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I love Kay's later works, Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors, so I was prepared to be forgiving of this earlier work. It is a competent enough portal fantasy, with five young Canadians wrenched into a largely Celtic world to fulfill a variety of quests. There is some odd pacing of info-dumping, and the characterisation is not as good as in Kay's later works - did he take the wrong lessons from his work on The Silmarillion? But it's decent enough, and is interesting for the way it draws on various different cultural roots without too much disharmony - the Summer Tree of the title being a particularly good example (Neil Gaiman uses it in American Gods as well, but more intrusively). So I will read the sequel in due course.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 27th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
I read those books as they were coming out, and they still rank among my favorites ever, flaws and all. Augh. Now I want to re-read them. Because, you know, I need a good cry...o.O
Jun. 28th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
I read that trilogy probably close to their publication, but before anything else by him which probably was the good way to do it!

Still re-read them occasionally
Jun. 27th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
Tigana and A Song For Arbonne are his best - if you haven't got the latter, you really need to.
Jun. 27th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
I have to re-read that sometime. It's the only one of his books I've bounced off.
Jun. 27th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
I read those as they came out, too - must reread them again for the first time in 20 years or so. As I recall, they were quite decent, even if having one character named after an aircraft part was a bit distracting!
Jun. 28th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Oddly enough, Lois McMaster Bujold mentions that in one of the pieces in The Vorkosigan Companion, though without specifying what she has in mind (though there can be little doubt that she means this book and its sequels).
Jun. 28th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
You might think Aileron's a High King, but I know he's just a wing flap!
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)
I hated this trilogy, and as a consequence never read any Kay again, although people keep saying that later books (e.g. Tigana) are a big improvement, so I might give him another try.
Jun. 28th, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
Agree with you - except that I can't speak for the whole trilogy, just this book. I started 'The Summer Tree' last Christmas on the basis that many people recommended it, and found it so badly written that I couldn't finish it. I found the characters boring and their motivations unconvincing, and the portrayals of women just a bit sexist. And I couldn't see the point of the Canada/fantasy world shift since there wasn't much effort to play the contrasts between the two off against each other in an interesting way - the Canada prologue seems not to be very relevant to the story in the new world. Of course, this may change later in the book, in the bit I'm not going to read.
Jun. 29th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Don't worry, nothing improves. If anything it gets worse, as you go through the process of "OMG, he's not really going to do that is he, oh he is, how predictable"... I only read the whole trilogy because I was running a group at uni that discussed various authors and he was up next, otherwise I'd have probably abandoned it during the first book too.
Jun. 28th, 2009 09:21 am (UTC)
When I read the trilogy on publication (1984-86)I found them genuinely moving, with some emotional highs (including and particularly Paul on the tree in The Summer Tree) that I remember to this day. They show typical new author traits of stereotypical character and plot, mixing in everything mythic and fantastic he ever read, but conveying genuine feeling with some superb, albeit uneven, writing. I remember that particularly noticeable influences included Tolkein (not suprising as Kay collaborated with Christopher Tolkein working on J.R.R.'s papers), the Thomas Covenant books, and Joy Chant's Red Moon and Black Mountain (whose plot and characters are essentially reprised).

I find his later books very mixed. I loved Tigana, which was much less derivative, and also kept some of that youthful freshness. The Sarantium pair, which I also rate very highly, manages some genuine originality of plot and character, and also reaches some of those emotional highs again from a better crafted base. On the other hand, The Lions of al-Rassan and A Song for Arbonne which are highly rated by some, I found to be derivative, formulaic and slackly plotted - extruded fantasy product, in other words.

Kat was Guest of Honour at 2KCon, the Eastercon in 2000 in Glasgow. In public presentation he did not impress.
Jun. 28th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
Have you read his latest one, Ysabel?
Jun. 28th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
No, though I probably should...
Jun. 29th, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)
There is a connection with The Fionavar Tapestry, but here, the fantasy elements intrude in this world. It's a crosssing between a coming of age story and an "eternal" love triangle. But to be honest, I think most of Kay's other books are better.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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