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Guy Gavriel Kay

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12 hours ago, Michael Seswatha Jordan said:

So, I've been trying to get into Guy for a while now. And there is just son many and I don't even begin to know where to start or what would be to my liking. You all know I'm a Bakker fan, but I'm not expecting anything like that and I love all sorts of authors in fantasy. Abercrombie, Bakker, Abraham, Malazan dudes, Lynch, Rothfuss and quit a few others. I'm not necessarily Loki g for anything dark, or should I say Grimdark. I like mystery, intrigue, great plot and good characters, oh and world-building is up there too. Could I have some recs that would fit my tastes?

I'd say just avoid Fionavar. It's his first work, and it shows. 

You should be fine with just about anything else.

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Posting this here since I thought perhaps it fit better than to get to lengthy in the September reading thread (and I have a tendency to get lengthy :blush: )

This is a reply to the eloquent post by SeanF in the other thread on the Sarantine mosaic.

On 12/09/2016 at 4:26 PM, SeanF said:

A very interesting write up. I agree with a lot of what you say/

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I also thought it unrealistic that so many beautiful aristocratic women would fall for Crispinus, who is, after all, a long way down from them socially. 

My impression was that Styliane cared for nothing other than avenging her father's death.  Not even the prospect of becoming Empress really interested her, which is where Valerius went wrong;  he thought that Styliane had figured out that she and Leontes would succeed Alixana and him in due course, and that she'd be satisfied with this.

I viewed Gisel differently to you.  I thought she was a remarkably cold-blooded woman, who didn't leave any potential loose ends hanging around.  She had her six guards killed, for fear that any one of them might have overheard her conversation with Crispinus, and she made sure of Styliane by the end.  I don't doubt she would have had Alixana killed, had the latter ever emerged from hiding, and I suspect Alixana was aware of this.  My impression of Gisel was that she was advancing the interests of Gisel, much more than the interests of her own people.

The high points of the story for me were the chariot races, the scene on the island when Crispinus and Alixana visit Styliane's brother, the confrontation between Valerius and his assassins, and the hunt for Alixana through the city.

As an aside, Byzantine history is full of extremely interesting women.  Theodora rising from being a prostitute, to co-ruler of the Roman Empire and canonised as an Orthodox saint;   Irene, who was chosen to be Empress by means of a beauty contest, and (not exactly overflowing with maternal sentiment) later blinded her own son in order to seize the throne and restore the veneration of icons (she was almost made a saint);  Anna Comnena, a gifted intellectual who tried to murder her own brother to secure the throne, Theophano, who murdered two husbands and was the mother of probably the greatest Emperor (Basil II) all read like characters from far-fetched novels, but their stories are true. 

 

 

Very interesting of how the Byzantine history was populated by many interesting women. I had heard of a few, but not all of them, and not in detail. It makes me want to read non-fiction of the history of the area. :) Maybe something for next year's holiday!

Regarding the comments above:

Spoiler

I agree with your assessment of Styliane. Valerius had clearly as you state figured her intelligence would win out, but instead she got consumed by hatred. Unfortunately, I thought that made her a bit one note. There was never any doubt in her, no soft or respectful sides. The way Alixiana impersonated her with the older Dalenoi brother was shocking and depressing. Even with Crispin she was cold and distant, and that she basically enjoyed the physical side of sex with him never really won me over, as I thought it was one of the major occasions where the author mistook sex for real intimacy, for no particular reason. Lots of people have casual sex and it means extremely little to them, but somehow, Styliane sleeping with Crispin somehow did matter, although it was never explained why, which makes it very implausible to me. She had no reason to like him, particularly, or care for him, so why would she when she disliked everyone else?

When it comes to Gisel, I thought she was a better character, since although she is an extremely tough cookie and make some really bloody minded choices, she also mourns people she loved, she is afraid of coming to Sarantium, she is worried about her fate, and not only as representative of her people (although that was there too) but for herself as a young woman, adrift in the world. She knows and has accepted she may die, but she yet fears it and wants to avoid it.

