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Posts Tagged ‘Guy Gavriel Kay’

There are two books I read over the summer/autumn that I meant to write about at some length on this blog, but never actually did. With winter very close and the days shortening at an alarming rate, it seems as good time as any to get my thoughts about both of them out in one go.

children-of-earth-and-sky-guy-gavriel-kay1

As an aside, I really love the design of this cover.

Children of Earth and Sky – Guy Gavriel Kay (2016)

I should have enjoyed Kay’s latest more than I did, since it once again happens to enter an area of personal historical interest: the eastern Mediterranean in the late fifteenth century. I did enjoy it, for the most part, and the thematic echoes of his earlier Sarantine Mosaic are clear. There, Crispin travelled to Sarantium to create a mosaic commissioned by the Sarantine emperor. Here, Pero travels to then-Sarantium now-Asharias to paint a portrait of the grand khalif of the Osmanli Empire. Seemingly insignificant people put in positions where their decisions have grand historical consequences abound, as is usual for Kay, with a similar sense of crushing weight to history in its uncaring inevitability. That weight is most evident in the Osmanli (Ottoman) attempts to besiege Alternate-Vienna; foiled not by the actions of the brave Senjani soldiers we follow who trek to defend the Jaddite faith, but something as simple and fickle as the weather. The historical content is great, as usual, especially the depictions of a parallel Venetian court as well as in-fighting among the Ottoman sultan’s sons, and unlike Under Heaven or River of Stars, Kay feels free to move aside from “how things really happened” and explore his own scenarios, what-ifs and characters. Of those characters, Danica of Senjan, a female mercenary who wants revenge on the Osmanlis for destroying her family and who is literally haunted by the ghost of her grandfather, is the most compelling. (more…)

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I am on record for not liking Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay’s first outing into medieval China. For that reason, it took me longer than usual to pick up River of Stars, which uses the same setting, albeit a few hundred years later. I shouldn’t have hesitated: River of Stars is a fine novel, carefully structured and hitting just the right emotional pitch in the last portions to keep me reading well past midnight.

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I did it. I found and finished every single novel by Guy Gavriel Kay. A Song for Arbonne was a difficult one to locate, but I got my hands on it and this particular reading project concluded a few months ago.

I’ve talked plenty about Mr. Kay on this blog before, and it’s no secret that I think he’s one of the finest Canadian fantasy authors writing today. There’s no doubt Kay cares deeply for language and knows how to craft a sentence, and his historical bent immediately puts him in line with my own interests. However, instead of deep analysis, I thought the best way to mark the occasion was a flippant survey of Kay’s various books done with something less than literary rigour. This time, it’s all about what I thought about these books, just to make things clearer if I reference Kay’s novels in the future.

So without further ado…

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In Canadian fantasy, I look to Charles de Lint and Guy Gavriel Kay as “the big two”, both producing an immense amount of often beautiful and highly influential work in decidedly different modes. Charles de Lint takes the low fantasy route: faerie in Ottawa, urban fantasy, magic realism, concerned with relatively small-scale events and individual characters.  Guy Gavriel Kay is decidedly “high fantasy”: expansive narratives steeped in myth, language, history, often using archetypal figures, a cast of thousands, and sometimes using grandiose language to convey a very large story.  I don’t prefer either mode, both authors are just fabulous by me.  However, I’ve read more Kay, and a recent read of The Fionavar Tapestry and its semi-sequel Ysabel has put me in a talking-about-Guy-Gavriel-Kay mood.  So, let’s talk about Guy Gavriel Kay, shall we?

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