there's a trick with a life that i'm learing to do: the works of guy gavriel kay

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

but it also needs needs to be remembered that sagas and idylls are constructed, that someone has composed their elements, selected and balanced them, bringing what art and inclination they have, as an offering

Poll Results

Sailing to Sarantium (1998) 1
The Lions of Al-Rassan, (1995) 1
Ysabel (2007) 0
The Last Light of the Sun (2004 0
Beyond This Dark House (2003) 0
Lord of Emperors (2000) 0
The Summer Tree (1984) 0
A Song for Arbonne (1992) 0
Tigana (1990) 0
The Darkest Road (1986) 0
The Wandering Fire (1986) 0
Under Heaven (2010) 0

(▀▄▀▄) (Lamp), Thursday, 18 February 2010 00:55 (ten years ago) link

haha so itt blog posts by me im guessing but:

just finished rereading the lions of al-rassan for the first time since 4ever and i think its p deeply fascinating in a coupla ways:

~ goes p far out its way not to indict any 1 faith/culture/ppl but its not partic ambiguous in its sympathies. p much a paean to inclusive liberal humanism as guiding light and to the value of multiculturalism

~ nvr noticed the 1st time but he does fail in giving the asharites religious figures a ~human face~ there is no analogue to innis or even the belmonte's cleric. wadjis just end up being these looming h8ful representatives of intolerance. p funny how often theyre used as hammers to the readers conscience/fear for the characters

~ been thinking a lot about inglorious basterds (too much?) and there are some 'interesting' similarities here but vengeance (jewish) is a complete non-starter. kay is p sickened by violence alvar's horror at his own competence and insistence that violence makes him complicit is really powerful. doubt mordy will read this thread but itd be cool if he read this book imo - makes a virtue of kindath's obstinate passivity and self-sacrifice. the chancellor's suicide difficult 2 parse 4 me.

~ books overriding humanism makes a lot of 'literary' tricks weird fake outs - the silk merchants/alvar's doubling the masks that don't really reveal anything the triads that are set up and then swiftly dismantled. parallel's are created and then betrayed p quickly (the outlaw and his sons). makes the characters really human i think

~ really nicely written i think lyrical w/o being overwritten in any way and p brisk. doesn't shift perspectives as much as i remembered voice stays personal. echos of the books optimistic fatalism are nice when he does zoom out partic some of the stuff in the prologue.

(▀▄▀▄) (Lamp), Thursday, 18 February 2010 02:46 (ten years ago) link

Hey Lamp-man. I'll check out Lions and come back to this thread with impressions.

Mordy, Thursday, 18 February 2010 04:10 (ten years ago) link

bamcquern, Thursday, 18 February 2010 23:04 (ten years ago) link

I remember rly liking & being caught up by Lions but I only read it once, and I have read Tigana and the Arthurian trilogy probably 10 times each.

Let's see how tough Aquaman is once we get him in the water. (Laurel), Thursday, 18 February 2010 23:13 (ten years ago) link

I mean you're going to force me to vote for Tigana b/c the first three can't be separated.

Let's see how tough Aquaman is once we get him in the water. (Laurel), Thursday, 18 February 2010 23:13 (ten years ago) link

bam idg your post

@laurel - listing the fionavar books as a single option probably makes sense certainly v similar in style and distinct from his other works. theyre probably my least favorite tbh. im not a big arthur nerd and lyrical high fantasy is nice but they seem p slight to me

tigana is great - 1st of his books where he really hits his stride - but for me this is btw lions and last light. last light is his strongest prose work imo and has the most interesting digressions into what 'history' is how its made, the spaces btw how we live and how we're remembered. i like that he uses shorter fragmented sentences for the pov chapters and then saves the more soaring, lyrical stuff for the digressions. also really like the short dips into the lives of ancillary characters: the girl @ the mill, an english boy, even the forest spirit.

(▀▄▀▄) (Lamp), Thursday, 18 February 2010 23:43 (ten years ago) link

lol @ me bein so high when i started this thread tho

cool story bro: my mom gave the fionavar tapestry books when i 1st started getting into fantasy books and the only other fantasy series id read were jordan & tolkein and i was really unsure of kay ~ remember being confused by the fact that he wasnt spending like anytime giving elaborate background details & instead kept talking abt ~feelings~ and shit.

paul (dihtr?) on the summer tree was ~amazing~ tho

(▀▄▀▄) (Lamp), Thursday, 18 February 2010 23:47 (ten years ago) link

The university doesn't have any. But then I wikipedia'd him.

bamcquern, Thursday, 18 February 2010 23:54 (ten years ago) link

There was a moment in Lions when a certain plot point snuck up one me because I was so totally ENGROSSED that I hadn't stopped to think, "Oh hey, yeah, that's foreshadowing, I can totally see where that's going, hooo-eee I'm smart" and it was like I was reading at the pace the characters were LIVING it (because they didn't have as much data as the reader) and then this thing happens and it prevents/alleviates a crushing heartbreak and you didn't think there was going to be a way out and then BAM.

