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The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry, Book 1) [Paperback]

Guy Gavriel Kay
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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In the spaces of calm almost lost in what followed, the question of why tended to surface. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first great from a great author July 17 2007
By Arauka
The Summer Tree, as the first part of the Fionavar Tapestry, marked the arrival of one of the most imaginative Canadian authors of all time. Guy Kay used this book and its sequels, The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road, as a launch pad for his developing style of fantasy fiction based on meticulously researched history. Those familiar with his later works will find links to our own world at their most tenuous in Fionavar - despite the five main characters stepping into another world direct from the U of T campus - and some readers appear to have found this aspect of the works disappointing. On the contrary, the Tapestry served as an excellent starting point for Kay and holds up on its own. Far from being a Tolkien rehash, Kay mixes some of the same influences as Tolkien used(e.g. Norse and Celtic Mythology) with many others of his own to develop a fantastic story set in a fantastic world well beyond that of most fantasy literature today. It may not satisfy those who prefer Kay's more recent books in which the historical is more prominent and the magical more subtle, but I find them all of a piece - great books by a great author.
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This is not a book where worlds are built; this is a book where I delve into wonderful prose and drink it like water, as I lick up every scrap of wonder at his ability to link such wonderful language with the absorbing psychology of his characters and their cultures. I first came across Guy Gavriel Kay when I was 12 years old. At the time, I also loved Madeline L'Engle, Alexander LLoyd, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, Ray Bradbury Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tamara and Meredith Pierce and of course, Tolkien, to name a few. Since I had read extensively in Welsh, Greek and Arthurian mythologies as well, perhaps this helped when I read the Fionavar tapestry. Fantasy stories of this genre tend to follow a certain path that I will not at all call cliche in this case. Some spoilers ahead! In the storyline, some college friends are transported to the "world of all worlds" or what Kay refers to as the first world, where all stories come from, by a professor in our world who is a powerful person in his world. An important element to note is the many different threads from different Welsh and Celtic mythologies used, as well as Native American legends. I loved this book because it was like a grown up Narnia or Never-Ending Story in some ways, while bringing my favorite characters from different myths to life, like Arthur and Guenevere, a unicorn, and the Black Swan and much, much more. When reviewing a story like this, it is important to note that there are many different kinds of fantasy such as there are sci-fi. For instance, People get on Bradbury's case because he's not Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov, and therefore, often scientifically inaccurate. The point they're really missing, is that Bradbury is a DIFFERENT kind of storyteller than Asimov or Clarke. In much the same way, Kay is not Tolkien. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars I envy you April 17 2001
If you have not yet read Guy Gavriel Kay, I envy you. I discovered the Fionavar Tapestry on one of my ceaseless quests for a fantasy author I had not read. I found this one. There is a passage in another book where a violinist is invited to play a violin. She sweeps the bow down across the strings and realizes she is holding a Stradivarius. She forgets even her own name for the next several hours. Our world goes to their world. Done often, yes, but so what. I have never seen (the best books you do not merely read) a world where shamans are blinded when they take their shamanate, where magic requires a person as "source" to the mage, where Ring a Round the Rosie is a prophecy almost older than time. And did you ever notice that however evil the Dark Lords supposedly are, they never rape anybody? They do here. Kay does not give graphic detail yet he conveys what a "rape" is, the connotative meaning being "violate", which the term "sexual assault" loses. Kay's characters are as vivid as his descriptions and as deep as his plots. Without giving anything away, I can only say that I have read many many sixpacks. This is 5 star brandy.
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I was first introduced to GGK and this book when a visiting Australian friend left it for me when I was in University. I read the first book (The Summer Tree) and nearly went mad because I couldn't find the next. I have read and re-read this book enough times to fill a small library-- and recommended it to more people than I can count.
This is smart, literate fantasy that takes the fantasies and myths you know from other sources and weaves them into a dark and complicated cloth. GGK takes the very idea of fantasy cliche and comes up with Fionvar, the original world which contains the true version of all the stories ever told.
Five college students are brought, almost by accident, to Fionvar to a celebration in honor of an aging king. But they learn that in Fionvar there are no accidents and that they all have talents and destinies which will give them a role in the troubled land.
Read this book, and all the others in the series!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Story set in a Beautiful World July 31 2004
By CanadianMother TOP 500 REVIEWER
I love the Fionavar Tapestry. In these books Kay has woven a beautiful, complex story. The setting is Fionavar, a gorgeous and enchanted world filled with magic and history--a world which reminds me of Narnia or Middle Earth. The story is filled with strong, compelling characters, both male and female, who sometimes have to make difficult choices. At times the story is sad but Kay's writing is so graceful that I enjoyed even the sad parts.
The Summer Tree, the first book in the trilogy, begins the story very nicely and draws the reader into the deep magic of Fionavar. The part of the story with Paul hanging on the Summer Tree was very beautifully written, and at many points reached the magestic feeling of an ancient myth or legend.
I would highly recommend The Fionavar Tapestry to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy with powerful magic and attractive settings.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it so that I am reading it again after ...
Love it so that I am reading it again after so many years. No need to repeat all the good things said by the other reviewers but just a note about the map. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jean-Chs.
1.0 out of 5 stars Meh.
A friend recommended this book to me so I gave it a try. Reading the back of the copy I had, it compared the Fionavar Tapestry to something on the level of Tolkien. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Purnickitty
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to understand at some points, but still a worthwhile read.
Personally i found some of this book hard to read and understand. It does get better as you get further into it, and you start to see the authors vision. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2009 by Reads bookman
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book - and the whole trilogy
I am glad I happened to buy this book, I had not read anything of this author before. This book is the beginning of a beautiful trilogy... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2007 by bookworm
1.0 out of 5 stars Highly disappointing
I started "The Summer Tree" with high expectations based on Kay's later works. I was sorely disappointed. Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2006 by Melanie D. Crisfield
1.0 out of 5 stars Only for fantasy readers
I'm not usually a fantasy reader, but I picked up The Summer Tree hoping to try out something different for a change. I wasn't that impressed. Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2005 by A. Sider
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad disappointment
I love GG Kay's works and I came to this with high expectations.
Its a significant departure from the style and themes of his other works. Read more
Published on May 9 2002 by Mr A Paterson
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting---but Kay can do better
A bunch of Toronto law students are taken to a Tolkienian world by magical means---and they are only slightly surprised. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2001 by Timo Metzemakers
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
An inspired piece of work that does not cease to amaze me. From epic sweeps of grandeur to poignant moments with individuals, Guy G. Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2001
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