In that way I felt Gisel was a more nuanced character. She was almost set up as a foil to Styliane, since what Styliane got wrong, she got right. While Gisel is also cold and calculating, she is not *only* cold and calculating. She appreciates beauty when she sees Crispin's work in the dome and seems saddened/almost embarrassed about Leontes' insistence on tearing it down (and sends replacement Tesserae to Crispin in Rhodias), she is not completely without empathy and she doesn't actively hate people on sight. So I guess Styliane is more two-note because she is hell bent on destruction only, while Gisel is more nuanced since her goals are not that simple. It's about survival for herself, primarily, but also of her people, of her kingdom, her power, and how she can advance herself, in the power games. So in a sense, life handed Gisel lemons and she made lemonade. Life handed Styliane lemons and she angrily set fire to everything, sort of. :P

I think that's what I really liked about the ending, how content Gisel seems working together with Gesius. Sure, they are both powerful, scheming individuals, but they seemed to genuinely enjoy working together, a bit like Gesius respected Valerius II. Plus it was a very understated moment in the middle of a lot of melodrama. :) Overall, I liked that Gisel's characterisation was pretty subtle and understated compared to the more dramatic Crispin, Alixiana, Leontes, Styliane and Shirin, for example.

I don't know if they meant it, but Gisel and Leontes sent out a missive in the end that the hunt for Alixiana was ended, and that should she appear she would be "honoured". That may or may not be a lie, but since Leontes' reign and Gisel's coup was basically "blame everything on the Dalenoi and look like the natural follower to Valerius II", then it would probably be a better choise to treat Valerius' widow courteously. At least that was the conclusion I drew, but I may be wrong. :) At least "everyone knew" she was barren, so the threat of an heir by Valerius should be of no concern.

It's actually not stated whether Alixiana ever made herself known to Leontes and Gisel. I wondered about that myself, but given the circumstances she is travelling under, my guess is she never did.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Lyanna Stark

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10 hours ago, DaveSumm said:

Can I ask a question about Tigana? I've just started Part II, Dianora.

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What exactly is it that separates those that can remember the name Tigana and those that can't? Does everyone from Tigana remember it, but Brandin just killed most of them? Why wouldn't he just perform the spell on everyone? I'm not sure if I missed something or whether it's going to be revealed later. I thought maybe Devin, Alessan etc weren't on the continent when it happened or something to start with, but I don't think that's the case.

 

From what I remember, only people who were born in Tigana before Brandin's spell can remember Tigana, anyone from another province or born afterwards won't be able to remember it. I can't now remember if it states why Brandin let anyone remember it, but he might have thought it would be crueller for the Tiganans to know what is being lost.

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20 hours ago, Lyanna Stark said:

Posting this here since I thought perhaps it fit better than to get to lengthy in the September reading thread (and I have a tendency to get lengthy :blush: )

This is a reply to the eloquent post by SeanF in the other thread on the Sarantine mosaic.

Very interesting of how the Byzantine history was populated by many interesting women. I had heard of a few, but not all of them, and not in detail. It makes me want to read non-fiction of the history of the area. :) Maybe something for next year's holiday!

Regarding the comments above:

  Reveal hidden contents

I agree with your assessment of Styliane. Valerius had clearly as you state figured her intelligence would win out, but instead she got consumed by hatred. Unfortunately, I thought that made her a bit one note. There was never any doubt in her, no soft or respectful sides. The way Alixiana impersonated her with the older Dalenoi brother was shocking and depressing. Even with Crispin she was cold and distant, and that she basically enjoyed the physical side of sex with him never really won me over, as I thought it was one of the major occasions where the author mistook sex for real intimacy, for no particular reason. Lots of people have casual sex and it means extremely little to them, but somehow, Styliane sleeping with Crispin somehow did matter, although it was never explained why, which makes it very implausible to me. She had no reason to like him, particularly, or care for him, so why would she when she disliked everyone else?