Let's see how tough Aquaman is once we get him in the water. (Laurel), Friday, 19 February 2010 00:37 (ten years ago) link

Like I remember actually losing my breath.

Let's see how tough Aquaman is once we get him in the water. (Laurel), Friday, 19 February 2010 00:37 (ten years ago) link

I know I've read Arbonne but fuck if I can remember it now.

Let's see how tough Aquaman is once we get him in the water. (Laurel), Friday, 19 February 2010 00:46 (ten years ago) link

i think its to the book's credit that i wasnt entirely sure which thing u meant ;-)

arbonne was kinda girly iirc. i remember the plot/world/historical references but thats abt it. how did u feel about ysabel? in intvws hes been really cagey about referring to it as ya fic but i cant help but feel like thats what it is. felt like the characters werent as 'deep' or 'conflicted' as they should have been

abraham higginbotham is a dude (Lamp), Friday, 19 February 2010 01:33 (ten years ago) link

Haven't read, but I definitely will now. As soon as I pay off my Brooklyn library fines.... Or maybe they don't cross-link that shit across boroughs? That would be rad. Helloooooo, Manhattan library system!

Let's see how tough Aquaman is once we get him in the water. (Laurel), Friday, 19 February 2010 14:50 (ten years ago) link

I like Kay, btw, for having characters make comments or observations that are totally unexplained and that you'll have to just gloss over as you read unless you really grok what they're going through. Like, someone will have a thought that doesn't seem relevant to anything that just happened, but if you have internalized that character's personal struggle, you realize it relates to something they think or feel that has only been referred to tangentially before. And gradually an impression is built.

It's like his people are defined as much by their negative space as their positive space. Ultimate use of "show, not tell" afaic.

Let's see how tough Aquaman is once we get him in the water. (Laurel), Friday, 19 February 2010 14:54 (ten years ago) link

Question, if I don't generally like genre fiction, should I still read this?

Mordy, Saturday, 20 February 2010 05:35 (ten years ago) link

its not really that similar to trad fantasy but idk how sum1 who doesnt like any genre fiction f(n)s so

just supersayin (Lamp), Saturday, 20 February 2010 14:29 (ten years ago) link

I describe his books more as historically inspired fiction or as historical analogues than anything else - really strong elements of Moorish Spain in Lions of Al Rassan, Byzantine Empire in Sarantium / Lord of Emperors, Viking-age northern europe / Britain in Last Light of the Sun, etc. There are some fantastical elements but when present they're pretty low key in a sort of myth / superstition sort of way (barring the Fionnavar tapestry which is very traditional high fantasy).

Really difficult toss-up between Last Light of the Sun and Lions of Al Rassan for me but I have to give it to the latter; LLotS is better written but Lions had a greater emotional resonance.

I havn't read Ysabel or his poetry collection. Really stoked about his Tang dynasty China analogue coming up, some really rich material for him to draw on.

Matt D, Sunday, 21 February 2010 04:28 (ten years ago) link

three weeks pass...

^^^ just finished the new one "under heaven" & also reread "last light of the sun". bunch of similarities btw the two actually & in a way ysabel. havent really fully worked out how i feel abt under heaven yet but i think its curious & at least to me exciting to see him more thoroughly using the fantastic/mystical in his works. i think the increased presence of the supernatural elements in his historical fiction destabilizes and as he says universalizes his stories - makes them both strange & familiar to us.

lions & the mosaic novels in partic are almost purposefully mundane the hints of the fantastic mostly grace notes and in the 1st sarantine novel p awkward. but in last light and under heaven the fantastic stuff is really deft i think. largely because he seems aware of how much of "history" is just myth & of how the past is its own half-world living next to ours. the parallels he draws in last light btw the dying of the spirit wood & its bloody god and the other vignettes of inconsequential bit characters is p powerful. he has a great grasp of the singularity and inevitability of historical moments & under heaven is really good @ showing the ways that ppl are shaped by these moments & shape them in turn.

also both books have a similar fractured, impressionistic prose style that works better for his "idea" novels. & his humanism and his clarity and his affection are still really in evidence. also its rad to read a fantasy writer who seems to really care abt his female characters & abt making their voices considered and true. it was interesting reading him so soon after (finally) finishing steven erikson's latest which is so pompous and overwritten. & its funny bcuz erikson's obv concerned w/ similar things - the creation of history & identity, the cost of progress, the way power dehumanizes those that wield it - but erikson's vision seems so shallow in comparison. partly i think his hatred of modernity leads him down some p morally uhm problematic paths but its also just so much less considered.

no chapo (Lamp), Wednesday, 17 March 2010 07:16 (ten years ago) link

oh lol so tl;dr :/ cliffs: new kay novel is really good u shld read it

no chapo (Lamp), Wednesday, 17 March 2010 07:18 (ten years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Friday, 2 April 2010 23:01 (ten years ago) link

Question, if I don't generally like genre fiction, should I still read this?

