Categories
Fantasy

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (Book Thoughts)

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 🤣

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

The Summer Tree Week 4 Readalong & Wrap up!

Yayyy we did it, this is the finish line! The week four questions are hosted by Bookforager over at https://bookforager.wordpress.com/ , who has my favorite website layout ever, it’s so easy to find things!

Anyway! I have so many thoughts on the ending and the book in general.  It was awesome to read along with such an awesome group of bloggers too. I learned a lot about the fantasy genre in general from reading everyone else’s thoughts and am super glad to have been able to participate!


1. Paul is now the Lord of the Summer Tree. What do you think this means/ will mean?

I think it means I’m an idiot for thinking he would end up dead and buried after the three days! I have NO IDEA what this means.  My best guess is that he is some kind of Avatar for Mörnir and was either granted special knowledge or will otherwise be afforded some respect by the court if nothing else

2. Each of our grad students has found a role to play in Fionavar, most questionably Jennifer. She asks herself “what was her sin, what had she done” to deserve the terrible TERRIBLE punishment she receives at the hands of Maugrim and his creatures. What are your thoughts and feelings on Jennifer’s plight, and how have you made sense of it within the scope of the story so far?

Yeah like WTF, are they all just going to teleport back to Toronto after this? That *WAS* the ending, no?  I am going to be that person and say that overall, GGK isolated my feelings about the characters by making them all caricatures.  Aileron – the most valiant prince. Diarmuid – the biggest scoundrel.  Maugrim – omg most evil dude ever right down to the burning eyes and hooded face.

What happened to Jen? Honestly I just figured GGK was continuing to go for “the WORST THING EVER” and he concocted something that would even have George RR Martin golf clapping.

In the greater context beyond shock value, I would be a little annoyed by Silvercloak if he had forseen that and was alluding to it when he first met Jen

3. What did you make of the many events in the throne room, from the assassination attempt to the showdown for the crown?

This felt like a stage drama to me! I think it was probably one of Diarmuid’s most serious lines in the entire book, when he acknowledged that both were trying, or at least willing, to assassinate him.  I am not sure how he ended up yielding the crown so easily either, I wanted a lot more prince vs prince drama.

I was also surprised that the Black Rose (or whatever she went by) was interested in potentially murdering him.  I would have thought she would be gunning for marriage or another political alliance, not sneaking in. DID SHE FORGET THAT IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO?  He acknowledged that “plucking a flower” was probably in poor taste, but at the same time, IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO

4. There’s been a surfeit of signs, a plethora of portents in this week’s reading. Now is the time to air your opinions on such things as flying unicorns, getting lost in the woods, the Cave of the Sleepers, magical Horns and unearthed Cauldrons

This is probably my most serious conversation topic – I think it’s a good example of some things that GGK did really well, and some that he did really badly.  The cauldron, for example, made me realize that there’s more than one super evil destroyer of things with more than one goal here.  That whole story line needed more to flesh itself out but I’m sure we will be revisiting it later on.

Which horn came first, RJ or GGK?  I like magical horns.  Kristin Britain did one too.   TOP 5 MAGICAL HORNS, THERE’S ANOTHER ONE!

I think you can never go wrong with a flying unicorn, I absolutely adore pegasus and unicorns and any other kind of sentient equine whatsoever.  I do feel a post coming on my TOP 5 SENTIENT EQUINES IN FANTASY! The last one mentioned – being lost in the woods – I think that was one of the most magical scenes and I was so worried for the boys! Those woods had a mind of their own and truly it was a good thing that the powers that be were eventually distracted by Paul

5. The Dwarves did it, in the darkness, with the Cauldron of Khath Meigol! What do you make of this last-minute revelation? And care to make any predictions on future developments?

Well …. we finally got Matt’s story. I was hoping for Matt’s real name, because there’s no way it’s Matt. I loved the bit of dwarf lore but it seems like he will have to go back, maybe with Silvercloak, and right some past wrongs.

