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Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay(1954- )
Guy Gavriel Kay is a lawyer who helped edit some of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works in the 1970s. Many of GGK’s novels could be classified as historical fantasy. You can read excerpts of Guy Gavriel Kay’s award-winning fantasy at his website.

Guy Gavriel Kay talks about music, poetry, literature, and scotch

In case you haven't noticed, we're fans of Guy Gavriel Kay, and Rob and Stefan recently reported that Mr. Kay's newest novel, Under Heaven, which releases today, is definitely up to par. (Comment below for your chance to win a copy.) While striving to suppress his enthusiasm about speaking with his favorite fantasy author, Rob was recently able to chat coherently with GGK about his newest work

Robert Rhodes: As with your previous books, I greatly enjoyed and admired Under Heaven. The setting of this novel is likely to be fresh to most Western readers. Which elements of 8th-century Chin... Read More

Rob chats with Guy Gavriel Kay about River of Stars

I’m happy to temporarily come out of FanLit retirement to spend some time with my favorite author, Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay’s newest novel, River of Stars, was released today and it’s as wonderful as I’d hoped (here’s my review). Bill and Kelly loved it, too. Trust us: you don’t want to miss River of Stars!

We’re giving away a copy of River of Stars to one random commenter with a U.S.A. address.

Robert Rhodes: I have in hand a beautiful edition of your new novel, River of Stars. Your previous work, Under Heaven, appeared three years ago, in April of 2010 April's no longer the cruelest month, is it? Both ... Read More

The Summer Tree: Not our favorite work by GGK

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

I absolutely loved everything about Guy Gavriel Kay’s stand-alone novels Tigana and A Song for Arbonne, so it was with great excitement that I downloaded the newly released audio version of The Summer Tree, the first novel in his famous The Fionavar Tapestry.

In The Summer Tree we meet Loren Silvercloak, a wizard who has traveled from the world of Fionavar to Toronto to fetch five university students (three guys and two girls) who are needed to help fight an ancient evil force that has been bound under a mountain for centuries. It is awakening, has adversely affected the weather, an... Read More

The Wandering Fire: Conventional high fantasy

The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay

It’s been 1½ years since I read The Summer Tree, Guy Gavriel Kay’s first novel and the first in his Fionavar Tapestry. I mentioned in the review for that book that I’m an adoring fan of Kay’s later stand-alone novels but that I found The Summer Tree derivative and heavy. I would have happily skipped its sequel, The Wandering Fire, but I had already purchased it at Audible, so I thought I’d give it a chance to win me over. Simon Vance, the narrator, is one of my favorites and his bad Canadian accents were toned down this time, which made him pleasant to listen to, as usual.

In this installment, the five college students are back home in Toronto after Kim whisked them out of Fionavar when she heard Jennifer being tortured after being raped by the dark lord, Rakoth Maugrim. Jennifer became pr... Read More

Tigana: Fascinating story filled with passion

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana is a masterpiece.

It is difficult to summarize the plot, for so much of the story unfolds organically — indeed, as a near-perfect tainflower — that one fears to spoil the pleasure of becoming swept up in the narrative. That said, the tale concerns the Palm, a mythic penninsula reminiscent of Italy, a land divided between two wizard-conquerors. One conqueror has utterly blighted the province of Lower Corte with an undreamt-of dark magic. (Take a fresh look at the map of the Palm mid-way through, and you will grasp the immensity of the spell!) A handful of refugees must undo the spell... yet if the one wizard falls, the other will irrevocably gain control of the Palm, leaving the deadly choice: the breaking of the spell, interminable conquest... or, perhaps, perhaps, the smallest gleam of freedom.

Guy Gavriel Kay's writing flows well, as a... Read More

A Song for Arbonne: Reverberates with the slow, sweet music of humanity

A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

In this homage to the troubadours and the "court of love" of medieval France, Guy Gavriel Kay comes down from the dizzying heights of The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy and creates a beautiful and memorable tale of mere mortals ensnared by political intrigue, enmity and love. (GGK does allude to Fionavar quite nicely, however, in a brief lullaby.)

