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The Lions of Al-Rassan [Paperback]

Guy Gavriel Kay
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Aug 2001
The Cartada empire is threatened by the Jaddite kings who are eager to reclaim their lands. In the lakeside city of Ragosa, Jaddite military leader, Rodrigo, meets assassin, ibn Khairan, and for a time they serve the same monarch. The beautiful Jehane observes the byplay between the two men.

Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Earthlight; New edition edition (20 Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743415086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743415088
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.4 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,383,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Guy Gavriel Kay was born and raised in Canada. In 1974-5 he spent a year in Oxford assisting Christopher Tolkien in his editorial construction of J R R Tolkien's posthumously published THE SILMARILLION. He took a law degree at the University of Toronto on his return to Canada and was admitted to the Bar of Ontario in 1981. Guy Gavriel Kay lives in Toronto

Product Description


An enormously rewarding novel -- Booklist

Magnificent -- Locus

One of the premier fantasists of our time -- The Financial Post

From the Back Cover


In the once powerful empire of Al-Rassan, King Almalik Cartada is on the ascendancy, adding city after city to his realm aided always by the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan – poet, diplomat, soldier and assassin. Cartada's empire is threatened only by the ambitious Jaddite kings of the north who are eager to reclaim the lands they once held.

But the Jaddite lands are divided and their own celebrated military leader Rodrigo Belmonte and his war-band are forced into exile. Thus in the exquisite lakeside city of Ragosa, Rodrigo and ibn Khairan meet and serve – for a time – the same monarch. And observing the byplay between the two men, is the beautiful, brilliant physician, Jehane, who herself becomes a crucial player as the peninsula is swept to the brink of holy war…

"An engrossing tale"

"[A] magnificent, deeply moving book"

"Kay provides insightful glimpses into the goals and motives of this many characters"

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply a masterpiece 3 Nov 2003
This is one of those rare books of near-transformative beauty and resonance. _The Lions of Al-Rassan_ is a densely-woven, hugely rewarding novel drawing on the themes of the Spanish Reconquista. The setting is an analogue of medieval Spain, as the Jaddite (Christian) and Asharite (Muslim) powers are pushed towards an apparently inevitable conflict by a mixture of piety, politics, and personal grievances. In between, caught as ever in the crossfire, are the wandering Kindath (the Jews).
At the heart of the story is a complex series of personal relationships, drawn with such clarity and emotional honesty that the reader never loses sight of the human consequences of the epic events. In particular, there is the emerging friendship (and love) between the three central characters: Rodrigo Belmonte, celebrated Jaddite war leader (the novel's El Cid); Ammar ibn Khairan, an Asharite poet, soldier and diplomat; and Jehane bet Ishak, a female Kindath physician. All three are unique and memorable creations, living, breating and believably conflicted people, showcasing Kay's talent for well-rounded characters.
In bringing these three together - exiled to a brilliant Asharite city-state as the peninsula moves to the brink of war - the novel provides not only a highly-involving (and extremely moving) read, but it also elegantly underscores the themes of the work. Demonstrating the impact of the coming war upon the main characters' lives and loves, Kay explores how religious and cultural fundamentalism fractures and polarises societies, shutting down the spaces in which people may interact simply as human beings. Wider political considerations put them on opposite sides of the conflict, with shattering results.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In The Lions of Al Rassan Kay takes the history of the struggle for Spain between Christian and Moor that lasted 1000 years and condenses it into a powerfull and magical story of one turbulent year. The story centers around a small circle of characters; Ammar a poet and a warrior, Rodrigo a soldier with more honour than those he serves, Jehane a doctor from an outcast people and Alvar a young soldier who thinks to much and speaks too quickly. Around these characters Kay has woven a story of strength and beauty of the clash of armies, the re-shaping of a world and the force of religious fanatisism.
Yet a it's core this is a book about four people with strengths and weaknesses who stay true to their ideals and natures and write themselves a place in history.
This theme has been dealt with before, Holywood tackled it and Charlton Heston became El Cid. The spine tinkling feeling that I felt at the end of that movie when the dead El Cid rides forth to battle for a new Spain is the same feeling I had although reading Kay's book.
If I could write one book myself and never to write again then I would wish to tell a story with this much power, this much sadness and this much Humanity.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 10 April 2002
By A Customer
This is beautifully written. So much fantasy relies on covering its deficiencies as literature by sweeping the reader along with an exciting storyline. Here, every word is worth savouring. Characters are fully drawn, and the twists of the plot are satisfying as well as thrilling. The author creates vivid pictures of locales and action. This is a mature work that stands apart from most of its genre.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book 21 Jun 2002
By A Customer
Guy Gavriel Kay was first noticed when he edited the Silmarilliion with Christopher Tolkien. Following this he wrote a trilogy called "The Fionavar Tapestry". These books established Kay as a truly talented writer. His lyrical writing style provided a wonderful antidote to the established "quest" style of fantasy novel.
After this trilogy he began to write novels that could be described as "Alternative History". Whilst set on "fantasy" worlds the novels were visibly based upon real-world events. For example, A Song for Arbonne is based upon Medieval France and the concepts of courtly love.
All this brings me to Kay's masterwork - The Lions of Al-Rassan. This novel is set in Kay's interpretation of a Moorish Spain (including a take on The Day of the Ditch). The three principal characters representing the three faiths involved in the struggle for freedom (from oppression and intolerance), for this is a novel about faith and humanity.
Ammar ibn-Khairan - poet, diplomat, assassin - represents the ruling class of Al-Rassan (based upon the Islamic faith). Rodrigo Belmonte - soldier - the Jaddite war-leader in exile (Catholic). And the woman at the centre of the conflict - Jehane, a Kindath (Jewish) physician. Events conspire to pull the characters together in the lakeside city of Ragosa where they overcome ideological differences in the cause of freedom.
This novel is Kay at his most poetic, it has a beauty that flows from the writing and makes you wish that this novel would not end. For you know, whilst reading, that this can only end badly. The characters have but a small time to live without conflict before they are ripped apart by religion and war.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars He can do better, and he has
He can do better, and he has...some of his books I re-read every summer, during vacation, but not this one...several reasons, one being the lack of a clear story line... Read more
Published 1 month ago by april
5.0 out of 5 stars a tribute of beautiful verses and extraordinary writing
Author never ceases to amaze and awe me with his stories. This is no less. I couldn't put it down, nor could I stop myself being moved. A must read
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and moving
Inspired by the Reconquest of Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan tells the story of people on both sides of a holy war, and of the grief and pain and joy that comes from making... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Fantasy based on Spanish history
Very well written, convincing and interesting characters. It's fantasy not an historical novel but clearly based on the Moors, Christians and Jews in mediaeval Spain.
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lions Of Al-Rassan
I love G.G. K. and this book is one of his best. The characters are so alive and you quickly get hooked into the story. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Anthony Wheelhouse
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets
Reconquista squeezed into forty years with a mirrored antagonist for 'El Cid'. Kay at his best. 'Fantasy' is unfair; this is historical research and a stunning 'what if' intellect... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Tim Moule
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning, a book I want to go back and read all over...
I almost wish I hadn't read this now, because I know, I just know, that it's going to stay with me, that it's going to linger and make it almost impossible for me to start anything... Read more
Published 13 months ago by C. Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars ESCAPISM AT ITS BEST
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books
I first read this book when I was a teenager and I fell in love with it then. Whenever I re-read it, it touches me anew. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Leanne
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite book of all time
I adore this authors work, the writing is exquisite in all his books. This book is falling apart in paperback as I have re read it so many times which is why I have now purchased... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mrs. K. S. Cullum-hanshaw
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