The Wandering Fire is the second novel of Guy Gavriel Kay's critically acclaimed fantasy trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry.
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©1986 Guy Gavriel Kay; (P)2009 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
"One of the very best fantasies to have appeared since Tolkien." (Andre Norton)
"This is the only fantasy work I know which does not suffer by comparison to The Lord of the Rings." (Interzone)
"The essence of high fantasy...a remarkable achievement." (Locus)
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
It???s been 1?? years since I read The Summer Tree, Guy Gavriel Kay???s first novel and the first in his Fionavar Tapestry. I mentioned in the review for that book that I???m an adoring fan of Kay???s later stand-alone novels but that I found The Summer Tree derivative and heavy. I would have happily skipped its sequel, The Wandering Fire, but I had already purchased it at Audible, so I thought I???d give it a chance to win me over. Simon Vance, the narrator, is one of my favorites and his bad Canadian accents were toned down this time, which made him pleasant to listen to, as usual.
In this installment, the five college students are back home in Toronto after Kim whisked them out of Fionavar when she heard Jennifer being tortured after being raped by the dark lord, Rakoth Maugrim. Jennifer became pregnant and has refused to get rid of the baby. Will the son of the dark lord be evil? Are genes destiny, or might love overcome their effect? Meanwhile, the unnatural winter grinds on in Fionavar. The people are starving and the minions of the dark lord are attacking, so Kim goes to Stonehenge to summon Arthur Pendragon and takes him and the rest of the gang back to fight evil in Fionavar.
I felt pretty much the same way about The Wandering Fire as I did about The Summer Tree. Here we get to know our heroes a little better, but they still remain rather shallow even though we spend plenty of time viewing events from their perspectives and watching them act and speak with an abundance of emotion. The villains are similarly thin. The story advances, though not much has been accomplished by the end, and I had the familiar feeling that The Fionavar Tapestry could have been done in two books instead of three.
The story, though derivative (there are so many Tolkienesque elements here), is intriguing, but the addition of King Arthur (and the foreshadowed love triangle with Jennifer and Lancelot) is strange and seems out of place. There are bright patches of humor and wit, especially in the blossoming romance between Sharra and Diarmuid, which has been my favorite plotline in this series.
My main problem with The Fionavar Tapestry is that it???s so unrelievedly heavy and histrionic. The characters, even those from modern Toronto, express almost every thought in intense turgid prose. Everything that happens ??? every conversation, every fight, every sex scene, every meal ??? is treated as if it???s the climax of the story. It???s often beautiful, but frankly, it???s exhausting. This is an area where GGK has markedly improved over the years. His later novels are still full of passion, but in these earlier books, each character feels as if he???s likely to explode at any moment if the temperature in Fionavar ever gets above freezing.
Overall, then, The Wandering Fire is a rather conventional high fantasy that suffers from excess weight and pomposity, but it???s easy and exciting to see the early stages of Guy Gavriel Kay???s later greatness here. Fans who are interested in this author???s evolution will want to be familiar with The Fionavar Tapestry, especially since its mythology is alluded to in his later novels.
Like book 1, this is just a slow moving story. Lots of characters, lots of story lines....the reason it moves really slowly is that the same part of the story is told over and over and over again through different eyes. Its really hard to pay attention when you're going through another iteration of a part of a story that you've already heard. Every character in the story is overly serious and overburdened by the weight of their own awesomeness...I don't feel a lot of empathy for them and I find myself hoping that one or more of them gets killed off...of course if they do get killed off then their companions will be tearing their hair out and screaming about pain and revenge for the next 100 pages or so, so perhaps not. What a quandary!
This fantasy cycle, which concludes with The Darkest Road (not yet available on Audible, so brace yourself for a wait), is the very best of the genre. The epic battle brewing between Light and Dark is made more bitter by the addition of the Arthurian story, worked out once again here in the first of all the worlds, Fionavar. A magnificent series. But WHERE IS PART THREE!??
The Fionavar Tapestry is a great 'read' as well as a great 'listen'.
Well - gotta say. Simon Vance is good - maybe not the best.
No. I have a one hour commute to and from work every day. It kept me entertained.
Read the books too.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
Things just get bleaker and bleaker in this second installment of "The Fionavar Tapestry". And the extremely dramatic story continues. I must admit that this is not my favorite of the books, and adding characters from the King Arthur legend seems just a bit too much. I think that this trilogy has not aged particularly well.
I'll continue and finish the last volume, but Kay's ultra-dramatic and poetic approach to this heroic saga does not impress me as it did in the reading a number of years ago. I hadn't remembered just how humorless the whole business is!
But Simon Vance is terrific.
College students (with issues) crossing worlds, King Author (Lancelet & Gwen) bringing their story and swords into the fray, interesting characters peopling the "home" world, interfering Gods, etc. .... BIG heroic issues with the fate of world(s) hanging in the balance. I hope Audible gets book 3 in. ugh.
I'm not blind drunk, I'm just blind.
The Wandering Fire picks up six months after the Summer Tree ended. The five college students have settled back into their old lives. Kim Ford is waiting for the dream that will give her the information she needs to summon the mysterious Warrior who will aid Fionavar in battle with the recently freed Rakoth Maugrim. Jennifer Lowell is emotionally scarred by her kidnapping, rape and torture at the hands of Maugrim and, worse, pregnant with his child. Surprisingly she's determined to give birth to the child even at the cost of her own life. When a sudden encounter with Gallad, Lord of the Andain and chief lieutenant of Maugrim, forces Jennifer to travel back to Fionavar with Paul Schaefer, she's brought early to her time and places her child in the care of the parents of Finn, the boy fated for the Longest Road.
Several months later Kimberly finally has the dream and travels with her four companions to England to summon the warrior. Upon returning to Fionavar, they discover the realm in the grip of an unnatural winter that persists even six nights from midsummer. Will the forces of light find a way to break the winter? And at wat cost?
Once again this was an excellent story and Simon Vance does a terrific job of bringing it to life. It was definitely not a waste of my time or money.
I listen to books when I'm at work or doing chores. I prefer history and fantasy. My favorite audio book is Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.
I read the first book of this series feeling somewhat skeptical. I have after all read The Lord of the Rings numerous times and felt no particular need to reread it with all the names changed and the language dumbed-down. I nonetheless purchased this book and listened for an hour or so as the writing became progressively more twisted and nonsensical until the point where Kim summoned King Arthur and I decided to pack it in. This isn't just reheated leftovers this is the stuff of dubious origin from the way back of the fridge.
Did Guy Gavriel Kay use his own imagination once in the entire creation of this series? Was he running out of Tolkien to steal from and so needed to use even more tired old myths like the Wild Hunt and King Arthur? If I hadn't read Ysabel first I would say that he had no talent at all and should have quit the writing business. However I now know that these are early works of someone who hadn't yet found their voice. By all rights these books ought to be in some bottom drawer somewhere unread by anyone other than his grandchildren who want to embarrass him.
If you're here after having read some of Kay's more competent works and you're thinking of trying this series don't. Especially if you're here after reading Ysabel. You have just put up with an entire book's worth of Kate Reading butchering the male voice. Well I can tell you Simon Vance's rendition of the female voice is twice as unbearable. Spare yourself the expense and suffering.
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