When it comes to Gisel, I thought she was a better character, since although she is an extremely tough cookie and make some really bloody minded choices, she also mourns people she loved, she is afraid of coming to Sarantium, she is worried about her fate, and not only as representative of her people (although that was there too) but for herself as a young woman, adrift in the world. She knows and has accepted she may die, but she yet fears it and wants to avoid it.

In that way I felt Gisel was a more nuanced character. She was almost set up as a foil to Styliane, since what Styliane got wrong, she got right. While Gisel is also cold and calculating, she is not *only* cold and calculating. She appreciates beauty when she sees Crispin's work in the dome and seems saddened/almost embarrassed about Leontes' insistence on tearing it down (and sends replacement Tesserae to Crispin in Rhodias), she is not completely without empathy and she doesn't actively hate people on sight. So I guess Styliane is more two-note because she is hell bent on destruction only, while Gisel is more nuanced since her goals are not that simple. It's about survival for herself, primarily, but also of her people, of her kingdom, her power, and how she can advance herself, in the power games. So in a sense, life handed Gisel lemons and she made lemonade. Life handed Styliane lemons and she angrily set fire to everything, sort of. :P

I think that's what I really liked about the ending, how content Gisel seems working together with Gesius. Sure, they are both powerful, scheming individuals, but they seemed to genuinely enjoy working together, a bit like Gesius respected Valerius II. Plus it was a very understated moment in the middle of a lot of melodrama. :) Overall, I liked that Gisel's characterisation was pretty subtle and understated compared to the more dramatic Crispin, Alixiana, Leontes, Styliane and Shirin, for example.

I don't know if they meant it, but Gisel and Leontes sent out a missive in the end that the hunt for Alixiana was ended, and that should she appear she would be "honoured". That may or may not be a lie, but since Leontes' reign and Gisel's coup was basically "blame everything on the Dalenoi and look like the natural follower to Valerius II", then it would probably be a better choise to treat Valerius' widow courteously. At least that was the conclusion I drew, but I may be wrong. :) At least "everyone knew" she was barren, so the threat of an heir by Valerius should be of no concern.

It's actually not stated whether Alixiana ever made herself known to Leontes and Gisel. I wondered about that myself, but given the circumstances she is travelling under, my guess is she never did.

 

 

 

 

In my view, Alixana potentially threatens Gisel's position, if she emerges from hiding.  She's young, beautiful, popular with the factions and people, highly intelligent, and has worn the purple.  She is an excellent marriage prospect for any ambitious nobleman who wants to make a bid for the Throne; or perhaps she'll seduce Leontes, in the way that Gisel seduced him.  And, she is privy to all of Gisel's negotiations with Valerius, in respect to bringing Italy back into the Empire.  Were these to be revealed, Gisel might well be seen as a traitor by her own people. 

Now it may very well be that Alixana would be quite happy with a comfortable retirement, and to just let Leontes and Gisel get on with ruling, giving them advice when requested.  But, Gisel can't assume this.  And, maybe I'm being unduly cynical, but Gisel did not strike me as someone who waited to see whether someone would become a threat.  She acted to eliminate anyone who could possibly constitute a threat.  And her position would be more secure (in her eyes) with Alixana dead.  Quiet assassination, or framing Alixana for treason, would be the way to go about it.

Even if I'm being unfair to Gisel, I could imagine Alixana reasoning along these lines, and concluding it would be better if no one in Sarantium ever saw her again (her rings should be sufficiently valuable for her to be able to live comfortably for the rest of her life).  At any rate, if you're Alixana, why take the risk?

Within real Byzantine history, I don't think that royal or aristocratic women were in such danger as they are portrayed in these books.  They were occasionally executed, but that was rare.  I certainly can't think of any example of someone like Styliane being blinded (men were blinded, castrated, had tongue or noses cut off to render them unfit for the Throne).  More likely, Styliane would have been confined to a really unpleasant and austere convent for the rest of her life.  Alixana would have been allowed to retire to a comfortable villa a long way from the capital.