Seriously though just when you thought the court couldn’t get any more dramatic…

6. Finally, reaction shots on Maugrim the Unraveller – go!

I was picturing Skeletor from He-Man, honestly, and laughing.  Like animate the eyes red and go. I know I know I know I’m terrible but I literally had this entire book playing out in my head as a He-Man style animated cartoon and I just thought it was funny, that’s the best I can do for you guys

Overall – I swear I’m not trying to undermine anyone’s true and undying love for this book but while entertained and fascinated, I didn’t take the story itself very seriously.  I enjoyed the themes and applying them to a broader context within fantasy literature more than the story itself

What I really want to see though is how GGK grows and moves on from the first book – did he hear criticism about the characters and flesh them out more? Do we see how they were affected by events back in Toronto and they return to Fionavar for round two because – hey, your destiny is calling about it’s extended warranty?

I can’t wait to find out!

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

The Summer Tree Read along – week three!

Turn back now for spoilers through chapter 12, up to the start of chapter 13!

Overall I found these chapters both more interesting and readable, although GGK truly and officially lost me as far as caring about any of the characters lol.

I take that back, I care deeply for Ysanne’s cat

Week three’s questions provided by @queenzucchini at https://thequaintbooknook.com/ !!


1. We’ve seen some extreme behaviour – we learn that Galadan wants to unravel the world because it witnessed his rejection. Ysanne’s sacrifice takes her out of the Tapestry entirely. What were your reactions to these and other character motivations?

I think I am the outlier here but I feel like GGK is just hyper exaggerating every trope out there.  Boo-hoo someone rejects you, time to destroy everything! What pride! What egocentrism! Delusion of reference! Lolol I can’t

Ysanne’s made sense, I think she needed to unravel herself in order to kick Kim’s seerism to the next level. I don’t quite understand how or why but the sacrifice to the dagger felt necessary.

2. And speaking of sacrifice, Paul has spent his final night on the Summer Tree and all his defences have been stripped. How are you feeling towards Paul now and what do you think might happen to him next? Rereaders – do you remember your first reactions to this?

Paul honestly pissed me off, although he’s not the only character I have read recently (The Latecomer) that derailed mentally and checked out after a fatal car accident.  He seemed to have control issues prior to the accident too.  What I really want to know is how long he and Rachel were separated before she hooked up with and then got engaged to the other dude, I mean she was taunting Paul so badly like “hey you’re suffocating but THIS dude cries after sex”

Ooook Rachel, calm down.  Anyway, I have a pet peeve over casually suicidal characters (thank VE Schwab and Fredrik Backman for that one) and honestly – Paul got his wish, ok let’s move on.

The way this question reads makes me think that Paul isn’t actually dead. /facepalm. What I would hope happens next is that someone cuts him down and buries him.

3. Alongside (or because of?) Paul’s time on the Summer Tree, some cosmic forces seem to be moving in Fionavar again. Last week we talked about prophecy, but how do you feel about the role of deities and mythology in the book?

This is by the far the only part I am interested in at this point, plus the conflict that I’m sure will develop between the two princes.

I loved the whole sequence where the goddess answered the gauntlet in the sky with the blood moon.  I also enjoyed the little hint that the bad guy has been free for a while now and just finally decided to declare war! The cosmic forces are moving and I am here for it

4. We have (officially) met the banished prince Aileron! Impressions? And does his presence and return to court give us any further insight into the politics of Brennin?

I can’t wait until the Prince actually returns to court and confronts all the people in power, including Diarmuid. All we know right now is that Silvercloak supports him and Ysanne must have foreseen something that warranted keeping him closeby. Politics are sure about to get a lot more complicated!

I thought he was a spy when we first met him, the true identity was a bit of a surprise. I liked the entire cat vs. Prince scene and it seems like Kim is heading towards becoming a seeress queen 😂 her ability to banter came out of nowhere

5. At last, Dave has returned to grace the pages! His absence has caused much speculation, but how do you feel about him now that we know what he’s been up to?

Well he definitely wasn’t hiding in a broom closet, I guessed wrong! It seemed at first like Dave would be the least likely to acclimate and embrace the experience, but he seems like he has handled it the best of all of them. Chill, meld in with a hunter tribe, make some friends, sleep around a bit, and body slam a mythical evil creature. Wield a giant axe? Sure why not.

