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Guy Gavriel Kay

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It has been 20 years that I read it, and I'd say that Fionavar will probably show its age today in many respects, e.g. some strange premises, both "college kids enter a fantasy world" and "reenacting Arthurian love triangle" seem somewhat silly. But it is still quite atmospheric and better written than a lot of more recent very popular stuff and probably overall important and interesting enough to deserve a try.

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I've just read A Song for Arbonne, and it's easily the worst of the Kay books I've read thus far - the others being Fionavar and Last Light of the Sun (I do have Lions on my reading pile, but it'll have to wait for the new year).

Anyway: Song is a flabby nonentity of a novel. Kay spends way too much time describing facial expressions and tonal shifts in long conversations, rather than letting the characters' words speak for themselves. The characters are uninteresting, and too often fall into the Kay stereotype of "a heroic character is unnaturally good-looking, a bit emo, and has lots of sex" (Bertran being chief offender there). As for the setting - it went out its way to contrast the noble pro-feminist Arbonne against the evil misogynists from Gorhaut - problem is that the book ends up coming across as vaguely homophobic to a 2016 reader, and I say this as someone who is not normally bothered by temporal values dissonance - the early 1990s was not that long ago.

And then there is the ludicrous deus ex machina conclusion to the battle. Did I mention I really hated this book?

Edited by Roose Boltons Pet Leech

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6 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

So uh if I liked Fonavar and loved Last Light I should be OK?

(Seriously you couldn't have posted this a few days earlier, I just ordered Song and Lions from amazon. :P )

Lions is an utterly awesome book. I think you will love it. 

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On 12/28/2016 at 10:50 PM, Andorion said:

Lions is an utterly awesome book. I think you will love it. 

Concur. Lions is an amazing tour de force. I sincerely believe it's Kay's masterpiece.

Song is fine. I know it isn't for everyone, but he's trying to accomplish something fairly specific and if you can't buy into that, it isn't going to be your cup of tea. That said, the prose is still wonderful, even if it's a lesser story.

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On 12/28/2016 at 7:50 PM, Andorion said:

Lions is an utterly awesome book. I think you will love it. 

Here! Here!  It's really great and is my fave too.  :)    Fionavar Tapestry series least interesting and not fun books of his I read.  Sounds like Songs is worth passing over too.  But Lions, great.  

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15 hours ago, LongRider said:

Here! Here!  It's really great and is my fave too.  :)    Fionavar Tapestry series least interesting and not fun books of his I read.  Sounds like Songs is worth passing over too.  But Lions, great.  

I'd say A Song For Arbonne is closer in style to Lions than the Fionavar books. It does get a bit overshadowed by Tigana and Lions among Kay's 90s work, but I think if you're a fan of Kay's writing then it is worth reading.

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Lions is fine but I thought a bit gimmicky in how Kay handles a few twists. I prefer the Sarantine Mosaic and the two Asian themed books. 

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It's been long enough since I read it for me to have forgotten almost all the details of the plot, but I remember A Song For Arbonne being a lot closer in tone and style to The Lions of Al-Rassan than it was to either the Fionavar books or The Last Light of the Sun.  So I'm not sure somebody who hated Song would enjoy Lions that much -- there are plenty of stereotypical Kay characters and, as unJon notes above, Lions has a couple of potentially irritating narrative devices as well.

That said, if you enjoyed LLotS and haven't read either Song or Lions yet I'd probably guess you'd be happy with both?  If anything, LLotS is usually considered the weakest book of those three, I think.  (Personally, the Sarantine Mosaic duology and Under Heaven are my favourite Kay novels.)

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Personally I loved Lions of Al-Rassan when I was reading it. In hindsight, just thinking about the plot, it all seems very melodramatic though. Still, I never really thought about that when I was reading because I found the style engaging and easy going. I would certainly recommend it.

Somehow I have still not got around to reading Tigana, as I promised myself I would

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55 minutes ago, HelenaExMachina said:

Personally I loved Lions of Al-Rassan when I was reading it. In hindsight, just thinking about the plot, it all seems very melodramatic though. Still, I never really thought about that when I was reading because I found the style engaging and easy going. I would certainly recommend it.

Somehow I have still not got around to reading Tigana, as I promised myself I would

I found Tigana more melodramatic than Lions, FWIW. Still enjoyed it though. 

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Which is his best book after Tigana and Lions? I loved Tigana and found Lions very good. Still somehow, I have read only these two books of him despite that I read Tigana two years ago and usually when I like an author so much, I read more books from him/her.

Also, I find his writing as arguably the best in the genre. 

Edited by TheRevanchist

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I prefer his Sarantine Mosaic, which consists of his novels Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors.

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Kay knows what he's doing.  Melodrama is a tool like any other used in fiction, but too many seem to think it is a derogatory slur.  He knows it is melodrama and wants it so.  He's not interested in small events.  He's exploring the large ones, turning points in history that are heightened and given meaning by arranging a tableau of emotion.  Most of his novels use history for find those events, except in Fionavar he used myth.  I don't think "it shows it's age" or is silly; melodrama is an old tool, and timeless, and that's what he wants his work to be.

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16 hours ago, TheRevanchist said:

Which is his best book after Tigana and Lions? I loved Tigana and found Lions very good. Still somehow, I have read only these two books of him despite that I read Tigana two years ago and usually when I like an author so much, I read more books from him/her.

Also, I find his writing as arguably the best in the genre. 

A Song for Arbonne is probably the next-best book in that mode from Kay, followed by Children of Earth and Sky and The Last Light of the Sun (which is good, but possibly Kay phoning it in a bit).

The Sarantine Mosaic I found good but "cold" by Kay's normal standards, where the warmth of the characters (even the antagonists) comes through more clearly. I also found it overlong: I think he could have done the same story in one novel with a bit more focus and clarity.

Under Heaven and River of Stars are very good, probably somewhere between his European books in tone and the coldness of the Sarantine ones.

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I really enjoyed both The Sarantine Mosaic (probably because I'm fascinated by Byzantine history) and Children of Earth and Sky when I read them last year, and look forward to working my way through the rest.

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Make sure to read Sarantine Mosaic before Children of Earth and Sky. It's not a sequel but there are tons of references and Easter Eggs to the former in the latter. 

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