Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Fionavar Tapestry #1-3

The Fionavar Tapestry

Rate this book
Celebrated worldwide as a fantasy classic since the release of The Summer Tree (Book I in the series), The Fionavar Tapestry has conjured up sales of more than 100,000 in Canada, and has been translated into 12 languages. No Canadian work in the field of fantasy fiction has ever come close to achieving the international impact of The Fionavar Tapestry. Now available in a single volume, this new edition of the celebrated trilogy is sure to create new worlds of Guy Gavriel Kay fans.

792 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1986

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Guy Gavriel Kay

54 books7,665 followers
Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categorization when possible.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
3,697 (50%)
4 stars
2,197 (29%)
3 stars
1,037 (14%)
2 stars
274 (3%)
1 star
137 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 280 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
August 10, 2010
6.0 stars. On my list of "All Time Favorite" novels. This trilogy has taken over the TOP SPOT on my list of "heroic" fantasy trilogies, knocking the standard, LOTR, down to number two. In fact, given how shicking that last statement may sound, I intend to re-read LOTR in the not too distant future just to confirm for myself the accuracy of the above.

In many ways the plot of The Fionavar Trilogy follows the classic heroic fantasy script created by LOTR though, in my opinion, in such a way as to be wholly original and of its own making. Fionavar is the "first world of the Tapestry" and all other worlds (including ours) are reflections of that first world. Five law and medical students are drawn into Fionavar by the mage Loren Silvercloak who recognizes their "true selves" and needs them to help battle Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller, who has been set free after 1000 years.

Sounds pretty standard and similar to LOTR. The beauty of the book is in the writing and the execution. The writing is emotional and poetic (and I mean "gut wrenching" like a good Italian opera). The execution of the plot is superb and the tension and the threat builds up through each book until you get to, in my opinion, the single best ending to a fantasy trilogy ever. This is true "heroic" and "mythic" fantasy where the "good guys" have absolutely NO GREY AREA in them and yet their struggles are often very, very human. That is what makes them so great because they always make the RIGHT choice in the end.

Two pieces of advice goiong in: First, read slowly and carefully as, like LOTR, the prose is thick and lyrical and you will miss the depth of the writing if you read too quickly. Second, if you listen to audiobooks, listen to the audio version of the trilogy by Simon Vance who did an amazing job with the books (but keep the print versions around for some of the more difficult prose).

Profile Image for Jackie.
270 reviews13 followers
December 24, 2010
Wow, I am in awe of the breadth and scope of this extraordinarily layered masterpiece.

A true epic fantasy not to be missed.

Often compared to LOTR and not in a bad way... though, I must confess that as much as I loved LOTR, The Fionavar Tapestry far surpasses it on so many levels. This is a case of the pupil exceeding the master. Know that I do not say this lightly. The Fionavar Tapestry now holds my #1 top spot of Best Epic Fantasy Trilogy of All Time.

A unique blend of Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend woven into a rich tapestry all it's own, populated with accessible and very human characters I grew to love, intensely. For a short time, I resided in Fionavar with them in their monumental struggle of Light against Dark.
Much happens in Fionavar, though I cannot say more without giving spoilers. If you choose to read it, you'll want to experience it as I did, fresh and with no foreknowledge of events, let it unfold naturally. What I can say is there were some excellent battle scenes, though not a military play by play. The profound beauty of the last kanior is something I will never forget. In truth, there's isn't anything in this story that I'm likely to forget. There's so much to it, so full of depth and emotion.

The best part is that while you think you know what's going to happen, you don't; when you think it's over, it's not.

To paraphrase: "There were so many things warring for a place in [my] heart: joy and deep sorrow, pain and infinite relief." This sums up how I felt upon completion of this most exceptional story. In the end, I cried tears of sorrow, tears of joy.

Brightly woven, Mr. Kay, master storyteller extraordinaire. Thank you for the gift of Fionavar, The First of All Worlds.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,920 reviews1,255 followers
February 1, 2010
This is one of those times where borrowing the omnibus edition from the library because it's easier to get all three books that way is a bad idea. I felt compelled to read the entire trilogy as a result, when I knew I should just stop after the first book. The Summer Tree was painful; The Wandering Fire was brutal; I blacked out sometime near the beginning of The Darkest Road, so I can only assume that it was slightly better than the first two but not enough to redeem the trilogy.

In case you haven't figured it out, I did not like The Fionavar Tapestry. Fate dictates that I now compare it unfavourably to The Lord of the Rings, call it clichéd, and consign it to the dustheap of subjectivity. There are two problems with this tactic. Firstly, I have only read The Lord of the Rings once, almost nine years ago. My memory of the actual book, and not the mythical status it inhabits, is hazy, and I was very impressionable in grade six. Secondly, even if I had just finished an exhaustive degree in LOTRology and re-read that trilogy prior to reading this one, I would be in no better position. As fans of The Fionavar Tapestry rightly point out, clichéd fantasy is not necessarily bad fantasy. It's difficult, and not always desirable, to be original in fantasy no less than in any genre. And there are many heavily clichéd fantasy series that I do like, so to take this tactic would be hypocritical. No, I must do something infinitely harsher.

I shall compare The Fionavar Tapestry unfavourably with The Briar King , a book which I called, "formulaic fantasy at its most derivative." Nevertheless, there were tiny, inscrutable angels-on-the-heads-of-pins moments in The Briar King where I thought the book might improve.

Not so with The Summer Tree. The characters here are flat. They change, but not in any realistic sense of the word—instead, the book takes them and forces them into new moulds as the plot requires. Upon arriving in Fionavar, the five protagonists from our world quickly assimilate into the bizarre medieval fantasy land that is somehow the "true world" of which all other worlds are a reflection. Kim just decides that, yeah, she's going to be a Seer. Kevin hangs out with the Prince and his boys. Paul is depressed and so naturally goes to hang himself on a tree but then gets resurrected and becomes a moody not-quite-powerful person. Dave's mad basketball skillz automatically translate into mad axe-wielding skillz. Jennifer gets raped by the Dark Lord and his Dwarf minion because the Dark Lord is horny after spending 1000 years beneath a mountain, even though he knows that if he has a son it will be his undoing (apparently the "true world" has no contraceptives). But it's OK, because Jennifer is actually Guinevere and will spend the next two books randomly having flashes of insight that tell her exactly what to do to get out of trouble. Oh wait, that happens to all the characters.

I levelled this charge against The Briar King, and it resurfaces in The Fionavar Tapestry to much more debilitating an effect:

Whenever one of the protagonists gets in a tight enough spot that they might not make it, something inexplicable happens to save them. . . . None of the conflicts faced by the main characters feel compelling because none feel dangerous.