Dave is by far the most surprising of any of the characters so far, he must have been the one who secretly needed a little magic in his life

6. Dave’s time with the Dalrei gives us a great deal of insight into a previously unseen culture within Fionavar, so it’s time for a world-building check in! Anything standing out?

The deities and the description of the big mountain are standing out the most right now. I think I like the Dave storyline the most of any of them right now, although having more mythology revealed is interesting too. The Dalrei became the best developed group in the book though which makes me think they will be important going forward.

7. And as always, any other thoughts?

I think GGK lost me with the dream sequence feel of chapter 9. Thankfully he reined in the purple prose after that and went back to just telling the story, which I am now more or less invested and interested in. Add in a cult and a sibling rivalry, also possibly? A dragon? And I’m down for anything

Excited to see how it wraps up next week!

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (Read-a-long Questions)

***Tree wolf image by chic2view (Wyrd & Wonder 2022)! Please do not alter the image & credit the artist ❤***


I am so glad to be reading The Summer Tree with the Wyrd & Wonder readalong! My favorite discussion format is a few chapters a week with questions, so this is perfect

I’ll be uploading my weekly discussion question responses to this thread!


Week One – Questions hosted by Imyril! Do check out her blog for tons of great fantasy content!

1) How are you reading along with us? Is this a first time or a reread? Show us your book cover!

I am reading via a paperback and this is my first time reading.  I have read Mists of Arbonne by GGK. Honestly if I had just read the synopsis of The Summer Tree I think I would have never picked it up since the blurb is borderline corny!

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2) The prose style is as distinctive as calling the prologue an overture. How are you finding it?

I don’t dislike the prose but he has the weirdest way of naming characters. Paul! Schafer! Paul Schafer! In 3 paragraphs GGK can call Paul 4 different names and it drives me nuts since there’s only one Paul. He does it with Dave Martyniuk too – there’s only one Dave and the scattered use of last names is just grating on me.for some reason

Some of his similes are a bit weird too – did anyone else catch the part at the end of chapter six where the lake was immediately sexualized and then that whole scene was allegoric to the loss of innocence? GGK makes some “interesting” stylistic choices

All in all, it is quick reading and easy to first prose

3) Each visitor gets a moment to define them before they arrive in Fionavar. What are your first impressions of our travellers? Any you particularly like / dislike?

I just don’t think it was enough! In that sequence GGK barely touches on the women while introducing parts of what motivates the men.  I’ve already got Paul picked out as the sacrificial lamb but I have no thoughts on the others yet, except that they seem inconsistent.

Kim is a cutout that clearly has some type of Seer abilities, and while Jennifer kept saying she was frightened she was able to face down the Prince with claws at the ready.

That said – I’m down for fantasy that focuses more on story than characters

4) …and what do you make of the characters & politics of Paras Derval?

This is only to the end of chapter 6 – I am curious as to what end game they are playing! We finally learned of the conflict and curse in Fionavar, but the politics and alliances are still fairly undefined.

I might be the only one but the characters seem like cardboard cutouts right now.   Loren – mage. Gorlaes – bad guy. Metran – doddering old mage. Ysanne – mysterious sorceress. Jaelle – angry priestess. Diarmuid – rakish Prince playing his own political game.

The king is the only one I thing has layers so far!

5) The obvious question: would you accept Loren’s invitation? Given the reception from Diarmuid and Gorlaes, would you regret it?

Back in college I would have gone in a second, no questions asked like get me out of here!  Now I have too much adult stuff going on, animals to care for and such.  I would have been ok with the reception of the prince sneaking me alcohol 😂

6) How/Do you judge Loren for keeping so many secrets from the visitors?

I don’t judge him – yet – it’s too hard to know what the visitors role will be at this point.  Obviously there is a lot going on and while  some of it is starting to become clear, we don’t really know what Loren’s endgame is yet.  I think if he had told them any more they would have balked too

7) There is a lot of worldbuilding so far! Intriguing or overwhelming? Anything standing out for you? And as always: any other thoughts this week?

I think it’s a bit overwhelming, but at this point I have read enough epic fantasy to just absorb what I can and let the rest wash over me as part of the reading experience.

The part sticking out to me is the Legend of The Summer Tree and the hanging kings for sure, I love when magic and rulers/kings are tied to the land