This week, I chose an author rather than two different books. Guy Gavriel Kay writes fantasy novels, but usually doesn’t involve much magic, or other fantasy staples such as elves or dwarves. He has several books, ranging from high fantasy (The Fionavar Tapestry) to works that could be called ‘historical fantasy’. (The Sarantine Mosaic)
The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy consisting of “The Summer Tree”, “The Wandering Fire” and “The Darkest Road”.
In the three novels that make up the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy collected in this omnibus edition (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road), five University of Toronto students find themselves transported to a magical land to do battle with the forces of evil. At a Celtic conference, Kimberley, Kevin, Jennifer, Dave, and Paul meet wizard Loren Silvercloak. Returning with him to the magical kingdom of Fionavar to attend a festival, they soon discover that they are being drawn into the conflict between the dark and the light as Unraveller Rakoth Maugrim breaks free of his mountain prison and threatens the continued existence of Fionavar. They join mages, elves, dwarves, and the forces of the High King of Brennin to do battle with Maugrim, where Kay’s imaginative powers as a world-builder come to the fore. He stunningly weaves Arthurian legends into the fluid mix of Celtic, Nordic, and Teutonic, creating a grand fantasy that sweeps readers into a heroic struggle that the author makes all the more memorable because of the tributes he pays to past masters.
The trilogy is a grand homage to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but while the echoes of Tolkien’s masterwork are very real, the books offer the wonderful taste of a new fantasy writer cutting his teeth at the foot of a master. Kay has a very real connection to Tolkien–as Christopher Tolkien’s assistant, Kay was invaluable in helping to wrestle Tolkien’s posthumous The Silmarillion into shape for publication. Kay is undoubtedly one of the Canadian masters of high fantasy, and The Fionavar Tapestry is one of his most enduring works.
The Sarantine Mosaic is a set of two books, “Sailing to Sarantium” and “Lord of Emperors”.
Sailing to Sarantium
Sarantium is the golden city: holy to the faithful, exalted by the poets, jewel of the world, and heart of an empire. Artisan Caius Crispus receives a summons from the emperor and sets off on a journey toward the Imperial City. But before Crispin can reach Sarantium, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, he must pass through a land of pagan ritual and mysterious danger.
Sailing to Sarantium, the first volume of the brilliant Sarantine Mosaic, weaves an utterly compelling story of the allure and intrigue of a magnificent city and the people drawn into its spell.
Lord of Emperors
Having finally achieved his journey to fabled Sarantium, Crispin the mosaicist wants nothing more than to confront the challenges of his art high on the scaffolding of destiny—but in Sarantium no man may easily withdraw from the turmoil of court and city, or forget that the presence of the half-world is always close by.
To the Imperial City there comes another voyager, this time from the east. Rustem of Kerakek, a physician, must find his own balance of family and ambition, healing and death, as he, too, is drawn into the deadly webs of Sarantium.