The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan - poet, diplomat, soldier - until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.
Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated - and feared - military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.
In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve - for a time - the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate - and increasingly torn by her feelings - is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.
Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake - or destroy - a world.
©1995 Guy Gavriel Kay (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
As I listened I was thinking - who else can I tell about this wonderful book? People need to know about it!
Perhaps the best part of this book is the beauty of the language. It is almost like reading poetry or prose, not just a story. And the wonderful narrator enhances the joy of listening to this immensely.
The story was excellent - complex at times and required attention and the willingness to follow it carefully, but the payoff for doing so was great.
I was struck by the way the author could get behind the eyes of each character so thoroughly. As each person spoke you saw the world from their perspective. It wasn't so much as story about people and what they did as it was about what each main character thought and felt and how they perceived and related to each other. Yes there was action, but in my mind it was secondary to the telling of each character's true nature.
This is a great story with a fantastic set of characters. Let me say first that I LOVED the characters, and it is honestly very difficult for me to become attached to a character. But these characters were fully realized and not only likable, but you get into their heads. You get into their depths. You connect with them on an intimate level.
The story was also quite exciting. It was interesting because as we had characters from all sides of the conflict, there wasn't really a "right" or "wrong" side to root for. As is the case in many wars, I suppose. It was a nice change of pace.
Euan Morton is a FANTASTIC narrator. One of the best I have ever heard. He was a liiiiittle slow sometimes, but his voice was a pleasure to listen to.
The reason I knock this down to four stars is because this book just contains... too much history, I'd say. Kay spends very long periods of time explaining the detailed political history of a country or conflict, and it honestly detracts from the characters and plot. The thing about world building is you can't do too much too fast. When readers enter a new story, bombarding them with new names and places and detailed histories will just make them forget it all. Kay did this in the very first chapter. An extremely exciting military coup was taking place, and Kay interrupted it for a pages and pages long history of the region and the political powers. 1. I didn't know any of the characters so I couldn't CARE if I wanted to. 2. It was like reading a history textbook. These all-too-frequent "history lessons" were not well integrated, were too long-winded, and overall brings this book down from "amazing, one of my favorites to "good, but flawed, and would not read again."
One day, I will listen to The Lions of Al-Rassan again. It is one of those rare books which, once finished, doesn't allow you to just pick up another one right away. It evokes an emotional toll that takes time to process, and rewards those who take that time. It is a soul-stirring tale of love, loyalty, cultural identity and romanticism, which is by turns infuriating,inspiring, and heart-breaking. Guy Gavriel Kay writes vivid life into his characters, humanizing those on all sides of storys' central conflict. In Lions, he reminds us of the universality of humanity, a lesson as relevant today as it ever has been, and in so doing shines a light on the divisive forces which continue to plague the world today. All of this is done against the backdrop of a thoughtfully and richly constructed world, replete with a troubled past and an ominous future, yet through this there is still hope to be found in the closing passages of the book.
My favorite characters (2!) are Rodrigo Belmonte and Ammar ibn Khairan, who are each written as complex and conflicted men, divided between their loyalties to their respective cultures and faiths, and their friendship for one another.
The narrator, Euan Morton, imparts a rich texture upon the story. He does great service to the narrative and its characters. His cadence and pace flow smoothly, and never distract the listener.
Prior to listening to this book I would have said that my favorite GGK novel was Tigana. It's very close now between that book and this one.
I have read quite a few Guy Gabriel Kay's books so far and this is my favorite. In all of his books, the character development is outstanding and this is no exception. His descriptions of the physical settings are vivid. He always weaves many story threads into whole cloth. The Lions of Al-Rassan does all of this too a high level. The numbers of complex characters interacting are many. Their backgrounds are quite different and he is dealing with many different cultures. An excellent book.
Lions of Al rassan has always been one of my favorite book from Guy Gavriel Kay. And I feared a bit the audio version. But I was not disappointed. On the contrary, this is an extraordinary read of the book that will make it alive
This is a great story and in view of current event a very modern one. How can good and honest men live together in a wold torn asunder by religion ? It is well written and makes you think a lot while entertaining you .
As typical with GGK, the story starts out slow, then builds into a thing of epic wonder and beauty.
Leaf in the wind
This masterfully written book seems to the untrained eye to be a testament to open-mindedness and pluralism. However, as the reader is swept up by it's enthralling prose, it becomes apparent to one versed in the history of Alandalus that this is a regurgitation of contemporary Western beliefs. Jews are idealized and placed beyond human error, Arabs are vilified and painted as warmongers and zealots, and Christians are ever so quietly always the triumphant. The supposed "ode" to Al Rassan at the very end of the book was a boring recital of the names of the cities with a few poetic clichés thrown in. It is hard to believe the same man who wrote Tigana, which was incredibly nuanced and sophisticated, also wrote this book that seems to simply recapitulate most stereotypes. This book should be titled "how educated europeans like to view the history of Arabs in Spain in order to sleep better at night." I strongly recommend to anyone reading this book to be keenly aware that it fails utterly to transcend the paranoid ideologies of contemporary America and Canada in regards to the relations between Arabs, Europeans, and Jews .
I am a lover of fantasy novels with exciting action, complex plots, and unforgettable characters.
This is the first Kay novel I have read and I must say it was fantastic. I rarely give a book five stars, but after finishing this book there was no doubt in my mind that it deserved that honor. What drives this story are its characters and the writing skills of the author. Each character is lovingly developed and teased into being with perfect care. You as the reader learn to understand everything about them and their relationships with each other. This is one of the first books in a while where the characters actually got into my conscience and it actually bothered me when they died. To put in perspective I put A Game of Thrones at the top of my favorite books list, so I am used to character death and usually unperturbed by it. The second thing that drives this book is the beautiful, lyrical, and poetical writing. The words seemed to flow off the narrator's tongue and into my ears. I can honestly say that this is probably the best poetical writing I have ever read. I also, liked the way the plot was designed, Kay wastes no time with traveling from place to place in the story, This novel is made up of a series of events that matter to the characters and nothing else. This is how the entire book is told, it is different than I am use to and I found it refreshing. I wil give one warning about this book, it is not for those who want to see wizards duels and incredible magical displays. The magic in this book is minimal and subtle, not abused, but used in very sparing quantities. If anything this book is more of a historical fiction than a historical fantasy. It is similar to the history of medieval Spain and you can tell Kay does his research. One final thing I will add about the plot of this book is even though it is about a massive broken kingdom and wars to reunify it, the novel is more based on the characters and their passionate friendships than a war. The war is the framework of the story, and the characters and their lives are the center. Finally, the narrator did a fantastic job with this novel, I would rank him as one of the best I have ever heard. His voice was perfect for storytelling and he differentiated characters masterfully. I know this book is 20 years old now and I am behind the band wagon in reading it, but if you are farther behind than I am, then read please, it is worth it.
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