Few things annoy me more than when a book puts its protagonists in mortal danger only for a god to suddenly come along and save them, or for one of the protagonists to realize how to use his or her untapped power, or for one of them to simply stand up and say, "Dude, no. I'm, like, Lord of the Summer Tree, so you, like, can't do that to me." Once or twice is fine, because this is fantasy after all. But these deus ex machina rescues are routine in Fionavar, even though the gods aren't supposed to interfere and love to say, "Oh, I'm going to pay the price for this."

Related to this problem is the mutability of the main characters' powers/responsibilities/identities. I picked on Paul, Lord of the DanceSummer Tree, above for a reason: he is the paradigm case. Out of all of them, his powers are the least well-defined and hence the most subject to authorial abuse (or "licence" if we want to be generous here). It's not that I oppose to taking the reader on a journey with the character as he comes into his power; I just oppose introducing a serious threat only to have a new power appear to beat it back. That doesn't even count the random threats the manifest from time to time, such as Fordaetha of Rük, "Ice Queen of the Barrens," who shows up in a tavern for one scene so that Paul can banish her. There are so many extraneous mythological elements to Fionavar that it makes my head spin.

The trouble is, I don't know who any of these people are. I never do find that out. Even as some of them, like Jennifer, discover past identities or, like Kevin, destinies involving sacrifice, the only sense of difference they manifest is that they suddenly "know" what to do and tend to speak in highly stilted, formal language. Jennifer in particular tends to inhabit the Guinevere persona infrequently, and when she does, her diction suddenly switches gears. Yet it's the former phenomenon, this sense of "knowing" that Paul has when he sees Fordaetha or Kim when she decides to help Aileron, that undermines the entire story. If the characters just "know" what to do, because it's part of their destiny or because they're fighting their destiny, the book becomes boring. Crystal dragon? Psshaw! Kim "knows" what to do about it. Spawn of the Dark Lord might go over to his father? No problem! Jennifer knows what to do. Kevin feeling out of place because he's not getting horny on Maidalan, the orgiastic festival of the Priestesses of Dana? Don't worry, Kevin "knows" how to find a sacred grove and "knows" he must sacrifice himself to the goddess there. It's a good thing he did, because I didn't "know" this. Foreshadowing should be used sparingly, but it should be used.

Speaking of Maidalan, the women in this book are Promiscuous with a capital P. I'm not a prude (lowercase P) nor a Puritan (uppercase this time). I just noticed that a large percentage of the unmarried female characters in this book sleep around, and that in general the various societies of Fionavar seem to condone this. After a hunt in the camp of a band of the Dalrei, Dave willingly entertains the many women who visit him over the night! And, of course, the religion over which female priests of Dana preside requires an orgy festival called Maidalan, where men get irresistibly aroused and some of the priestesses emerge from the temple. That is more than clichéd; that is just stereotypical.

It doesn't help, either, that Kay insists on referring to such acts as "making love" and "lovemaking." Though a handy euphemism, it also connotes feelings that aren't really present on the part of most of the parties involved in these acts in The Fionavar Tapestry. This is a symptom of the stilted language that pervades all three books. Remaining ever so true to the high fantasy form, Kay ensures that his language, both in description and dialogue, is formal and poetic in diction and tone. This can, and did, get annoying after a while, but I suppose it's a valid stylistic choice. However, all of the characters, even the main characters, who began the story living in Toronto, talk like this. And that is a problem, because it means that the individual characters lack their own voices, further hindering my futile attempts to connect and empathize to any of them. The Fionavar Tapestry is 774 pages of the same person talking, albeit through different mouthpieces.

When there are flaws in a tapestry, do you blame the thread or the loom? Neither, of course: you blame the weaver. It matters not which clichés one uses but how one weaves them. Despair not, gentle reader! I do have one compliment to pay The Fionavar Tapestry: it would make a very good 774-page public service announcement about why you shouldn't take up a mage on his offer to transport you and four of your friends to another world simply so you can be "guests" at a festival. This will inevitably (a) not be the whole truth of the matter, and in fact pitch you into the middle of the resurgence of a millennium-old struggle between good and evil, and (b) void the warranty on your smartphone.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mindy.
6 reviews2 followers
June 22, 2015
I will only rarely write a review, but for this I will. I love books like treasured friends, so I prefer to accept the enjoyment they give me without analyzing them too closely. I love all kinds of books, but the ones that hold the most special place in my heart are the kind where people struggle against a seemingly insurmountable evil and yet find a way through to the light.

The Fionavar Tapestry is such a story. It is told with such majesty and grace that any description I give here would fall so far short that I won't even try. Instead I will say that I am going to find a second set of these books so that when I have worn my current copies out from numerous re-readings, I have another set to fall back on. I prefer reading actual books to electronic versions, but I will purchase the electronic versions also so that I have another fall-back option. Finally, I will search out audio books for this wonderful trilogy so that when I am old and grey and if my eyesight has failed me, I will still be able to enjoy this amazing story. I truly think I would weep if this story was lost to me.

I have found a lot of gems through GoodReads, but this is the best by far. So thank you to the people at GoodReads for making this App, thanks to my sister for finding it (the App and the books), and thanks to one of the best reviewers, Stephen, for praising it so highly that we took notice and read them. My most heart-felt thanks to the author, Mr. Guy Gavriel Kay, for creating a world I would want to live in if I could. Brightly woven indeed!
Profile Image for Joy.
234 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2010
This is a great read-- a totally consuming fantasy novel with all the typical light against dark themes. The creativity in this book lies less in its newness but rather in its skilled borrowing and "weaving." Let's be straight here- Kay knew how much he was borrowing from Tolkein and I think the matching arcs of the books were quite intentional. But like some of the best folk music, I cannot help but love when a familiar story is enriched by a new kind of telling- one that adds a different perspective. We've been telling these kinds of stories as long as we've known how, and Kay draws on that fact by including strands from Tolkein foremost, but also the King Arthur stories, Greek mythology, Norse mythology, and so Wikipedia tells me though I did not know, Chinese literature.

