane. Mindful of the confusion that alternate universes can create for readers, Kay is careful to periodically summarize the current positions of the various factions in the struggles between the many kingdoms in the empire. Studded with poetry that is evocative of Spain (some selections are reminiscent of El Cid), the story is buttressed with convincing cultural and social details and descriptions of medicine as it was practiced in the 12th century. Genre fans looking for more romance and strong female character development will find this an engrossing tale.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kay's thoroughly excellent new novel resembles his Song for Arbonne (1992) in that there is no magic in it. Instead, Kay deftly and intelligently bends history at a slightly different angle. The setting is a variant early medieval Spain whose Muslims, Christians, and Jews are also suitably modified. The story turns on the rivalries between the Kingdom of Al-Rassan, once mighty but now split into quarreling principalities, and the kings of the Jaddites. Far to the north, the Jaddites hope to reclaim Al-Rassan, which was once theirs. Into this skillfully imagined, eloquently described stew of war, intrigue, and magnificence happen a warrior from each side and a female physician. The threesome's adventures constitute the bulk of a long but never padded, demanding but enormously rewarding novel. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 554 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (March 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061056219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061056215
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,024,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The characters are larger than life, as in all Kay's books.
This book, like all Guy Gavriel Kay books, draws you into the lives of strong characters female and male alike.
Rhonda Strange
Like the characters of George R.R. Martin's epic series, the character's of Kay's novel are richly drawn.
Joseph Finley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Prateek Lala on December 30, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let me begin by addressing the quality of this book: you will be hard-pressed to find another that is more smoothly written, from beginning to end, with better character development, plot and sub-plot development, and literary lyricism. Mr. Kay's use of language is clean and yet amazingly deep; the thoughtfulness that he puts into creating each of his characters is evident in the complexity of their interactions and growth. Based loosely on the unification of medieval Spain after its Islamic inhabitation, "The Lions of Al-Rassan" is a marvelously constructed one-volume epic of love, friendship, hope, betrayal, conquest, and all the other flavours that make great fantasy great. This one's a keeper.
A question about some of the earlier reviews: why is it that some people seem to be disappointed by Kay's use of historical events as the basis for the plot? (For those of you unfamiliar with his works, he uses Renaissance Italy as a framework for "Tigana", Medieval Provence as the setting in "A Song for Arbonne", and early Christian Byzantium in "Sailing to Sarantium".) Personally, I see no reason for an author to create new worlds out of whole cloth every time s/he writes a novel. Moreover, Mr. Kay's method inspired me to learn more about the real historical events that his novels are based on. After reading LoA-R, I felt a compulsion to learn more about medieval Spain and the devastation that occurred with both the triumph and defeat of its Islamic invaders. After "Sailing to Sarantium," I hankered after knowing what really happened during the period of Justinian, Theodora, and Belisarius, the Byzantine emperor, empress, and general whom Kay patterned his characters after.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Kseniya Slavsky on June 18, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I will not mince words - this book takes a while to get going. But a thing as true is that few books are as worth the wait as this one.
The story tells of a woman named Jehane and two men, Rodrigo and Ammar. Jehane is a doctor, Rodrigo - a military hero, and Ammar - a legendary monster. Jehane lives by her doctor's oath. Rodrigo fights with as much honor as flesh-carving work can encompass. Ammar weaves his way through court intrigue, soiled by it to the point of no return. Yet he persists, not for his own honor, for little remains of that, nor for his own survival, but for the survival of his culture - the culture of Al-Rassan.
Three people - each touched by the hand of a ruler; three lives twisted forever by the touch. Jehane's father, the most renowned physician in two generations, kept his doctor's vow at the cost of cruel punishment by the hand of the king he helped. Rodrigo stayed loyal to a dead king and was exiled by the new one - exiled away from his land, away from his sons, away from the woman he loves madly - whom every man loves madly, having once laid eyes on her. Ammar killed a ruler to put another in his place - killed an inept ruler, replacing him with a better. It was done to keep Al-Rassan breathing. It shattered his life, branded him a monster. Now, a man who once turned the fate of a kingdom is at the mercy of a cruel, power-mad ruler - a ruler he brought to power. And Ammar is still the favored royal scapegoat.
Jehane, Rodrigo, Ammar - each defined by a role and a task; none fully encompassed by a single role. Jehane, sworn to protect life, seeks to take one, in bloody revenge. Rodrigo, who lives by his loyalty and honor, seeks to return home, knowing that to return to his wife's arms he must also embrace a traitorous king.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Maximiliano F Yofre on March 26, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The Lions of Al-Rassan is what is usually defined, as a Fantasy book. But in my opinion is more than that. Kay has researched the historical period he reflects in this "alternate universe", and gives an accurate and sensible picture of it: the value of honor, the religious beliefs (even if disguised with other names and nuisances), the mixed loyalties (to country, king, family and religion), poetry and medicine among others.
The story is loosely based on the medieval poem The Song of Mio Cid, around year 1000 in the Iberic peninsula, three cultures mixing and interacting; a main character from each of them: the courageous Captain Belmonte, the sage and stubborn doctoress Jehane and the cunning warrior-poet-politic Ammar, the three of them draw a complex and absorbing tapestry.
Kay is masterful depicting scenes that lead the reader to jump to conclusions that are, astonishingly, proved wrong a couple of pages later, this keep you reading on tiptoes, expecting new surprises... and they show up even if you are warned.
The descriptions of cities, rural places, king's courts, markets have a distinctive flavor, without being boring. The different characters are fully human and interesting, not two dimensional stereotypes as may be expected in Fantasy story. The inner thoughts of most of them are shown, giving insight as to why they do what they do.
A book to enjoy by different audiences.
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have been hungrily devouring Guy Gavriel Kay's book's for the last couple of months, and if you haven't read any of his stuff yet, consider yourself incredibly lucky...and get started right away! Personally, just to begin, I would start with Tigana and A song for Arbonne, two of his earlier works that are my favorites. These two books are more what one would expect of a Fantasy novel, as they have all the requisite good/evil battles with magical beings set in imaginary lands.
The Lions of Al Rassan differs from some of his other work in that there is no real magic (except for a few of the characters who have "the sight"). But as much as I hate to admit it, as an avid Fantasy fan, it really did not make much difference to me. The story is really engrossing, the characters were so compelling and the bond between them so strong, that I was swept away into this mythical world, just as I have been transported in other the great fantasy novels I have read.
The mythical quasi-moorish world of Al-Rassan is hauntingly beatiful, and one can really see that the author has done his homework (as he usually does, all of his books always seem to be meticulously researched without being dull, historical replicas won't want to leave this enchanting place!)
I think Kay is one of the best Fantasy writers out there (should I even limit it to "Fantasy"? I think at this point he has crossed over into main stream fiction and is doing so beautifully...I think many new readers will be lured into the Fantasy genre due to the impact of his books...they really appeal to anyone who enjoys a well-written adventure novel).
His characters are all incredibly passionate (yes, and sexy!), fiercely intelligent and a joy to read.
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