|Submitted by Kseniya Shabanova |
(Aug 01, 2003)
I will not mince words - this book takes a while to get going. But a thing as true is that few books are as worth the wait as this one.
The story tells of a woman named Jehane and two men, Rodrigo and Ammar. Jehane is a doctor, Rodrigo - a military hero, and Ammar - a legendary monster. Jehane lives by her doctor's oath. Rodrigo fights with as much honor as flesh-carving work can encompass. Ammar weaves his way through court intrigue, soiled by it to the point of no return. Yet he persists, not for his own honor, for little remains of that, nor for his own survival, but for the survival of his culture - the culture of Al-Rassan.
Three people - each touched by the hand of a ruler; three lives twisted forever by the touch. Jehane's father, the most renowned physician in two generations, kept his doctor's vow at the cost of cruel punishment by the hand of the king he helped. Rodrigo stayed loyal to a dead king and was exiled by the new one - exiled away from his land, away from his sons, away from the woman he loves madly - whom every man loves madly, having once laid eyes on her. Ammar killed a ruler to put another in his place - killed an inept ruler, replacing him with a better. It was done to keep Al-Rassan breathing. It shattered his life, branded him a monster. Now, a man who once turned the fate of a kingdom is at the mercy of a cruel, power-mad ruler - a ruler he brought to power. And Ammar is still the favored royal scapegoat.
Jehane, Rodrigo, Ammar - each defined by a role and a task; none fully encompassed by a single role. Jehane, sworn to protect life, seeks to take one, in bloody revenge. Rodrigo, who lives by his loyalty and honor, seeks to return home, knowing that to return to his wife's arms he must also embrace a traitorous king. Ammar, who is lost in the eyes of the world, seeks to right his monumental mistake, to save his world and, perhaps, to shed light on those who had shifted their crimes to his shoulders.
Three people, each different, each haunted, are thrown together. With never a reason to wish each other's acquaintance, they see each other's complexities and, against all odds, find comfort, and friendship, and love. And through it all, a question looms over them like a dark cloud - will the world come calling them back to their narrow, ill-fitting - but undeniable - roles?
Kay is a master. He creates three exceptional people - exceptional, and exceptionally real. He weaves an engrossing story and a rich world that will not bend to accommodate the wishes of three mere mortals. What's more, he tells the story of the fall of Granada, the last Muslim state in Spain, with life, passion and a deep respect for the truth, for it is Historical Fantasy that is Guy Gavriel Kay's domain. He captures three very different cultures with never a move to simplify them to something less than they were, to stereotypes. The same can be said for his characters - not just the three, but all his characters. Vivid, beautifully told, heart-warming, heart-rendering, and healing - such is the story of The Lions of Al-Rassan.