January 10th, 2007, 08:42 AM
I just finished reading this, and it is my first book by GGK. Like Nimea, I was instantly hooked in the beginning, couldn't put it down, but about half way through I found Kay's characterizations were beginning to feel overdone and heavy-handed in places. The romantic entanglements in particular began to feel too forced and too superficially evoked to justify the extent of the emotions being portrayed. I think this goes along with your observation that we are being told too much and forced to accept what we are being told at face value or through some very superficial dialogue without being shown any deeper, more penetrating insights (some will probably disagree with this assessment, though). Particularly aggravating at times were Kay's bait and switch tactics. I felt I was being toyed with as a reader. Even when I knew what likely had happened, I felt a little resentful that the suspense couldn't have been handled in a more subtle way. It's fine to do this a few times during the course of the novel, but Kay kept on doing it.
Originally Posted by Nimea
Though I haven't read a lot of alternate historical fantasy, I find I'm strongly attracted to these type of stories. I'm fascinated by what authors choose to use from our history and world and where they choose to diverge from it or change it. In that respect, Kay seems to do this very well, and the sublime quality of his writing complements that. I like what he was trying to do with the Cid legend by having Rodrigo and Ammar as two sides of one coin. There were some other interesting parallels, such as the use of twins. Somehow, though, I think Kay went wrong with his use of Jehane in the novel. I do like strong female characters, but I found he somehow failed to develop her emotions in a way that supported his story. She loved both men; had feelings of ambivalence; yet her feelings were pure for Ammar and she seemed to be both distant and all-consuming in her emotions and able to turn them on and off like a light switch (and there were far too many men interested in her). That just bugged me. (I'm not stating this very well, though). By the time she makes her choice, it didn't have the impact it should have had on me.
Overall, I liked the book, but Kay's characterizations knocked it down a notch in my estimation. I do think it has great potential as a film. There are many scenes that could be quite visually arresting. I have Tigana and The Last Light of the Sun. I think I will read those next to see how they compare.
On a more trivial note:
Did anyone else find themselves fascinated by the rising/setting cycles and phases of the two moons? I found myself wanting to plot a lunar chart. I noticed, for example, at the Carnival, the blue moon was out, but the white moon did not rise until nearly dawn. Seven or eight days later, when they were at Fezana, the white moon is described as being out in the sky after the sun has set (implying, I would suppose, that the blue moon set earlier in the day). I know it is trivial, but I wanted to figure out how these cycles worked.
January 10th, 2007, 07:05 PM
Saturn Comes Back Around
Hi Raule. I read a fair bit of Kay last year (The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, and Lions of al-Rassan).
I think the heavy-handedness with characterization, and the slightly forced love stories, and occasionally forced melodrama, are Kay's biggest weaknesses. I had heard nothing but good things about him, so I was pretty surprised to find these (they're especially bad in Fionavar, pretty bad in Lions, somewhat present in Tigana). So far, the one that I enjoyed the most, and that felt the most authentic to me, was by far A Song for Arbonne. It surprised me because I somehow assumed it was one of his weaker books (you don't hear about it so much). I'd highly recommend you read that one! I think my preference so far is 1) Arbonne, 2) Tigana, 3) Lions, 4) The Fionavar trilogy.
As for the blue and silver moons, they appear in all his books, in all the different worlds. These are all alternate universes that are reflections of each other (although I think the same world from Lions is used again in the 2 Sarantium books, and Last Light of the Sun...)
June 2nd, 2007, 12:41 PM
This is the first Kay novel I have read, but it certainly won't be the last. I agree with people's resevations about a slightly forced romance...in particular Jehane's habit of attracting men like a magnet...plus melodrama often showed by wrongfooting the reader on who has been affected. However, these weaknesses were far outshone by an almost Shakespearean tone which set a very human, emotional story against a far bigger backdrop which is often only hinted at or skimmed over. I enjoyed this aspect though, often fantasy is more about the story than the character, which is why certain series outstay their welcome by losing focus. It was refreshing to read a one volume story which still felt epic to me.
Whilst the wrongfooting got slightly annoying, plus being told that THIS is an important change in someones life, the end benefitted from it and gained a far more emotional reaction from me, because I wanted Rodrigo to succeed in the duel (personal opinion mind...I just preffered him over Ammar) and in the epilogue Kay leads you to believe this happened, and that Alvar married Jehane as a result of Ammar's death, only to find that neither is true, that was what made me wipe tears away at the end because I felt the truest romance was Alvar's love for Jehane and would have loved that happy ending as opposed to his other happy ending.
As someone else has said on this board, the one thing you come away with is how brilliant a writer Kay is, particularly in his lack of waste...every word in that book you can tell has been poured over and would have been cut if it was unneeded. Every section either said something about the themes or moved on character...I only wish some other authors would have such a stringent editing policy.
So all in all, a thumbs up from me.
June 5th, 2011, 08:40 PM
My first Kay book as well. I realize this is an old thread, but I wanted to add to the acclaim. Just finished this last night.
This has got to be one of the best books I have read in years. No magic at all -- and I thought that would bother me, since it is so prevalent in the fantasy books that dominate these forums, but it's not missed. A beautiful book, and it's pretty rare that I get a little choked up when a major character dies, but in this story, how can you help but root for both sides? I look forward to my next taste of Kay.
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