I enjoy reading Guy Gavriel Kay and checked out his early work, a three-book fantasy series called, The Fionavar Tapestry. It’s interesting to watch a writer evolve. Having read his later work first, I could see echoes of his style in these three novels: The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road. However, the shifting perspectives and character overload at the start of The Summer Tree almost made me abandon the novels for something more clear. What do you get if you stick with the books?
The novels follow a well-worn path; a group of teenagers magically cross over to a fantasy world where they have large roles to play. Each character has his or her own part within the world, and of course, there is a terrible, evil bad guy.
Some readers will love the incorporation of Arthurian legend. I found it off-putting, or at least, not a selling point. Guy Gavriel Kay likes to write heroes and he makes the heroes in these novel badass. At the same time, his novels have this aura of bromance. All of the warrior-type dudes have so much mutual admiration for one another that it overpowers the prose.
The plotting involved in the series impressed me. As events happen around the realm, Gavriel Kay will take a sentence or two and say something like, “at this time, Paul was in the Godswood with arms spread wide.” The reader grasps the sense of time and complexity of events unfolding.
While in the beginning of the novels the shifting perspectives failed, the changing perspectives work much better throughout the rest of the series. The characters have been established. They have literally separated in some cases. It’s no longer confusing who is who.
If you want to read something unexpected or unlike other fantasy novels, the books may not be for you. They follow a very formulaic approach and can move along slowly. However, if you want something familiar that resonates with other well-loved fantasy series, The Fionavar Tapestry may be just what you’re looking for.