While the plot is perhaps too complex for adequate summary here, it's certainly not too complex for your reading pleasure. At the heart of this tale of an alternate medieval reality is Blaise of Gorhaut (Germany), a knight who has traveled to "sun-blessed" Arbonne (France) for the primary purpose of leaving his past behind. As events unfold, however, Blaise is carried higher and higher into the... Read More

The Last Light of the Sun: Another lovely historical fantasy by GGK

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Last Light of the Sun is another of Guy Gavriel Kay’s lovely historical fantasies. This one blends Norse, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon histories with a bit of faerie mythos. We follow a few main characters from each of these societies as they interact with each other to shape their land and destinies. As usual in a Guy Gavriel Kay novel, we see the struggles from each perspective, so there’s no single “hero” or “villain.” We understand what motivates each of the characters and their culture and we can admire their strengths and recognize their weaknesses. In the end, we want everyone to win but, of course, that’s not what happens.

I thought the cast of The Last Light of the Sun was not as accessible or compelling as that of Tigana Read More

The Lions of Al-Rassan: Political intrigue, romance, poetry, passion

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

In the turbulent region that used to be the stable empire of Al-Rassan, petty kings vie for power. Each of these rulers is ambitions and clever, but none of them has been able to acquire his position without the help of others — crafty advisors, brave army commanders, brilliantly inventive doctors, devoted wives and children — and sometimes the same people who have served them well are the same ones who may later cause their downfall.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is the story of a few of these people, how they worked for (and sometimes against) the rulers they pledged to serve, and how they brought about the rise and fall of nations. The infamous Ammar ibn Khairan — King Almalik’s soldier, advisor, assassin, and poet — is known as the man who assassinated the last Khalif of al-Rassan. The notorious Rodrigo Belmonte — King Ramiro’s best commander — is the... Read More

Sailing to Sarantium: Historical fantasy

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

The new emperor in Sarantium has a lot to atone for, so he’s building a grand chapel to his god and calling the most famous artisans in the surrounding regions to come work for him. Crispin, a mosaicist from a neighboring country, is one of these. Unhappy since his wife and children died, Crispin doesn’t think he has much to live for anymore, and he doesn’t want to go to Sarantium. But when his young queen, who sits her throne precariously, asks Crispin to carry a secret proposal to the already-married emperor of Sarantium, Crispin is duty-bound. Now he is “sailing to Sarantium,” which means that he’s leaving everything behind to start a promising new life. Along the way, he befriends an alchemist with strange powers, a young woman who’s about to be sacrificed to a god, and a foul-mouthed army officer who loves to watch the chariot races. When Crispin gets to Sarantium, he finds that decorati... Read More

Lord of Emperors: So much drama and passion

Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay

Lord of Emperors is the second (and final) novel in Guy Gavriel Kay’s THE SARANTINE MOSAIC duology. The story, set in a pseudo-Byzantine Empire, mostly centers on Crispin, a mosaicist from a neighboring kingdom who’s been commissioned to decorate the ceiling of a new chapel the emperor is building. Against his wishes, Crispin has been drawn into the Sarantine court’s political intrigue. In this second installment, the political turmoil finally comes to a head and Crispin’s life is, once again, drastically altered by events he can’t control. Not only are his and his friends’ lives in danger, but the changing political climate has major consequences for his art.

While reading Sailing to Sarantium, the first book in the THE SARANTINE MOSAIC, I had a hard time believing in the characters and the drama ... Read More

Ysabel: GGK didn’t work out for me this time

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

What can I say about this book? If I see a new Guy Gavriel Kay book on the shelf at the bookstore, I buy it. It didn’t work out this time, though, and the reason is that the way this story is told makes no sense to me as a reader, and I cannot fathom why Kay wrote this book from the perspective of a teenager.

The story is about a fifteen year-old boy from Canada who accompanies his father, a world-renowned photographer, on a trip to Provence (southern France). Very quickly into this trip, the characters get caught up in a centuries-old love triangle contest to win the love of Ysabel, which has been waged between a Gaul and a Roman for over 2000 years.  The book is short enough that summarizing the plot further will spoil it completely.

