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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start but improves greatly
Anybody who remembers the cartoon series of Dungeons and Dragons from the 1980's will be familiar with the premise of this book - 5 college kids from modern day (well, circa 1983) Toronto are taken to a parallel world where magic and fantasy creatures abound.

The concept has been done before, most famously in the Narnia series. It's not a particular favourite...
Published on 13 Jun. 2009 by P. J. Bragg

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14 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing generic fantasy
OK, so I'm obviously going against the grain here. But I can't help wondering if the series I've just read is the same one that everyone else has been screaming about.
I've read other books by Kay (notably Tigana) and found them to be very high-quality fantasy. So I was very dissapointed by this series. Yes, admittedly, it was his first novel and first series... but...
Published on 10 July 2003 by dave


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start but improves greatly, 13 Jun. 2009
By 
P. J. Bragg (Bristol and Spain) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Anybody who remembers the cartoon series of Dungeons and Dragons from the 1980's will be familiar with the premise of this book - 5 college kids from modern day (well, circa 1983) Toronto are taken to a parallel world where magic and fantasy creatures abound.

The concept has been done before, most famously in the Narnia series. It's not a particular favourite of mine but I was willing to give it a try as the book had several good reviews.

To be honest the first quarter of the book isn't too promising. It's a bit slow and the narrative style seems to swing backwards and forwards between a Lord of the Rings style (lots of foretolds and forebades) and a more modern vernacular. This swinging starts to jar a little after a while. At one point even the author seems to get a bit confused and has one nomadic plains rider saying "We did all right back there" and I almost expected them to start high fiving.

The book also seems to fall into the common fantasy novel traps in that (i) the world they are taken to seems to have been stuck at a 13th century level of development for the last thousand years and (ii) despite this the students seem to have little difficulty in assimilating to their circumstances .

It is worth sticking with the book, though as it really picks up pace after the first 100 or so pages and the storytelling style becomes more consistent. The action starts to come thick and fast and it starts filling in a lot more of the history and backstory that it alludes to at the start of the book.

It does seem to set up the second book well, which I have yet to read.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book, with the warning that it might not immediately appeal.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turns out great!, 27 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
The Summer Tree is the first book in The Fionavar Tapestry series (continuing with The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road).
At Loren Silvercloak the mage's bidding, Kevin, Kim, Jennifer, Paul and Dave, five University students from Toronto, 'cross' into the Kingdom of Fionavar, the First of all Worlds, to help him in an oncoming war against Rakoth the Unraveller, and thus fulfil their destinies.
Like the five heroes, the reader is teleported into a land of magic and fantasy which the author only describes little by little. Although certainly used as a stylistic device, this sometimes makes it hard to understand the ins and outs of certain characters' actions. In the same vein, I also found the few sex scenes somewhat a bit out of place and unpoetic. Anyway, looking back upon it, I realize these were just details.
And indeed, as you turn the pages and learn more about the people and history of Fionavar and about the role the heroes have to play in it, the book really turns out to be enthralling and hard to put down. I particularly enjoyed the third part, where Dave is taken in by a tribe of hunters called the Dalrei, and learns about their customs and rites, to finally risk his own life for them.
Although at first I was a bit sceptical about the mixing of today's world with fantasy, in the end I really liked this book a lot and I'm looking forward to reading the next two. So don't let the first 150 pages or so get you down and read on, it's definitely worth it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting take on "Standard" fantasy, 1 Sept. 2011
By 
Mr. Kevin P. Futers "Who's afraid of the Bill... (Northumbria, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
There are many Lord of the Rings clones out there and this is definitely one of them. What marks the Fionavar Tapestry out is that it actually tries out new ideas and explores some ancient ones.

The milieu of Fionavar is more overtly Celtic than LOTR. Both books draw heavily on both Germanic and Celtic source material but the balance is more the opposite way round here. A closer antecedent are the excellent children's fantasies The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner, which use the same mix of svart and lios alfar (goblins and elves) plus dwarves.

There have been criticisms of the portrayal of the races elsewhere. To my way of thinking, if you are drawing upon stereotypes then you should largely stick to them - otherwise you end up with a travesty such as Orcs: Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder, Warriors of the Tempest (Gollancz S.F.). Yes, in fantasy, you expect dwarves to live underground, elves to be tree-huggers and goblins to be little, nasty and vicious.