But this gets a mere three stars because despite my love of the classic stories, I do prefer magic and myth with a little more realism, as you might find in George RR Martin (indeed even in Tolkein with the struggle in our hearts over the love of power). In Kay's book, everyone gets redeemed and the bad guys are uncomplicated and so have to die. No character is allowed to stay a mixture of good and evil, and love conquers all. Hell, even the good guys have an inner nobility which allows them to discriminate between good and evil- confusion is not a part of Fionavar. The themes about destiny and freedom are unclear and some major events in the story don't make sense when looked at through this explanation (the Greek fates/ Great Weaver and the Wild Hunt/Randomness in universe polarity didn't quite flesh out in my opinion), and though the redemption theme is powerfully written its use is also inconsistent. I'm not going to say why or this would be a spoiler but feel free to ask me why I think this is if you do read these books. And really, I do appreciate a good love story, but this book has nothing but cupid's arrows, love at first sight and happy ever after. Hard to relate to, eh? Though on the flip side despite a lack of actual sex scenes, the characters do have a lot of sex that seems recreational and light-- in one of the tribes it is the women who seem to do all the partner choosing- indeed I might even call it a theme of this book! Written from 1984-1986, it seems pretty understandable that women have big roles and a lot of power in this world.

For lovers of a good yarn, this is your cup of tea. For discriminating readers looking for complex characters, pick up Martin, though it remains to be seen if that deadbeat will ever finish his series!
Profile Image for Inkpot.
1 review3 followers
June 27, 2008
At first glance, this trilogy seems to be nothing more than another Tolkien clone. However, the author surpasses Tolkien on a number of points. Firstly, the characters in this tale are three dimensional with real feelings and conflicts. Secondly, the author's ability to make you feel alongside with the characters has touched me perhaps more so than any other series. I confess that I teared up at several points throughout the tale - which is a rare occurrence for me. The author's writing style, like Tolkien, is very poetic. Lastly, the story itself is complex and feels more 'real' all the way around. Good doesn't always triumph, and when it does it is laced with sorrow in this tale. A great, if not under-hyped, read.
Profile Image for Amanda.
31 reviews1 follower
July 1, 2016
The Fionavar Tapestry is among the dwindling numbers of portal fantasy stories—I can’t help but feel that if more people read it, then this particular sub-genre would make a roaring comeback beyond the realm of fanfiction. Literary, expertly crafted mythology and worldbuilding, and that incredible Kay ability to create a host of beautiful characters have made for a series that may be as dear to me now as Lord of the Rings.

University of Toronto students Kim, Kevin, Jennifer, Paul, and Dave all attend a lecture by Lorenzo Marcus and find themselves invited for a private drink with the mysterious academic and his assistant. Marcus wastes little time in revealing himself as a mage named Loren Silvercloak from another realm—Fionavar, the first world created by the Weaver—who has been sent to collect willing travellers from our world to attend an auspicious anniversary of the Kingdom of Paras Derval in Fionavar. Kim, Kevin, Jennifer, Paul, and Dave agree in quite short order—their few qualms explained away by Marcus or by each other. There is little time spent with these characters in their own world, and the reader is destined to learn about them in the grand and unfamiliar world of Fionavar.

Kim, Kevin, Jennifer, Paul, and Dave are held together by varying degrees of friendship. Kim and Jennifer are close friends and roommates. Kevin and Paul are close, but there has clearly been some recent tear to their relationship that they are both still navigating. And Dave feels himself the outsider in any group, including his own family. These relationships continue even in the wild adventures they find in Fionavar, and strengthen, morph, and break on deeply personal levels.

A major point of my admiration for Kay is that he has always created stories that have an epic scope, but with intensely personal stakes. In the overwhelming battle between Light and Dark, it’s individual happiness any reader of Kay’s works becomes most attached to. I never just want the world as a whole to survive: I want Kim to find some solace in the burden of her destiny, I want Kevin to find someone who will be as unfailingly kind to him as he is to everyone else, I want Dave to find somewhere to call home. I want to give Paul a hug. And I feel completely emotionally unequipped to give Jennifer any sort of comfort for the multitude of pains she has faced. This caring character creation doesn’t end at our fellow earthlings. A whole cast of good and strong and brave characters bloom from all the turnings that befall Fionavar, a fellowship of mages, princes, dwarves, Elf-like lios alfar, horse lords, and demi-gods.

It is no surprise that Loren’s selection of his earthly travellers was far from random. Among them are destinies that the realm of Fionavar desperately needs. Despite the celebrations at hand, Kim, Kevin, Jennifer, Paul, and Dave discover a world on the brink of not only drought and strife, but a darkness that has not been known there in over a thousand years. A darkness that could threaten all of the Weaver’s creations, including their own world.

Spirituality, romance, friendship, and bravery have as much a pull on the characters as destiny and war, often with painful dilemmas to be navigated; every fortunate turn of the tide comes with a price. While I certainly enjoy the occasional piece of grimdark fiction, it’s the goodness of characters that often has the biggest effect on me. I like having someone to root for, characters to care about not just in spite of their faults and their transgressions, but because they are good people trying to do the right things to fix their broken relationships, offer help where it is needed, and triumph over evil.

I don’t mean for this to descend into the tired comparison of “this book is like Lord of the Rings because” discussion, but Kay was an editor for The Silmarillion, so I think if any author bears comparing to Tolkien, it’s Kay. And he’s one of the few fantasy authors who doesn’t suffer in the comparison. The Fionavar Tapestry is about a world facing a battle of good and evil, but it’s also about the individuals who find themselves being drawn deeper into that fight than they may have ever imagined. A king stepping out of exile to claim his destiny not only for his ambition, but for the people who need someone to follow. Immortal beings of light facing what it means to be part of the world of mortal men, to not flee for their own protection, but to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and fight. Ordinary people stepping forward into terrible and dangerous positions just because it was the right thing to do.

Any of this sound familiar? And for all the feelings Lord of the Rings gave me, The Fionavar Tapestry gave me tenfold more. There’s an extra twist of the knife to a few of Tolkien’s more painful themes, and Kay is much more ruthless—I word I hesitate to use, since the heartbreaking moments of Fionavar are far from manipulative, but there are a lot of heartbreaking moments. I cried twice, and was left in shock many more times; yet the moments that perhaps hurt the most were the ones that seemed inevitable, long roads that could have only ended in tragedy.

Portal fantasy is one of those things that, as a longtime fantasy lover, I have practiced in my head since I was eight years old. I wanted to insert myself into Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I wanted to go to Middle Earth. I still hope that every time I visit an old house I might find an inauspicious wardrobe that is not what it seems. The Fionavar Tapestry was everything I could have wanted in an adult weaving of these childhood fantasies.

