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1: Summer Tree, The: Book One of the Fionavar Tapestry Paperback – April 1, 2001
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Praise for The Fionovar Tapestry trilogy
"Kay's bestselling - and stunning - fantasy trilogy finds its power not in its feats of imagination or world-building (though there are dazzling heapings of both) but from its rootedness in the reality of human emotions and relationships." --The Globe and Mail
“Immense scale, literary richness and dazzling heroes.”--Toronto Star
“A remarkable achievement . . . the essence of high fantasy.”—Locus
“A grand galloping narrative . . . reverberates with centuries of mythic and incantory implications—with a little Prince Hal and Falstaff on the side.”—Christian Science Monitor
"The Fionavar Tapestry, when all is said and done, is one of the most beautifully written and moving fantasy trilogies ever written. Those are very large words, but I truly believe this book is large enough to fit into such a reputation."--Green Man Review
Praise for the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay
“[Read] anything by Guy Gavriel Kay... His strengths are strong characters and fantastic set pieces.”--The New Yorker
“History and fantasy rarely come together as gracefully or readably as they do in the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay.”--The Washington Post Book World
“Kay is a genius. I've read him all my life and am always inspired by his work.”--#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson
"A storyteller on the grandest scale."--Time Magazine, Canada
From the Back Cover
It all began with a lecture that introduced five university students to a man who would change their lives, a wizard who could take them from Earth to the heart of the first of all worlds--Fionavar. And take them Loren Silvercloak did, for his need--the need of Fionavar and all the worlds--was great indeed.
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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This is a genre trilogy done wonderfully well. Yes, it ticks the boxes, a group of friends who just so happen to arrive in a foreign place of the eve of catastrophe. Who just so happen to have the skills/knowledge/missing piece of the puzzle to help fight the good fight. Same old story right? Not at all. The clever interweaving of plot lines and character development have the reader properly drawn into the various battles. Invested in hoping everyone 'makes it'.
Highly enjoyable for fantasy readers, more so if you have even the foggiest ideas of who the Goddesses of War are, or The Green Man, or Arthur, Genevieve, and Lancelot - with a bit of knowledge, the fore-shadowing simply adds to the joys and tragedies.
Fantasy readers should definitely give this trilogy a good look.
As the reviews below discuss, the basis gist is that 5 university students in Toronto meet a mage from another world (Fionavar). He takes the five back to Fionavar in order to be guests as the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the king of one of the kingdoms in Fionavar. While there, an evil god, imprisoned a thousand years prior during a great war, breaks free and threatens the freedom of the world.
This plotline may sound cliche, and I will certainly admit that Kay's work, read today, is nothing unique or exceptional in terms of plotting. The dark lord threatens creation and is stopped by a stranger plot-line is well established. Kay's strength is in the sheer craftmanship of the book. The macro-plot may be fairly standard, but the micro-plot is not. The novel successfully weaves elements of mythology (figures such as the Celtic Cernunnos and Manannán mac Lir, the Nordic Odin, and the Roman Artemis all have parallels in Fionavar) with the unique lore and history of his own constructed world. In addition, the individual journeys of each of the characters, emotionally, I do not believe is possible to predict over the course of the three books of this trilogy.
The true measure of Kay's work, however, is in the language. I feel badly for anyone not reading this book in English (just like I feel badly that I can't read Jose Saramago in Portugese), because the language is often exceptionally poetic. From describing a father's pride in his two sons and his daughter to describing the pain and suffering of a man who has suffered a devastating emotional loss and never been able to forgive himself for imagined sins, Kay's language will transport and move you.
There are certainly weaknesses to the book. Kay's work often relies on the reader's intuition to add in character detail. Kay often glosses over the practical realities of five people from modern Canada being transported to a quasi-medieval realm. Kay also often provides a one-sided historical analysis to the mythology and lore.
I think the best way to look at this book is as a novel meeting a poem meeting a ballad or dirge. This series is, far more than this other works, about the nobility of loss in war. If you read it and expect it to be a methodical as George R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire," Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson's "The Wheel of Time," or Margaret Weis/Tracy Hickman's "The Deathgate Cycle" where everything fits into place and is explained, you'll miss a great deal. This book is meant to be mystical - and mysticism requires mystery. Magic is only explained in the most basic of ways, the rules that govern the gods in this series are not explained. I like to think of this book as a piece like a bard would tell over a fireside - it's an exercise in beautiful rhetoric with amazing language. It makes sense, and all of the plot pieces fit well together, make sense, and are generally logical. But if you're the sort of reader who NEEDS the details to be answered or needs a logical explanation for everything that happens in a book, you may not love this book. If, on the other hand, you want the written word to set you on fire - this is the book for you.