I was so glad to read The Summer Tree along with a fantastic group of bloggers for this year’s Wyrd & Wonder read-along! I have been posting each week this month, and now this is my regular old book review and thoughts post, spoiler free!
Let’s jump right in:
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: The Summer Tree
- Series: The Fionavar Tapestry, #1
- Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
- Publisher & Release: 1984
- Length: around 380 pages
- Rate & Recommend: 3.5 stars – I didn’t love the book but I respect it and think it fits in with 80s fantasy. Would recommend for adult fantasy readers
Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:
The first volume in Guy Gavriel Kay’s stunning fantasy masterwork.
Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds. They have been called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak, and quickly find themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events. For Kim, Paul, Kevin, Jennifer and Dave all have their own part to play in the coming battle against the forces of evil led by the fallen god Rakoth Maugrim and his dark hordes.
Guy Gavriel Kay’s classic epic fantasy plays out on a truly grand scale, and has already been delighting fans of imaginative fiction for twenty years.
This book truly has about a hundred different editions from different publishers but I’m pretty sure it was originally published in 1984 somewhere in Canada.
My first main thought is that based off of the synopsis I never ever ever would have picked this book up if it was not for the read along. I definitely didn’t love or particularly enjoy it but it was entertaining and got me thinking about fantasy as a larger genre and wear certain styles and tropes fit in so I definitely think that the read had value.
Essentially the plot is that five grad students in Toronto get sucked into an adventure in a magical world. They don’t get a lot of information before going but more or less take on the adventure in different ways, integrating themselves more or less successfully into the politics and struggles of Fionavar.
My biggest issue with the whole book is that it was essentially a hyper dramatic stage drama cartoon playing out in my head. The villains were the absolute super worst, the characters were all more or less cardboard cutouts, and it was really hard for me to care about what was going on beyond saying like “hahah Wow that’s fucked up”
Underlying everything there was value in the prophecy, lore, foretelling, historical events, and world itself of Fionavar. I did enjoy the world building that was given and GGK hinted at some of the events that would be happening in the next book so I’m kind of excited to see where he takes the series.
Some parts were better developed than others but it was enough to make me believe that GGK is well capable of building a world and magic and struggles that I would want to read, although other parts were not fleshed out very well at all.
Speaking of the way that he writes, I had a really hard time with some of the purple prose and language in general. I really did feel like I was reading a stage drama script sometimes that cued how dramatic the characters were trying to be.
It’s hard to talk about it without giving spoilers but I think that it’s a hyper exaggerated and tropey book, which is absolutely an author choice and there for entertainment. I do think The Summer Tree fits in with some of the older fantasy that I’ve read from that time period and would recommend for adult readers age 18 plus who are interested in some classic fantasy.
War, kingdom, evil, destiny, prophecy, sword and sorcery – this does have the elements of a solid read even if the stylistic choices didn’t work for me.
One final thought: I really wish that my edition had the Pegasus on the cover because pretty much all of them seem to except mine 🤣