What is good about this book? Kay’s lyrical style has always enthralled me, and I must say that it shone through in several parts of th... Read More

Under Heaven: Beautiful, epic, vintage GGK

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

 Under Heaven is the long-awaited new novel by master fantasist Guy Gavriel Kay — and let's get the most important news out of the way: it was 100% worth the wait.

Fans of Guy Gavriel Kay know that his novels often take place in what appear to be fantasy versions of real countries: A Song for Arbonne is set in 13th century France, The Lions of Al-Rassan in Spain during the Moorish occupation, and so on. Likewise, Under Heaven once again gently blends history and fantasy, taking place in Kitai, a country strongly reminiscent of China, during the Tang dynasty.

Here we meet Shen Tai, who is honoring his recently deceased father (a famed general) by burying the dead at the ghost-ridden site of a major battle. One fateful morning during this long, lonely exile, he lea... Read More

River of Stars: A beautifully crafted, moving novel

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

Since this is a fantasy review site, let’s get this out nice and early. Outside of its setting — a fictionalized and truncated version of China’ s 11th century Northern Song Dynasty — there is next to no fantasy in River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest work. A few ghosts, an occasional fox-woman, and that’s it. So fantasy readers will have to take those few bones tossed their way and then settle for graceful, lyrical prose, beautifully drawn characters, moments that stab the heart, a masterful sense of structure and pace, and an overall elegance and skill that denotes a novelist in complete control of his creation. Oh, the things we put up with.

The storyline is roughly that of the aforementioned period in China’s history. The Kitai Empire, reacting to long-ago rebellions by army commanders against the royal court, has allowed its armies to grow weak and its commanders in... Read More

Children of Earth and Sky: Another masterwork from Guy Gavriel Kay

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

A new Guy Gavriel Kay novel is cause for great celebration and anticipation in our household, as he has authored some of our most beloved novels over the decades (by “our” I mean my wife, my fifteen-year-old son, and myself). A consummate storyteller and stylist (the two don’t always go hand in hand), his long-term consistency is remarkable, and his newest work, Children of Earth and Sky, finds him still at the top of his form.

One way to describe a Guy Gavriel Kay novel is that it’s a bit like peering at history as it unfolds at the bottom of a pool of water (think of the water as Kay’s artistic imagination) — you mostly recognize what you’re looking at, but thanks to the effects of refraction and distortion, it’s just a little off, both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The same holds true here, with mostly clear analogues to time peri... Read More

A Brightness Long Ago: Beautifully evocative and moving

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

I confess that I always dread just a little bit reviewing a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel. Not because I’m concerned it won’t be any good; Kay writing a bad book would have to be on anyone’s list of Impending Signs of the Apocalypse. But because what makes his books not just good but stand-out good is so damn ineffable.

Granted, not solely so. I can easily toss off a host of tangible, well-crafted elements, all the usual suspects: fascinatingly rich characters, compelling plots, immersive world-building, etc. But the single best reason I can think of for reading a Guy Gavriel Kay book is the supreme elegance and grace of his writing. Which also happens to be the single worst recommendation for reading a Guy Gavriel Kay book. “Elegance and grace?” the potential reader says. “W... Read More

All the Seas of the World: A master working at the top of his craft

All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

As I write this, it’s early spring in Rochester, and those who live in the Northeast know what that means. Cold. Clouds. Wind. The false promise of warmth. The precipitation that no longer falls in feet and inches but instead has become a more annoying (and far less pretty) alternation of rain and sleet and hail that you know has to stop soon, will stop soon, but still Just. Keeps. On. Happening. Bleak, yes. But then here it is: a new Guy Gavriel Kay book arriving like an early harbinger of spring — a shaft of sun through the cloud cover, a cardinal’s trill cutting through the wind in the bushes, a sudden spike into the sixties. And suddenly you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

At least, not for a few hours, which is how long it took me to read All the Seas of the World, because when you start a Kay novel, you don’t want to put it down. Let the worl... Read More