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Guy Gavriel Kay

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Fionavar Tapestry is fantasy-fantasy, the other ones are loosely based on historical settings but with changes and fantasy elements. He is a far better prose writer than most genre writers but the plots can sometimes be predictable, I guess. Admittedly, I only read the trilogy and Tigana quite a while ago, I always wanted to try another one but never got around to it. He is good enough to deserve a try, almost regardless of what one has read before. If you want snarky action thrillers with swords you might become disappointed, though.

Edited by Jo498

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3 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

So, to resurrect old topic, I finally started The Last Light Of The Sun, and I can't tell if I love it or hate it. Well written so but so far veyr predictable, although I am not that far in and I do read way to much Viking fiction, and these things all tend to start out the same.

This thread also reminds me how much I HATED Tigana in high school. :P

 

I just ordered Tigana and now you make me nervous when you say you hated it. :P It was a used copy tho so if I end up hating it I haven't lost a lot of money!

How're the vikings coming along?

2 hours ago, Michael Seswatha Jordan said:

Have you enjoyed all of his works? Or, are there some that your not too keen on? I dont read Bakker for the philosophy, lol! 

I read the Fionavar ages ago, and it's...long? Derivative, nicely written, some of it will probably feel very formulaic nowadays, but it's also beautiful, in its own way. A lot of mythology. Lions of Al-Rassan is 100% brilliant. If it does not tug on your heartstrings you are made of stone. The Sarantine mosaic was very good. Clever, stylised and with amazing symmetry. The setting, especially in the second novel, is amazing and second to none, I think. Sarantium is really a place, you can feel it when you read. Kay's prose is very, very good too. Beautiful, but at the same time not complicated. You don't need to sit with a thesaurus next to you to get through the text (I am looking at you China Mieville) or trudge through a bazillion songs (Tolkien) or meandering/rants about philosophy (Bakker/Erikson). More...lyrical, perhaps?

Haven't got to the others yet tho, but so far they have been absolutely worth reading, despite their flaws (which are very, very few for Lions btw).

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I rarely say this, but his wiki page actually gives a good description of all his work and which are set in what world. (From what I understand none of them are connected other than passing references). I'll probably be more coherent tomorrow. I've been working on this iphone app all week and apple rolled all there new coding language updates today in order to break all my stuff.

Oh, and regarding Tigana, datepalm has a hilarious GoodReads review linked up thread somewhere, but like I said, I haven't read it in 20 years or so and my tastes have uh, changed dramatically.

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56 minutes ago, Lyanna Stark said:

I just ordered Tigana and now you make me nervous when you say you hated it.

Lions of Al-Rassan is 100% brilliant. If it does not tug on your heartstrings you are made of stone.

Your second sentence is exactly how I would describe Tigana. I liked it better than Lions as a matter of fact. Admittedly I'm a big Kay fan, I even quite liked Ysabel. ;)

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4 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?

http://thewertzone.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/where-to-start-guy-gavriel-kay.html?m=1

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

Spoiler

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.

 

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1 hour ago, Michael Seswatha Jordan said:

Thank you, @Lyanna Stark! From what you've described I think I'll give Lions of Al-Rassan a go. If you don't mind, what type of setting is it?

It's more or less a medieval Spain sort of setting, with countries/cities/rulers emulating the muslim/christians and jewish cultures and people, more or less.

33 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Mieville is another author I need to give a second chance to. I was... not a fan of King Rat, but from what I understand that one was not characteristic  of his work at all.

I just started Railsea, but my favourite is The Scar. I think you'd like it. :) It takes a while for it to get going, but oh my God, it is something else. If you do read it, let me know if you love or hate the ending, or maybe lovehate it. :) Only Mieville novel I have read twice. It was extremely odd going from Kay's very lyrical and flowing prose, to Leckie's matter of fact, no-nonsense almost brusque writing to Mieville's modernist style, complete with made-up words and odd punctuation. It's the same language, but it actually doesn't *feel* like it. Of the three, Kay's prose is by far the most beautiful, almost like music, or poetry.

@3CityApache I'm glad you think Tigana is up there with Lions! I now have hope. :D

Edited by Lyanna Stark

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Someone once pointed me to a really funny review of Tigana before that was written by someone on this board and I can't for the life of me think who it was. But the review was well worth the read.

Anyway, I also loved Lions and it does really tug on the heart strings. I've been meaning to move on to more by him but I've so much else I want to read. I'll give Tigana a try next

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2 minutes ago, HelenaExMachina said:

Someone once pointed me to a really funny review of Tigana before that was written by someone on this board and I can't for the life of me think who it was. But the review was well worth the read.

Anyway, I also loved Lions and it does really tug on the heart strings. I've been meaning to move on to more by him but I've so much else I want to read. I'll give Tigana a try next

Tigana is even better than Lions, IMO. It is probably even more gray-ish, which is always a plus in my book.

I think that a lot of people are divided about his writing (similar to Rothfuss' case), but I really find his writing excellent and addictive. 

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2 hours ago, HelenaExMachina said:

Someone once pointed me to a really funny review of Tigana before that was written by someone on this board and I can't for the life of me think who it was. But the review was well worth the read.

Anyway, I also loved Lions and it does really tug on the heart strings. I've been meaning to move on to more by him but I've so much else I want to read. I'll give Tigana a try next

Datepalm's review on Goodreads.

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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/

  Hide contents

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.

  Hide contents

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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