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Summer Tree, The: Book One of the Fionavar Tapestry Paperback – April 1, 2001
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From the Back Cover
And in a marvelous land of men and dwarves, of wizards and gods--and of the Unraveller and his minions of Darkness--Kimberly, Dave, Jennifer, Kevin, and Paul discovered who they were truly meant to be. For the five were a long-awaited part of the pattern known as the Fionavar Tapestry, and only if they accepted their destiny would the armies of the Light stand any chance of surviving when the Unraveller unleashed his wrath upon the world. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The language is frequently lyrical, far above the usual standard for fantasy writing; "words more strung with fire", to use one of Kay's own phrases, than any but the likes of, say, Bradbury's. The whole really IS a tapestry; a complex and intricate interweaving of different characters, plot strands, and fantasy elements. And so tightly and carefully woven that it's unbelievable - half a sentence in one book can subtly foreshadow a major event in another book three hundred pages later - yet it's never slow, as I'd expect given all the connections and resonances. You just don't normally find this level of plaited storytelling, even in the endless 300 pound series.
Obviously I was blown away by this trilogy - will probably read it every few years for life - but many of the Amazon reviews were negative and I'd like to address some of the comments. First, a number of the reviewers seemed to be giving Kay low marks mostly because he hadn't written some other book. For instance, some would have preferred a book in which all the characters came from the one world, not some from Fionavar and some from earth. Or some would have preferred a book that was more like Tolkien, or less like Tolkien, etc. I'd say that these are simply valid alternate choices as to the form, and he should be judged on the job he did, not downgraded because he didn't write another book entirely.
A few reviewers thought the plot cliche or even PREDICTABLE. I'll just flat-out claim that noone could have predicted his plot; it was simply too complex and detailed. It could only be honestly considered cliche or predictable if you simplify it to the level of Good vs. Evil; who's going to win? If that's the criterion then many, if not most, fantasy books just fail.
I do agree with some reviewers that it seemed like the 'earthlings' adapted amazingly well to an entirely new existence on another world and seemed to cut loose of their pasts with almost no remorse. Though I'd almost bet that Kay had that all worked out in his mind, not enough justification made it into the pages of the books. He did give us a few reasons(and hints)to think that some of the 'earthlings' had no strong personal ties back home, and that the one who did frequently thought about that tie, (his father), but I too think that he could have fleshed that out more.
And I agree that the two female main characters weren't
delineated well enough at the beginning. At first it was hard to really tell them apart, (though after a critical event in one of their lives that problem was taken care of).
There are some smaller imperfections as well, but compared to the vast majority of fantasy books out there...!
Kim, Jennifer, Paul, Dave, and Kevin are friends. They attend the same college in Toronto. And, on one extremely fateful night, they attend the same lecture by a renowned professor. Dr. Marcus even invites them back to his home after the lecture, and that is approximately where things begin to run off the rails. It turns out Dr. Marcus is in fact a mage from another world known as Fionavar. Fionavar is the original world, Dr. Marcus (or rather Loren Silvercloak) informs them, upon which all other worlds (including Earth) are based. He would like to formally invite the five to return home with him, as it is the 50th anniversary of the current king's reign, and celebrations are in order. Confusion reigns as well, and before they know it, the two girls and three boys are far, far away. Thrown into a massively foreign and complex world, they each struggle to find a reason they were called to be there in this auspicious moment in Fionavar's history. Of course, there are a myriad reasons and they each find out (with a vengeance) the precise role they are to play in the violent and mythical conflict that is about to go down. Whether or not they will ever return to their homeland is a question that becomes increasingly irrelevant the longer they spend in this First of all Worlds.
"After the war was over, they bound him under the Mountain."
While this series clearly inherits largely from Tolkein and C.S. Lewis (via The Chronicles of Narnia), I feel it's fair to say that you haven't read a writer quite like Kay. His language is poetic and sprawling, and he has a gorgeous talent for metaphor and poignancy. THE SUMMER TREE definitely starts off with a bang, but it took me awhile to get my footing amid Canadian college students suddenly mingling with elves and archmages. It also took me a good number of pages to warm up to four of the five main characters. Paul was always where it was at for me. I liked him from the start, this haunted boy with so much music and loss in his past. It was without surprise that I found he was to have the longest road to walk of all. But warm up to the rest I did, and that is mainly due to the way they care about each other and the way that Kay wove them into their roles. The denizens of Fionavar are, well, awesome right from the start. I particularly enjoyed the politics and the expansive geography of this realm, all of it existing under the shadow of the Unraveller--Rakoth Maugrim. A fallen god himself, his specter taints every interaction in this sweeping tale. The whole thing builds to a ripping good (and excruciating) climax, in which my beloved Paul plays a pivotal role. Things get painful at the end. And violent. And I do mean painful. And violent. But know that it gets better. Also, there is a serious cliffhanger. So I would advise having book two in hand if at all possible. The incredible setup, the world itself, and the final chapters are what make this book. There are quite a few disturbing turns taken as well, and I can only say that the next two installments are thoroughly worthwhile. While I think The Wandering Fire is my favorite (I'm a sucker for middle novels), the entire trilogy is a feat of storytelling. If you're in the mood for beautiful prose and the highest of high fantasy, I suggest a trip to the K section of your library or bookstore.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Fionavar Tapestry is a work of sublime beauty. I am a lover of great prose, poetic prose, elegant prose; and that is why I...