Read more book reviews on my blog!
Profile Image for Petra.
1,122 reviews12 followers
March 13, 2012
An incredibly epic tale. Kay is a natural storyteller and he shows it in this tale. There are so many facets to this story and Kay manages to balance them all and keep them active and interesting. With all the various situations occurring and escalating, Kay manages to keep the story moving forward in such a way that the excitement escalates. As a reader, I found myself drawn into the world of Fionavar and its struggles, in its people and their lives. Good doesn’t always win; a win isn’t always without bitter-sweet elements. The story rates 5*.
The writing though is early-Kay and it shows. There are flaws and they do distract from the reading. The language is very flowery and the conversations are stilted, using somewhat archaic language (our 5 heroes are from modern times, so it seems awkward). However, by the third book, Kay has grown as a writer and these flaws start to disappear; it’s interesting to see the change between the second and third book in terms of character development, language and impact.
In the first two books, the characters are somewhat flat in that with all that’s happening to them they feel no surprise or wonder or amazement. They are faced with out worldly experiences and yet they aren't surprised, they just "know" what needs knowing as the situation arises. But by the third book Kay has learned to bring depth to his characters. They grow, they see the wonder of what’s happening and they aren’t so sure of themselves anymore……they feel for those & the world around them. With the new depth of the characters comes deeper, more significant, conversation and situations. Kay hones his story well and brings all the elements together in a phenomenal way.
There’s a lot of repetition in regards to the roles each character plays (ie: Paul “Twiceborn”, the Seer and constant references to The Weaver). It does perhaps keep these roles in the forefront but it can get somewhat tedious (although the magical implications of The Weaver and the tapestry and the interconnections are central and relevant and add a mystic that’s undeniable).
All in all, a highly recommended book but be aware of some flaws, especially in the beginning of the tale. Kay’s style has a poetic and mystical feel to it and he manages to pull this trilogy together and tell a marvellous tale.

The Summer Tree
A decent story of 5 people transported to a mystical land of legend and magic at a time when all hell is about to break loose. They seem to unquestionably accept their situations. There's no wonder at what's happening, at what they're seeing or experiencing.

The Wandering Fire
Well, if there's a myth or legend, it's added to this novel. The story is a pretty decent one, though. It's interesting; just not "magical" or "wonderous".
There's a lot of unnecessary sex (not that sex is unnecessary but this is casual, non-meaningful sex where the participants feel "gratitude" afterwards and nothing more), which makes the book seem a bit juvenile.

The Darkest Road
Wow! What a turn around! Kay manages to bring it all home in a seamless and awesome way. The characters gain depth, they gain feeling and a sense of awe and wonder, the story pulls together in a multi-layered and intricate telling that keeps the reader in suspense. This is an awesome ending to this tale. I’m sad on many levels for the ending of this trilogy and glad I read it. The tapestry is woven as it is meant to be woven with all its colours and textures.
Profile Image for Tim Hicks.
1,493 reviews116 followers
September 22, 2014
Folks, if you haven't read this trilogy, you can't say you've covered the basics of high fantasy.
Level One contains Lord of the Rings, and this. No, really.

Kay gets one star simply for daring. He postulates an original world from which all others, including ours, are derived. Then he populates it with about 80% of all the gods and magical characters that western literature has ever known. And some elves and orcs and dwarves, because you have to have those. Clumsily drop in five people from our world, so we can identify with them, and away we go.

There is, of course, a Really Bad Guy, because that's a given in high fantasy. So shake all the characters together, and every once in a while someone is going to Know that something Noble needs to be done, and go do it. Someone might very well die, and there will be mourning but mostly it's about how Noble it was, and you know that in a few more pages it will be someone else's turn.

Kay has totally mastered the required style, in which - shall we say - Rob Ford would become High Councillor of the Realm of Etobicoke, home of the steadfast suburbanites and their mighty TTC buses, bright was the day he was elected. Thankfully, there's very little low fantasy - which to me is all inns and stew and lutes. There are a few annoying tropes that continue, notably that in fantasy the archers on the good side always get an instant kill with every arrow, no matter what. Or that at some point our heroes will have to fight an overwhelming ground force, there will be pages and pages of hacking and slashing, and just when things look bleakest ... well, you know.

Things roll out almost incidentally. At one point the Bad Guy uses winter and snow to thin out the opposition, and not much later he's using killer rain. In the last book, three major encounters end in very similar ways. Somehow it's OK, because epic as those confrontations are, they aren't what the series is about. It's about the people, how they change, how they handle responsibility and love and power and magic.

Which is why Kay can even stir in King Arthur and Lancelot and Guinevere without seeming silly, and even change the loop of fate they're caught in, just as he does for some other characters.

If this seems like an insanely complex plot, it is. But Kay pulls it off with style. Remember that thing that happened on page 80 of book one and was never mentioned again? On page 400 of volume 3, it will turn out to have been very important. I would really, really like to see some photos of Kay's desk as he developed the plot. I'm thinking heaps of papers, Post-it notes all over the walls, mythology texts everywhere, and a typewriter or maybe a crude word processor.

I'd call this required reading. Once you've put this in your brain, you can read some of Kay's later work, which is less vast but perhaps even better written. And then you can read some other attempts at high fantasy, and see how far short some of them fall.

Profile Image for Margaret.
1,029 reviews330 followers
January 2, 2016
The Fionavar Tapestry was Guy Gavriel Kay's first venture into fantasy; he got his start in the genre helping Christopher Tolkien edit his father's unfinished Silmarillion, and to an extent, that shows in The Fionavar Tapestry. The story begins when five college students are invited by the mage Loren Silvercloak to journey to his world of Fionavar, the first of all worlds, of which all other worlds are but a shadow. Fionavar has many echoes of Middle-Earth: there are elves (the lios alfar), who are perilously beautiful and journey westward over the sea when they die; there is a great and evil power who breaks free of his prison and threatens the land. The Tolkien elements are well-mixed with other borrowings, largely from Celtic mythology, as well as fantastic beings like dragons and unicorns.

This sounds as though The Fionavar Tapestry is nothing but a pale imitation of other fantasy, but that's the last thing it is. Kay adds his own inventions to the older elements and creates a gorgeous tapestry (that's the only word for it) of a world. Although his writing isn't as polished yet as in later books, the emotional power of his language is stunning (perhaps more stunning than in some of the later books, in fact). I've read these books several times, and they never fail to enthrall me; the world and the characters feel vividly real to me. Perhaps Kay's later books surpass Fionavar in craftsmanship, but none of them surpass its depth of feeling.
Profile Image for Michael Drakich.
Author 14 books70 followers
July 12, 2016
There is a strange dichotomy to writing a review to this series. There are so many things one could say that can be construed as negative. The dialogue, for example. Many statements made by the main characters are simply groaners. Then there is the eventual conversion where everyone from Earth talks like a Fionavarian. Seriously? They change, just like that? Another complaint will be how so much in this series is a complete rip off from older ones. Lord Of The Rings? From elves, dwarves, goblins and an all powerful evil one, this book uses everything Tolkien invented and more. Everything fantasy is in there - dragons, gods, magic, swords and more. There's even a flying pink unicorn for gosh sake. (Okay, not pink, blood red, but close enough. It's still a unicorn that flies.) And then there is just about every cliche ever written. Colored eyes (multi-colored ones too), undefeatable swordsmen who vanquish a horde of enemies in seconds, altruistic characters who willingly go to their death for the Light, almost everyone is either totally evil or totally good, and so many more. If it's a high fantasy cliche, it's in there. Then there's the writing. Written in some wild mix of omniscient and third person limited with more head hopping than a jackrabbit on the run it has moments where you get lost on who the POV belongs to. The one dimensional aspect of almost every character. All of these things should make me hate this series.