The author adds some new races of his own; the urgach with their six-legged mounts, the Paraiko who are not your typical giants (although a nod towards the giants in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves", perhaps?) and the demigod race of the andain, whose lord is a servant of evil but they are not themselves committed to one side or the other.

In a final word, although the themes are to an extent hackneyed, the story itself is not and contains its own unique path towards the inevitable confrontation between good and evil. That, surely, is the mark of a successful genre novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written mythical fantasy, 29 April 2010
Five students from twentieth century Toronto find themselves singled out by the mysterious Professor Lorenzo Marcus. Before long, they are transported to another world, a land called Fionavar. A drought, questions of succession and political intrigue are only the beginning. Soon an old evil is threatening everyone and the five travellers find that they cannot keep themselves apart from what is happening.

This is definitely a fantasy story that leans towards the fairy tale rather than the realism side of the spectrum and as such, the ease with which the friends accept the existence of magic etc. and their quick integration into a medieval kind of life is quite fitting. As the story unfolds, the five learn more about themselves, with each ones personality having a distinct influence on how they deal with the circumstances.

Once the plot lines diverge, the reader jumps back and forth between them which might take a bit of getting used to. I really enjoyed the way a monumental event is used as a time line reference point that connects the different paths.

I find fantasy with a heavy mythical aspect sometimes a bit too poetical and lacking excitement which wasn't the case with this book. Though everything is steeped in legends and myths, there was no lack of action and adventure with plenty of drama to keep the reader in suspense. Still, this book is likely to appeal most to those readers who do like the more poetical writing styles. I would have given it a three and a half star rating if I could, but have no problem upgrading to four as I have added the rest of the series to my wish list.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Traditional Fantasy. ?, 25 Oct. 2003
I once remember an English teacher scoffing at sci-fi/fantasy novelists as people who couldn't really write, and just used exotic setting to cover this cover-up.
After reading Guy Gavriel Kay, I realised she was right - about most writers. But she made a mistake in dismissing a whole genre - Guy Gavriel Kay shows us that a fantasy can be written with rounded characters who actually develop, and what's more, he actually makes you care what happens to them!
In fact, the traditional story of normal people teaming up with magical beings and strange creatures to defeat evil is merely a backdrop for the personal journeys the five main characters make.
It's a story about overcoming insecurities, working through loss, and pain, and guilt, and learning to live again.
Which happens to be set among princes, elves, mages and dwarves.
It's precisely because Kay uses such well-known fantasy icons that we can see how good a writer he is. It's as if he's thumbing his nose at the scoffers, and saying "look, I can create a moving, touching story with multi-dimensional characters even with these threadbare tools of a traditional Tolkienesque/Aruthurian fantasy". (Although he probably wouldn't put it quite like that!).
And who better to attempt to follow in Tolkien's footsteps than the man chosen to co-write one of his books? (The Silmarillion - though admittedly I haven't read it. Just pointing out the genealogy).
Anyway, if you find most fantasy characters a bit wooden, read this! If you like traditional scenery and sorcery, read this and see it in a differnt light. If you're after different scenery, read one of his other books.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic Fantasy !, 1 Dec. 2004
By 
B. Jonsson "Literate Warlock" (falun, dalarna sweden) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Brought to Fionavar, the five young people are brought into the fight against the Evil One, Maugrim. At the crucial moment of transportation, their bond is broken and they find themselves isolated, without knowledge of the fate of the others.Different positions and tasks seemed to be set just for them, waiting for their arrival, old prophecies come true. Paul(Pwyll), a depressed, sensitive young man has his suicidal path to take, Dave(Davor)the quarterback soon gets respected in his desert tribe... The women find even harder and much worse tasks, one even ending up in Maugrims lair..
The book is full of new Fantasy creatures and places, mixed with Norse and Keltic lore. Many creatures are similar to those we know, many themes familiar to us.

