Book Review: The Summer Tree by Kay (4 Stars)

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

4 out of 5 stars

Read in June 2011

I took quite some time to warm-up to this earliest novel of Guy Gavriel Kay. I just couldn’t get excited about five Canadian college students agreeing (with the exception of one malcontent … but there’s always got to be one rebel) to be whisked or warped or rifted or transported (take your pick) to the world of Fionavar just to attend the king’s jubilee. Thrust into a seemingly medieval setting, complete with court politics, royal succession quandaries, manipulative magicians, kingdom-wide drought and blight and an approaching storm of vengeful evil, these young men and women adapt readily and a bit unbelievably. Even the initial loss of one in the crossing barely causes a blip of concern once the remaining four become embroiled in the avalanche of events bearing down on the kingdom.

Of all the characters, both from our world and Finovar, I respected Dave the most as well as Sharra (and I hope to learn more about her in the rest of the series). Paul seemed to excel at doing the right things for all the wrong reasons. Kimberly went native almost before leaving Earth, but Kevin remains an enigma to me. I barely glimpsed Jennifer’s tribulations and fear for her fate.

I saw the influence of Celtic mythology throughout Kay’s worldbuilding and drew parallels with other epic fantasies prevalent and popular in the late 70s and early 80s (Tolkien, Lewis and to a lesser extent Brooks).

I suspect I missed reading the Fionavar Tapestry in high school and early college because I had to rely on what I saw at the grocery store book/magazine aisle, since I didn’t have access to a library or a book store and GoodReads wasn’t even a gleam on the Internet’s nascent horizon. Had I read this series then, I am confident I would have added it to my permanent re-read collection. While The Summer Tree and the rest of the Fionavar Tapestry will remain on my shelves besides Kay’s other later great novels, I doubt I’ll be tempted to re-read it. Not with Tigana or the Lions of Al-Rassan enticing me to return and relive the wonder and the glory.

For further insights, please visit the discussion threads at the GoodReads Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club held in June 2011.

The Beyond Reality group at GoodReads started reading the entire series, The Fionavar Tapestry in mid-January 2014.

One thought on “Book Review: The Summer Tree by Kay (4 Stars)”

Comments are closed.