And yet... and yet...

I liked it. Why? I've just listed a whole host of reasons not to. Introspection was needed to delve into how I enjoyed the series. Ir came down to two things - pace and plot lines. Not including the first couple of chapters, the pace is almost frenetic. So many things happen so quickly, and in such a way as to keep a reader glued to the pages. This intensity runs right to almost the end with, like LOTR, a couple of cool down chapters to close things off. As to plot lines, never before in high fantasy have I seen so many plot lines so expertly woven throughout the story. Every one foreshadowed well and tied in at the right time - the separate tale of each of the five from Earth, the war, the exiled king, the romantic prince, the son of the dark god, the Camelot factor with Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, the longest road, the darkest road, and a host of other smaller ones, all which left me amazed at how the author managed to squeeze so many into one series.

As I read this series, I managed to ignore all the negatives and focus on the story, and in doing so, became immersed in the complexity of it all.

I cannot totally forgive all the transgressions so my review is 4.5 stars, but since I can only post either 4 or 5, my level of satisfaction at the end moved the needle up.
Profile Image for THE BIBLIOPHILE (Rituranjan).
530 reviews78 followers
November 10, 2018
A grand and passionate homage to Tolkien, a lyrical tour de force of high fantasy. Most of the readers tend to dismiss this as a imitation of the great master, and to do so is not fair at all. Undoubtedly the influence of Tolkien is palpable in the story, in regards to worldbuilding and some of the tropes, but, Kay's mythos has more depth, poignancy, and a tragic feeling that subdues Tolkien's bitterweet nostalgia. Kay tells about things lost, the sacrifice that behooves us all of joy, but gives a beauty washed in tears of sorrow, of the things that never might be or rather could have been.

I just love this trilogy. Kay blends the Norse and Greek mythology with the Arthurian romances in such a beautiful way that it hovers on the realm of the sublime. The motifs and Archetypes of the myths used in the novels calls for a deep Frazerian reading. The characters are so fully realized, and the romance between Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere is done so differently, so poetically, that it left me with pent up emotions, a lump in the throat which I suppressed with a shiver. And, the writing, oh the writing is so beautiful, the prose flows like the tunes of an elfic melody, that leaves a reader like me wanting for more.

There is magic, there is action, there are gods and goddesses, and it is just spectacular. Kay doesn't indulge like Tolkien, but he tells the story with a vivid feeling of detail within a few words and short trimmed rhythmic manner. I will read this again someday, and perhaps I will appreciate it more. Reading this trilogy was an cathartic experience for me. The imagination and passionate intensity which runs through the story like a fragrant wind entranced me in its world, and I ever wonder if I will come out of its enticing spell. It's just epic with a tragic beauty that surpasses anything I have read in the high fantasy genre.
Profile Image for Dawn.
359 reviews2 followers
April 23, 2012
Left unfinished.

I finished the first book, The Summer Tree under duress because it was a pick for my bookclub. I was told it would get better. It didn't.

I started the second...... I cannot FORCE myself to read further. I dread picking it up. I rarely NOT finish a book, but I will not finish this. It's excrutiating.

I don't like any of the characters. I don't care about the war. I just can't get through it. It's dry and dull. The good news is I'm sleeping better....

Is Kaye a bad writer or is this just an anomaly?
Profile Image for Monica.
22 reviews
June 19, 2016
it was really interesting and the world building was incredible. i got real into it near the end so im glad i liked the ending!
Profile Image for Josh Angel.
378 reviews28 followers
June 8, 2020
I feel like I would have enjoyed this series more if I hadn’t finished reading Lords of the Rings recently. Had I known this series was essentially a beat-for-beat reinterpretation of the Lord of the Rings (with Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere thrown in for good measure) I may have put it off for awhile until the tropes wouldn’t feel so overused to me.

While I did not enjoy it as much as I may have with better timing, I do feel this is an underrated series that I think has MASSIVE appeal for a certain segment of the Fantasy reading population.

1) people that find the original Lord of the Rings to be too difficult to get into. This is a much easier to read version of LOTR
2) people that love Tolkien and are in their "happy place" while reading books that are inspired by/closely resemble Tolkien's work, or
3) People that are fairly new to Fantasy and therefore won't be put off by all the standard Fantasy tropes used in this series.


LOTR Allegory: It's hard to say if this is a positive or a negative, but this series leans into Tolkien HARD. The author helped compile and publish the Samarillion, so clearly this imitation/homage is intentional and done with love. However, as a reader this is either going to be something you enjoy or something that you are turned off by. Literally every theme and aspect of LOTR is here, but usually with just a minor name change, or small twist. There is also a bit of borrowing from Earthsea going on here, with “true name magic” being important at some points of the story. While this series has its own character and originality within the framework of a reinterpretation, it’s still a LOTR clone, if a very well formulated one.

Reread Potential: I feel like this series could have been my favorite series if I'd read it as a teenager. I feel that despite its scattering of very dark moments, this series lends itself better to a younger readership. But as an older reader, with a lot more Fantasy books under my belt, this series is just too “been-there-done-that” feeling for me to enjoy that much. However, I have no doubt that the more this series is read, the more detail can be wrung from it, as it's hard to absorb all of it in a first reading. If you're looking for a series that you'll be able to revisit and discover new nooks and crannys, then this may be the series for you.

The Prose: The author is very well known for his beautiful prose, and despite this being his first books you can see that he clearly had a grasp on his storytelling voice right from the start. The prose is noticeably a cut above most fantasy authors.


King Arthur: The inclusion of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere in the series is unneeded and distracting in my opinion. They are worshiped like rockstars by both the author and all the characters, and frankly the unending fawning over the characters felt to me unearned and irritating as I’m not an Arthurian legends fan. Men instantly respect/worship and women instantly fall in love with Arthur and/or Lancelot (one character, thousands of years old, commits suicide within a day of meeting Lancelot because she falls hopelessly in love with him but can’t have him).Perhaps if I was a fan of the Arthurian legends I’d feel differently, but this series assumes that as a reader you are a fan of the stories. It’s an element that doesn’t need to be here, and since this is already a LOTR retelling, adding in another borrowed element to the mix feels unneeded, distracting, and unoriginal.

