©2005 Guy Gavriel Kay; (P)2009 Penguin
"Kay's third excellent fantasy set in the world of The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995) and The Sarantine Mosaic (1999) begins about three centuries after the events of the latter. The place is an alternate Britain, the specific time the era in which a king modeled on Alfred of Wessex (849-99), called the Great, began to make headway against raiders from the north. The times and the battles are presented from several points of view, including those of Bern Thorkellson, a young northern outlaw; Aeldred of the Anglcyn (Alfred); his children; and Cenion, a learned cleric of Llywerth (Wales). Not all the battles involve weapons. The princes of Llywerth struggle with the half-world not accepted by the new faith of Jad, and Aeldred fights to get his lords to learn to use more than their weapons. The Erlings (northmen) struggle for a living, as their lives and land are hard, but realize that raiding is harder than it used to be. A distinguished story that, for those so inclined, poses intriguing historical riddles." (Booklist)
This is a beautiful story. These days, it's getting tougher to find books that not only boast of a good plot, but are actually written well. Kay uses lyrical language to the point where I stopped the iPod several times to simply gawk. Some of the metaphors, sentences and descriptions are--in a word--breathtaking. The fights are brutal, the characters are vivid in the extreme, and the themes of redemption, spiritual reality and loyalty ring like hammers off an anvil of solid prose. Having this book in your library is, to quote the author, "needful as night's end."
A wonderful, terrifying and yet magical world wrapped in a engaging story of one long summer. It kept the earphones glued to my head for a whole weekend. The narration does the book justice; the characters and the storyline come fully alive. Well worth your credit!
Taking place in the same world as Al Rassan and the Sarantium Mosaic, the locale of this story is far north of there and a few hundred years later. A different narrator than the other Kay books I've listened to lured me to try this one in audio format. It was a good decision.
As in all of Kay's books, there are several points of view and this time it seemed easier to follow than some of his other books. The picture he paints of the land and the characters is vivid and moving. The land is undergoing changes and the raids of the Ehrlings (read Vikings) up on the Anglcan (read English) are no longer as easy as they used to be. He follows the struggles of Alun ab Owyn, Bern Thorkellson and his father Thorkel Alannson, King Aeldred and his children, and the priest Cenion as they attempt to deal with honor and loss, cultural and religious changes, and love.
There is more magic in this book than in the others I've read. Faeries and other supernatural creatures populate the landscape while the religion of Jad harshly punishes those who are able to see and communicate with the Fey.
There is some extremely gory torture and killing that is hard to read about or listen to, but I'm sure it's historically accurate. All in all, a very enjoyable book.
Bardic. Mythological. Philosophical. Musing. Heroic. Masterful storytelling. Simply...... beautiful. I find it difficult to say more.
I stumbled onto this story because of Holter Graham, whom I now believe to be a present day Cyngael. A convergent story-line is difficult at best, but Guy Gavriel Kay weaves a mystical reality and brings it home with honest characters. The end result is a magical story that is as elegant and beautiful as Celtic knot.
The best thing you can make is joy.
How you feel about a narrator is a very personal thing, and I realize that some folks probably find Holter Graham very acceptable as a narrator.
Unfortunately, I found his dramatic range hard to listen to. Every sentence was pronounced as if it were the final catch phrase of an ad campaign, with an ironic lift at the end of just about every paragraph. This took me far away from the book, and I had to set it aside (something I rarely do with an audio book, I usually listen at least once to each book, often many times.)
Listen carefully to the sample to see if Mr. Graham's style is something you'd enjoy. (Actually, after listening to the sample I realize it may be too short to experience the full impact of the sing-songiness I felt throughout the portion of the book I was able to listen to...)
I bumped into this book looking for a Holter Graham narroration. It is not my usual type of literature, but I am really glad I took the chance! This is a "saga" that I did not want to end. Creative, human, and entertaining. Highly recommended! Of course, Holter Graham was wonderful to listen to.
The author comes up with some arresting insights. He's not afraid to step back and comment on the action or general aspects of human nature. The strongest part of the story arises from his recreation of the British Isles of around 950 or so. But he doesn't set it in the British Isles. He renames places and shifts things, presumably because he wants to introduce elements of fantasy and magic. But those elements are fairly lightly done. In other words, this is more a work of historical fiction with fantasy elements than a fantasy with historical parallels. To me, the fantasy elements underscored the historical elements, since people in medieval times believed so strongly in the supernatural.
In a world akin to the England of 950 BC, the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Welsh fight and co-operate to survive their encounters with each other and the fairy people who occupied the land long before any of their ancestors showed up.
This is the viking age the way it SHOULD have been. Had the sagas and folklore been the truth, this would have been it.
He has a soothing voice that is relaxing to listen to, and he captures linguistical nuances very well.
This book was an unexpected gem. I was looking for books based on viking and Celtic backgrounds and this book did not fail me. I did get this book just to kill time but was pleasantly surprised how well written and exciting it was. Definitely on of my favorite books!
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