Definitely yes. I am not a genre fiction person at all and Kay is one of my faves.

I am unsure how to vote. I want to vote for the entire Fionavar series, and also both Sarantium books.

franny glass, Saturday, 3 April 2010 20:07 (ten years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Saturday, 3 April 2010 23:01 (ten years ago) link


bamcquern, Sunday, 4 April 2010 02:11 (ten years ago) link

tigana wuz robbed imo

thomp, Sunday, 4 April 2010 10:35 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

I obviously didn't see this in time to vote b/c would have voted Fionavar Tap. Just breaks me me into pieces.

Finished Ysabel last night, brings it all back.

Octavia Butler's gonna be piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiised (Laurel), Tuesday, 27 September 2011 21:16 (nine years ago) link

I'd never heard of the author until just last week when a friend posted about picking up the Sarantium book and recommended it. I've got a bunch queued up, v. excited.

Jaq, Tuesday, 27 September 2011 21:50 (nine years ago) link

eight years pass...

btw i'm finally reading lions about [checks thread] only 10 years later! it's quite a quick and fun read. i do have impressions. the prose writing is strong, the theme is interesting but a little weird (i do get what he's trying to do - recreate these religious dynamics but around totally new theological constructs) tho i'm not sure it makes much sense without the correct theological context. and thematically it's more of a pulpy genre work than literary fiction (which is okay!). one thing about that that struck me tho is that when reading shogun (which is also v pulpy in some similar ways and not even as well written on a stylistic prose level) it helps that it was so intensely researched and you're clearly getting some access to something real in a particular time and place. whereas with this despite understanding the milieu he's drawing from i can't help but wish he just carefully researched and wrote about historical spain you know? i'm not sure how much he gained from fictionalizing it so deeply. also not sure how much the religious schema would work without some tricks he pulled like basically giving the various characters the "correct"(ish) names. "rebka bet jacub" or "ahmin ibn mabn" or whatever.

Mordy, Sunday, 26 April 2020 15:35 (six months ago) link

sometimes the prose writing is strong and sometimes tenses switch btwn present + past for no particular reason within a few paragraphs and i get a headache :/

Mordy, Monday, 27 April 2020 17:55 (six months ago) link

i'm almost finished reading lions. i did enjoy it, it was well-paced, and although i was ultimately disappointed in its ideas it had a few. re the question of presentation of the kindath it's funny but i'm reminded of the comment lamp made above "he does fail in giving the asharites religious figures a ~human face~" and how that applies the kindath as well whose representatives are only these cosmopolitan highly educated kindath (and really only jehane her family and mazur). jehane doesn't even believe in the traditional kindath god (the only real god she worships is the hippocrates analogue whose name is escaping me). in that sense the kindath really are super marginalized in this book - both by a lack of avatars, their one major example being such an exception, and then finally their major role being as victims (repeatedly) without real agency or even a sense of what they're doing beyond just being tragic. are they writing important medieval texts? maimonides, probably the greatest jewish philosopher, rationalist and legal thinker (as well as court physician), was around the time of this era in spain. mazur is sorta analogous in that the rambam was an advisor to kings and jehane as a physician to kings but neither capture his leadership and service to the jewish community. which is a shame bc some of it would fit this world and this story perfectly - like the rambam answering difficult questions from jewish communities about whether it was permissible to convert to islam rather than submit to bloodshed. here mazur and jehane seem totally cut off from their community. there's great stories to be told about jews suspended between the jewish world and the broader world but even here they seem to lack any real connection to their communities. jehane is closer and talks more with the prostitutes of the city than any other jewish characters.

anyway, this didn't turn me off the book and i have other considerations about other depictions of the world and time tho this one i feel like i could probably speak to the best in so much as i actually know some things about this era spain (thanks to my jewish education also thanks to crusader kings II). ultimately it's good and entertaining and extremely clear maybe too clear in its themes, ideas, politics and characters that there's some level of depth i feel it's missing. maybe i'm asking too much war and peace from a fantasy novel. i did appreciate how little actual fantasy was in it.

Mordy, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 17:15 (five months ago) link

sometimes the prose writing is strong and sometimes tenses switch btwn present + past for no particular reason within a few paragraphs and i get a headache :/

btw this only happens once or twice and is not such a big deal and i wonder in those occasions if he was trying to use it for literary effect and it just doesn't work bc i can kinda guess at the purpose for that (a sense of immediate + directness in a dramatic moment) but it's used inconsistently and might just be sloppy editing. anyway it's not a big deal i don't want ppl to think it's terribly written.

Mordy, Wednesday, 6 May 2020 17:18 (five months ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.