Too Much Going On: there are too many names and plot threads to keep up with. Too many names, too many plots, too much of everything. I enjoyed the story more when I gave up trying to keep up with everything. Once I just let it wash over me I enjoyed it more.

Plot Armor: Kim, arguably the most important person on the side of the good guys, is constantly running around without any kind of guard. She can do super huge amazing epic magic things, but is completely incapable of defending herself against even a guy with the club, so of course no one ever thinks of giving her a guard. She literally gets knocked out and kidnapped once per book.

Character Development: due to a 3rd person perspective that flits restlessly from person to person depending on the need of the storytelling, it take a long time to develop the characters in this series. The five main characters are developed to different degrees, ranging from completely flat (Jennifer) to somewhat flashed out (Kevin) to fairly well developed (David, Liz, & Paul). It was actually one of the supporting characters, Matt, that felt best developed in the series. It isn't really until the third book before I really felt like I knew the main cast of characters.


Rape: there is a rape that is a major plot point for the series. In fact, for the character that is raped, it is pretty much her defining feature. She’s "the character that got raped." While the fallout the character experiences feels like a genuine attempt by the author to show how horrible the act is, I'm just SO. OVER. RAPE. as the go-to “traumatizing event” for female characters. That same character who is raped also has only two purposes in the story: to be “the one who was raped” and to otherwise just to stand there and look beautiful, so as to be pined after by Arthur & Lancelot. She contributes nothing else to the plot, except perhaps her one important scene in the 3rd book where she is basically so heartless it borders on evil.

Weeping: seriously, someone cries in every scene. Usually the women, but this series also features a lot of men in touch with their emotions, because there is SO MUCH CRYING.

Overall, a great series for someone looking for a more accessible version of LOTR, or just looking for a Tolkien look-alike series. If you’re a King Arthur fan too, then even better.
Profile Image for Octarine.
185 reviews10 followers
September 18, 2022

Une trilogie que les amateurs de Tolkien ou de fantasy poétique sauront apprécier.

Je voulais découvrir Kay avec sa première série, La Tapisserie de Fionavar, mais après avoir lu Le Seigneur des Anneaux, les deux histoires étant liées (Kay a travaillé avec le fils de Tolkien sur les notes du Silmarillon, il a baigné dans la Terre du Milieu et a voulu rendre hommage à Tolkien en écrivant La Tapisserie de Fionavar). L’ayant enfin lu en début d’année, c’était l’occasion, et c’est une belle découverte. Les allusions au monde de Tolkien sont nombreuses, et en tant que lecteur averti, j’ai pris beaucoup de plaisir à faire des parallèles entre les deux oeuvres.

Et c’est assez drôles, car une fois la lecture terminée, je pense que les deux récits ont les mêmes points forts et les mêmes points faibles.

Commençons par les points forts. Le worldbuilding. La mythologie. L’histoire est extrêmement riche en légendes (dont une part non négligeable dédiée aux légendes arthuriennes), et en personnages historiques. Tout cela est expliqué par les personnages, mais aussi chanté. Les chants sont donc importants, et participent au devoir de mémoire autant qu’à toute fête digne de ce nom. Tout est tellement développé qu’on peut s’y perdre ou oublier des choses importantes en cours de route. Sauf qu’ici, point d’annexes pour remettre les choses au clair ! Je pense qu’une relecture s’impose pour tout intégrer et tout comprendre.

Le style de Kay est très poétique. Il a parfois réussi à me faire pleurer avec quelques phrases, même courtes, tant c’était beau, tant c’était tragique, tant ses mots étaient porteurs d’espoir. C’est donc une plume à découvrir, et à apprécier en prenant son temps.

Au niveau de l’intrigue, on est sur de la high fantasy très classique : on a d’un côté les héros, de l’autre le grand méchant et sa clique qui menacent le monde. Rien de nouveau, mais c’est bien fait et ça m’a plu.

Et pourtant, je n’étais pas forcément fan de speech de départ, avec des héros qui arrivent de notre monde. J’ai toujours cet a priori, parce que bon, notre monde ne fait pas tellement rêver. Vous voyez un avocat qui change de dimension pour brandir une hache de maitre et partir sauver un autre monde moyenâgeux à cheval ? Et bien moi, ça ne me fait pas rêver (désolée, Dave).

J’en arrive donc aux personnages… le gros hic.
Sur les cinq protagonistes de départ, deux m’ont intéressée, j’ai nommé Paul et Dave. J’ai trouvé leurs parties particulièrement intéressantes et agréables à lire. Quand aux autres, bof. Si j’ai compati avec Jennifer, dès le tome 2, je ne l’appréciais plus du tout, tant elle était distante et froide. Kevin, lui, ne m’a fait ni chaud ni froid, du début à la fin. Quand à Kim… pourquoi ne l’ai-je pas apprécié ? C’est une personnalité agréable, une figure importante, et je dirais même une femme forte, mais je n’ai tout simplement pas accroché avec elle.

Kay a amené et creusé des personnages secondaires, et si certains me semblaient « lointains », émotionnellement  inaccessibles, comme Kim ou Kevin, il y a une bonne partie que j’ai adoré suivre, ou que j’ai adoré détester. Les cavaliers, en particulier, étaient passionnants (plus que les Rohirrims pour moi). Lévon, Torc, Ivor, Géreint… étaient géniaux. De même pour le Guerrier et son bras droit, Jaëlle et Sharrah. Et parmi les personnages que j’ai d’emblée détesté (malgré de nombreuses circonstances atténuantes, que j’ai bien vu passer, mais elles n’ont fait que passer et repartir les pauvres), le destin de certains m’a déchiré le coeur. Je les tolérais tout en les détestant pour leurs actions passées, et pourtant comme ils m’ont fait pleurer à la fin !

Et au final, ce sont des personnages secondaires, pas si présents que cela pourtant, que je retiendrai de cette série : Tabor, Darien et Finn.

Un point qui a son importance pour moi : parce qu’il s’agit de fantasy, que ça date des années 80 (je sais bien que ça date et que c’était comme ça à l’époque, MAIS c’est vraiment pénible) et que seuls les hommes savaient lire à l’époque, toutes les femmes sont plus belles, plus gracieuses, plus royales les unes que les autres. Les hommes eux ont le droit d’être plus communs, même si au final, ils auront tous une fière allure. Heureusement qu’au niveau intellectuel et tactique, ces dames ont le droit de s’exprimer, voire d’agir pour les élues (merci Kim et Jaëlle). Mais passons sur cet aspect de la fantasy qui m’agace terriblement, car l’auteur a quand fait des efforts sur ses personnages féminins.

