Lions of Al-Rassan, The by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Book Information  
AuthorGuy Gavriel Kay
TitleLions of Al-Rassan, The
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
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.

Submitted by Ineluki
(Oct 11, 2000)

Guy Gavriel Kay is showing all is talent in Lions of Al Rassan; the story is a famous one, the suspense is deliciously perfect.  He has a special writing style: he makes you smile, cry or feel stressed out when he wants.  You know that it can't be real: but the author makes you beleive the opposite!...  Don't miss the greatest fantasy book of all time, written by a true fantasy master...

Submitted by Giarc
(Jun 12, 2000)

The Lions of Al Rassan hovers somewhere between fantasy and historical fiction. Set in the Iberian Peninsula after the fall of a great empire it is about the conflict between a northern empire and a desert kingdom across the sea who contest for dominion over the Iberian peninsula. In particular, the book focuses on the adventures of two men who develops an incredible affinity and bond with each other, and yet are ultimately fated to war on opposite sides. It is also about the effects of the war on the people caught in the middle of the conflict. This has clashes of ancient religions and armies, incredible atrocities, and is probably not for the younger reader. Fantasy readers who seek a more emotionally powerful story should find this book one that is very hard to put down. The author seems to take great delight in his treatment of the climax of the book by torquing up the tension to breaking point and letting the reader dangle exquisitely. I admit I broke and had to scan ahead to find out what happened! Great book.:)

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