Kay manages to bring forth an exciting story well worth reading!
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a great fantasy novel - a great novel., 18 Sept. 2001
By A Customer
I more or less reluctantly started reading The Summer Tree, after fierce recommendations from a friend. Two days and a good cry later, I had finished what turned out to be one of the great reading experiences of my life so far. And I read A LOT! The five main characters, all in their mid twenties, are transported from modern day Toronto to a world beyond ours called Fionavar. That basic premise has of course been done plenty of times before, but what kept me locked in my flat for the whole weekend with an unplugged phone wasn't the initial plot or lure of a magical world beyond ours. It was the absolute conviction that these characters, every single one, had a life and a past and a future which I couldn't wait to find out more about. It is obvious that Guy Gavriel Kay researches his novels in both mythology and our own history with meticulous care so that the framework of the people inhabiting these worlds is seamless and sparkling with individual life. Much of the story of The Summer Tree and the two sequels comprising the Fionavar Trilogy, follows the various journeys of the five Torontians plunged in to this ancient, often perplexingly different world. Their journeys and adventures are highly physical, there a mountains climbed and oceans crossed, but as in all good storytelling, the inward journeys match the outward plot in complexity and tension. Paul, Kim, Kevin, Jennifer and Dave all have their reasons for choosing to "escape" to Fionavar. Dave, always the gruff outsider, is - reluctantly - drawn into the community of the Dalrei, a plains people embracing his qualities of physical courage and determination. Kim and Paul discover powers of their own which can help to match, and battle, the evil unleashed in the Unraveller, a god outside time whose comparison in our world it is not difficult to guess at. Jennifer faces a dark destiny, but with the glimmer of a promise of something both unexpected and healing lying further ahead. Surrounding them are gods and goddesses, mythical creatures and humans, all of which are given a character you are made to believe in by the sheer force of the writer's imagination and skill. I would describe myself usually as a non-fantasy reader but all the same this is a great novel starting a great trilogy and I recommend it for everyone, whatever your usual reading habits are!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why oh why is this not a film....??, 18 July 2013
I have read legends, Norse, Greek, Roman, Finnish, British and these books weave (and that would seem to be an appropriate word....) them together. Don't heed the sceptics, read the trilogy, as with all such, JRR included, the first is slow, however the development of characters and the growing sense of a doom foretold grow as the books progress. It draws beautifully on several mythic themes that strike echoes in any reader familiar with them (Arthurian is the obvious but here are Scandinavian and others in there too). The characters grow and the sense that wildness and random is important, not marching to the beaten tune, is a message for our time. A beautiful series that I have read, re-read and found something new every time. A much undervalued work that deserves wider recognition, I still believe it would make film to remember but the books, as ever, remain the best,way of enjoying his great trilogy... READ IT, ignore the reviews, make up your own mind......
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good beginning to a not so good trilogy..., 7 Oct. 2006
By 
Book 1 of the Fionavar Tapestry is very enjoyable. It's original, intriguing and promising. The mythology described in this book is every Fantasy fan's dream: it has been thoroughly thought of and provides a wealth of information as to a different world's creation and history. The characters are also very well conceived and described. consistent and you will not have a problem identifying with any of them.

The only drawback is Kay's inclination to whip the reader with overly complicated descriptions of his characters' psychological states and landscapes which quite frankly feel a little cheesy after the first 3 pages! In addition, he tends to stick to stereotypical descriptions that are quite banal by now (dwarves are miners, elves stick to the woods bla bla bla) which kind of drags down the originality element which is a real shame as the story itself is very unusual!

Apart from the different strands of the story being slightly predictable this book boasts a great ending which literally leaves you hanging in suspense and reaching over for the second book where the story starts to get boring... (see review of 'The Wandering Fire' for more information
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5.0 out of 5 stars Summer Tree, 29 May 2014
The first thing I would say about this book is that it is a slow burner. For probably the first third of the book, you are wondering about whether to carry on or not (the first time you read it at least!) but if you can stick with it, it does become worth your while.

The history and mythology that GGK has put into the Fionavar Tapestry are things that dreams are made of - certainly for every Fantasy fan.

One of the common complaints about this book seems to be that the five friends adjust too well to their 'new' world. My reply is that it's amazing how normal things can seem to be when you're with friends :o)

This book is an excellent introduction to the series and also sets the second book up very nicely.

This trilogy, along with Tigana by the same author, firmly remains on my Favourites shelf!
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Summer Tree, The: Book One of the Fionavar Tapestry: 1
Summer Tree, The: Book One of the Fionavar Tapestry: 1 by Guy Gavriel Kay (Paperback - April 2001)
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