 

Edited by SeanF

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On 14-9-2016 at 5:39 AM, Michael Seswatha Jordan said:

So, I've been trying to get into Guy for a while now. And there is just son many and I don't even begin to know where to start or what would be to my liking. You all know I'm a Bakker fan, but I'm not expecting anything like that and I love all sorts of authors in fantasy. Abercrombie, Bakker, Abraham, Malazan dudes, Lynch, Rothfuss and quit a few others. I'm not necessarily Loki g for anything dark, or should I say Grimdark. I like mystery, intrigue, great plot and good characters, oh and world-building is up there too. Could I have some recs that would fit my tastes?

Lions of Al-Rassan first because that one is easy to get into.

Tigana is a classic but I found it harder to get into at the start.

Sarantine Mosaic and Under Heaven come highly recommended by many people. Last Light of the Sun seems very interesting to me.

I personally loved his only high fantasy work, the Fionavar Tapestry, it remains my favorite alongside " Lions". I still have a lot of Kay books still to read though.

Edited by Calibandar

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On 5/7/2009 at 5:51 AM, Ran said:
1 hour ago, Darth Richard II said:

Well I'm enjoying the shit ot of Last Light of the Sun , which is nice. My experience with books.authors you should have read omg why haven't you read X yet has been not good this year.

I really enjoyed that one.  It doesn't often get mentioned among his better works

 

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Did anyone spot the shout-out to Blacadder II in Children of Earth and Sky (the episode that involves the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells?)

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15 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

Well, I hath been converted to the Church of Kay. Now to order alll the other books. Cause I need more books, of course.

YES! Another convert! He does the bittersweet ending better than anyone, among his many gifts.  He's a wonderful storyteller.

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On 9/19/2016 at 5:09 AM, SeanF said:

Did anyone spot the shout-out to Blacadder II in Children of Earth and Sky (the episode that involves the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells?)

No, but now you have my attention.

/runs to order Children of Earth and Sky

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I loved Tigana when I read it a few years back so I bought a copy of The Lions of Al-Rassan. Looking forward to reading Kay again, I've wanted to read more of his books for ages.

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Just finished River of Stars and Under Heaven, really enjoyed the both of them.

 

I like the sound of Tigana and Lions, reckon I'll look them out next

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10 minutes ago, Talleyrand said:

Just finished River of Stars and Under Heaven, really enjoyed the both of them.

 

Are the two fairly different from another, in terms of the story it tells?

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2 hours ago, Calibandar said:

Are the two fairly different from another, in terms of the story it tells?

Yeah Under Heaven is a more personal story, rarely straying from the protagonists with a smaller scale whereas River of Stars is much more spread out covering a fair few more areas and characters and the characters are far more involved with the wide scale events of the book.

But there both set in the same universe, though centuries apart with a couple of callbacks.

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I'll second his high fantasy Fionavar Tapestry.  It's true the starting premise is pretty silly and it is kind of uneven in that their are some definite lows but when he hits the highs, my God does he ever hit the fucking highs. I've read most of his other stuff and I can say pretty confidently that the high points in Fionavar pretty much eclipse everything else he's written, and quite frankly eclipse most of what I've read in the fantasy genre as a whole.

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6 hours ago, Slurktan said:

I'll second his high fantasy Fionavar Tapestry.  It's true the starting premise is pretty silly and it is kind of uneven in that their are some definite lows but when he hits the highs, my God does he ever hit the fucking highs. I've read most of his other stuff and I can say pretty confidently that the high points in Fionavar pretty much eclipse everything else he's written, and quite frankly eclipse most of what I've read in the fantasy genre as a whole.

This is encouraging.  I've already bought the first Fionavar book and was wondering whether or not that was a good idea.

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Funny, I'd say Fionavar Tapestry is by far the weakest thing he's written apart from Ysabel. Truly, de gustibus, non disputandum est.

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