La différence majeure entre Kay et Tolkien, c’est celle-ci : Kay n’épargne aucun de ses personnages, homme ou femme, adulte ou enfants. C’est d’ailleurs intéressant de constater que les destins des enfants sont les plus cruciaux, les plus décisifs pour l’avenir de Fionavar. On peut le dire, Kay manie à la perfection la tragédie et l’inéluctabilité.

Le tome 1 ne m’avait pas enchantée et j’avais peur de lire la suite. Et heureusement (et nouveau point fort) les tomes montent chacun en puissance par rapport au précédent, le rythme s’accélère, et le sentiment d’imminence avec.

Pour une première oeuvre, le travail de l’auteur est dingue (à noter qu’il y a quelques fautes de typos, je pense, dans la version intégrale française). J’ai hâte de découvrir ses livres suivants, que j’espère tout aussi poétiques (et tragiques).
Un récit « bellement tramé », comme diraient les natifs de Fionavar !
Profile Image for Rhoddi.
158 reviews11 followers
August 11, 2018
I don't know what happened to me and this trilogy. The first book was pretty wondrous. I really enjoyed the characters, settings, world building and the part of the plains people. There is a intriguing connection that grows between reader and book the deeper one gets into it. I did find the writing a little weird at times as Mr. Kay likes to use lots of comma's and I also found the writing at the start to be a little choppy, but otherwise the first book was good fun.

Then the second book happened; with the abundance of feels, the cry fests and drama, the setting up the third book syndrome and rampant sex and how unconcerned I became with the characters and the frustration of Mr. Kay borrowing characters from other stories/lore and just how convoluted the story became with the mashup of all these worlds, I really had to push myself to finish this book. The writing had gotten better, I will say that, but there were too many negatives in my opinion.

So then I started the third book and found my tank all but empty and decided to give up after three chapters, a bored and frustrated fellow not wanting or caring to find out the ending.

For those who loved the books, I'm happy for you. I found the first one to be an amazing start to a new fantastical world. But like Jaws, the sequels for me, bite.
Profile Image for Cassie.
552 reviews1 follower
July 14, 2020
Definitely not my favourite Guy Gavriel Kay, I could certainly tell it was one of his older books. This was pretty good, if a little over complicated, and the Camelot backstory was a lot with the whole Fionavar mythology as well.
Profile Image for Irene Rosignoli.
177 reviews5 followers
December 13, 2022
Vorrei poter dare sei stelle. Non leggo più molto high fantasy, prediligo altri sottogeneri, ma questo è un capolavoro e sono entusiasta di averlo recuperato. Il lirismo della prosa, la struggente umanità dei personaggi, la delicatezza con cui sono descritte le molteplici e multiformi storie d'amore, la riflessione sul ruolo del libero arbitrio in un mondo pervaso dalle forze del destino... E sul piano strettamente tecnico l'incastro perfetto delle vicende, il modo in cui i fatti sono ben congegnati, ben pensati, con neanche una sequenza fuori posto ("arazzo" è proprio la parola giusta). Bellissimo, bellissimo, bellissimo.
Profile Image for Andrea McDowell.
569 reviews314 followers
January 15, 2016
I read this and really liked it in my early twenties. I'm rereading it now, and am far less impressed.

Look, I love GG Kay. He's a lovely person, a fellow Canadian; he's doing something different and unique with his historical fantasy novels; I own and have read most of his books. But this trilogy is not good work.

1) The continually overwrought language. OK, I get it. High fantasy. It's got to be high-falutin', and yes, it was his first book. He's sounding like Tolkein. But it grates on me. Particularly in the dialogue--particularly when it's the modern-day Toronto characters speaking--it does not sound at all natural.

2) Constantly telling the readers how to feel. We don't need the author or the characters to tell us how sad something is! It's sad! We get it! Imagine watching Romeo and Juliet, and at the end of the show one of the characters comes on stage with a massive monologue about all of the layered complexities of sorrow and how exactly much their heart was breaking and how this compared with all of the other sorrows and heartbreaks throughout the play. Jebus. Cut it out. If it's really sad, we will figure it out on our own; if we're reading it and we're not sad, then the solution is not to have a character plunk themselves down and start telling us about exactly how terribly sad it all is.

3) The freaking misogyny. Come on. Fionavar is supposed to be "first of all the worlds," and the one on which all others were patterned. And here, even here, women are second-class citizens. Oh yes, I do see his subtle attempts to make meaningful female characters. I even appreciate them. Definitely a step up from Tolkein in that regard. But consider that every female character in these books has a choice to make between power and love--and one that the male characters do not need to make. Consider that Ysanne and Jaelle both needed to be kicked out of their sisterhood for the crime of loving a man. Consider that the sisterhood, the powerful female priestesses, worship blood, for crying out loud, and draw their power from the earth. Consider that they were deposed by the superior and intellectual mages drawing on "sky-lore." You might as well just label the Mormae as "scary man-hating feminists."

But the misogyny bothers me less for being present, than for being present in a world that is supposed to be the basis of all other worlds. Great. So sexism, then, isn't an error, or an injustice, it's structural.

4) Too many deus-ex-machinas. We can't have Jennifer's rape-baby born on Earth, eh? Having a child mature to adulthood in less than one year would be awfully disconcerting and possibly require a long hospital stay and a lot of genetic tests. He needs to be born in Fionavar; and besides, how else is he supposed to confront his terrible choice? So better have Galadan corner Paul and Jennifer in a museum in Toronto when she's 7 months pregnant, for apparently no other reason than to force Paul to momentarily figure out how to get them to Fionavar, just so she can go into preterm labour and leave her baby with a local woman before heading back to Toronto. Gods and goddesses aren't supposed to interfere--except that they do, whenever the main characters are in a real scrape, with some dialogue about the price they will be forced to pay for helping, and no indication of what that price may be. (sigh)

It all adds up to some decent literary comfort food, but nothing I can really lose myself in anymore.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lisa Llamrei.
Author 2 books8 followers
October 4, 2016
Five friends from Toronto are tricked into travelling to a fantasy world (Fionavar) to help celebrate a festival. After they arrive, they discover they are really there to aid in the fight against good and evil...

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I just didn't.

There are no shades of grey. Each character is either good or evil. The one exception is Darien, son of Torontonian Jennifer and the dark lord. He has a choice to be one or the other, but he must choose only one instead of becoming a complex individual.

The characters from Toronto have little to no trouble slipping into new roles in the Fionavar no matter how diverse they are from their previous life experience. Kim becomes a seer, Dave becomes a skilled warrior, Jennifer becomes Guinevere (yes, the Guinevere).

My biggest issue with it is that it's entirely derivative and clichéd. It bears a great resemblance to Lord of the Rings - not in the story itself, but in the elements of the fantasy world. There's nothing to distinguish it from myriad other Celtic fantasy novels. Though I'm not sure I'm being entirely fair in this opinion. The first book of the Fionavar Tapestry (The Summer Tree) was first published in 1984. Certainly, Lord of the Rings predates it, but much has been written in the last thirty years and The Fionavar Tapestry may have been much more fresh and original when it was new, especially in the weaving together of fantasy worlds and the real world.

I wouldn't recommend this book except to die-hard fans of Celtic fantasy.

Profile Image for Hannah Fergesen.
Author 1 book20 followers
October 26, 2013
I read this book as a middle schooler in Toronto, having no idea what I was in for. All I remember is that I didn't want to read young adult books, I wanted to read epic fantasies with interesting characters that were not available in "My" section of the bookstore. So my parents bought the omnibus of these books for me, over 1000 pages of text, for $20 (it was Canada, over a decade ago). It had a pretty dragon on the cover and couldn't be that bad, right?

This book is now incredibly well worn, with bent corners, yellowed, soft pages, and a bookmark stuck into fifteen different places. I have read and reread this epic so many times - it goes beyond just being an epic fantasy. It is emotionally powerful and uses Nordic Myth, Arthurian Myth, and even Native American culture in an evocative and loving way. Never once do they feel like too much, or over used, or as if they don't belong in the story. And don't even get me started on the writing.

Well, okay. Guy Gavriel Kay's books are what made me decide I wanted to pursue writing seriously. I'd been writing from a young age, but only ever thought I wanted to really do it after reading this. At 12 years old, and recently after another re-read, these books are still the same. And they are still wonderful.
Profile Image for Jayme.
572 reviews33 followers
February 22, 2010
This is an epic slightly arthurian fantasy. There are three books that make up the Tapestry: The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road. Starting out at the University of Toronto, of all places, five acquaintances find themselves sucked into another world and an ancient story. All the stories and people created in here are beautiful, I can't recommend this one enough to anyone who loves fantasy.

It's my favourite fantasy book of all time, possibly my favourite book. It beats even Lord of the Rings, if only because I get myself more lost in the story. I only found this book because every once in a while I judge a book by it's cover (gasp!) and I fell in love with this cover when I saw it in a little bookstore at the age of twelve. Having no money and also having grown out of my Baby-sitter's Club phase, I took all 22 of them down to the bookstore and traded them in for The Fionavar Tapestry. Best trade ever!
Profile Image for Sheila.
951 reviews84 followers
July 6, 2013
Book 1 (The Summer Tree) reread finished 3/12/13. I really like the stilted, formal tone of this book (it's almost Biblical, and it really suits this kind of epic myth). I also like the characters and the interweaving of mythology (especially Celtic--the cauldron, the horn, etc.). I still don't like the ending. 3.5 stars.

Book 2 (The Wandering Fire) finished 5/9/13. Oh. My. God. Amazing and heartbreaking. 5 stars.

Book 3 (The Darkest Road) finished 7/6/13. I had to take this home to finish; I'd been reading it during my lunch breaks at work, but it kept making me cry. What an amazing ending. In many ways this is very Tolkien-style high fantasy; there's nothing new here. But my god, it had *such* a satisfying conclusion, and I really love how it showed the price of goodness. There's a huge cost, for everyone, in doing what's right. Ahhh now I'm tearing up again. I loved the characters too.
Profile Image for Brad Rancourt.
2 reviews
March 20, 2020
Full disclosure I didn't get past chapter 5 after two attempts to read this book.
A) I can't stand the dialogue. The characters are supposed to be from Toronto and yet they speak as if they sit at court everyday.
B) the transition from Toronto to Fionavar is so unbelievable to me it almost hurts. And yes it is possible to make the transition from real world to fantasy land, Narnia does it very well. The characters don't even struggle with the idea of an alternate universe or accidentally get sucked in, they just go, no questions ask no character development from the mundane to the fantastical. They sleep on it for one night then boom off they go.

Again I've only ever gotten as far as Chapter 5 but honestly that's all I care to read. I'm not getting sucked in, I'm struggling to believe the story his trying to sell me.
Profile Image for Ian Mathers.
457 reviews12 followers
August 31, 2009
It's been too long since I read a good fantasy novel (or novels, I guess). My dad tried getting me to read this as far back as high school, but I generally hate it when real world characters are put in fantasy worlds. Kay makes me realize that I feel that way because most authors assume that such real world characters would be overly credulous/idiotic/skeptical, though, and in fact the characterization here is one of the biggest strengths of the Fionavar books. It's really not doing anything too innovative, but in terms of big deal classicist fantasy epics this beats the hell out of the Lord of the Rings.
Profile Image for Travis Cottreau.
53 reviews2 followers
December 11, 2009
Guy Gavriel Kay is just a good writer. This was his first book, an homage to J.R.R. Tolkien, but much better constructed in my mind, with well rounded, realistic characters and amazing writing, with a classical, well told story.

Kay has everything a good writer should have, with the integrity to write a series or novel in isolation without folding to publisher pressure to re-use the stuff that's already been successful.

While there is a feel of a common background, each of his stories is separate and doesn't need any of the others to be enjoyed. At the same time, if you do know the others, the reading experience is that much more enhanced.

I read everything this author writes.
1,574 reviews2 followers
June 18, 2015
Two of four big books that I intended to read this year. Left is the Game of Thrones series and the Homer stuff. This one reflects on the nature of fate. It was a really good read and the closing of a large circle that gives me hope for the future.

As hokey as it is, I first found out about this book in high school. It is one of three books/series that I wish I had finished then. I bought a copy when a book store was going out of sale a long time ago. Now it is done. Sometimes you read the right book at the right time of your life and I think this is one of those personal connections that won't make much sense to anyone else. But this is definitely one of those moments for me.
Profile Image for Amanda.
99 reviews6 followers
December 31, 2015
Normally I don't go for real world/fantasy world cross-overs, but this is a special set of books. "Tapestry" is the right word - this is an intricate and ultimately beautiful story. It knits together everything from Arthurian legend to the old fantasy standby of the epic, across-the-ages battle between good and evil in richly detailed and breathtakingly moving way

I love GGK's writing style. There's a rich, lyrical quality to his prose that is beautiful and affecting. This set of stories is no exception.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 280 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.