5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Lyrical, literate fantasy - what else from Kay?,
This review is from: The Last Light of the Sun (Hardcover)
Like each of Kay's books since Tigana, Last Light views history through a prism of fantasy, drawing rich inspiration from early medieval northern Europe - specifically the neighbouring cultures of the Vikings (Kay's Erlings), the Anglo-Saxons (Anglcyn), and the Welsh (Cyngael). Yet it is not simply history under different names, nor even an alternative version. Rather, Kay uses his historical-fantasy environment to illuminate themes as compelling and relevant to the reader as they are to the characters: family, exile, faith, and finding one's place.
It is less a straightforward narrative than a portrait of a land and its peoples in the throes of change. As the title hints, the setting is the edge of a world, and the story that plays out is of lives lived on the periphery. To the followers of the rising Jaddite faith, their lands witness the final descent of the one god's sun each evening. But as Alun ab Owyn discovers, the faery, and other remnants of the old ways, hover in the half-light; there is poetry here, but life is harsh. Human settlement is hard-won, and precarious.
Simultaneously, it is a story about storytelling. The sparse, stylised prose and deliberately self-reflexive structure both mirror the sagas of their inspiration, and serve as a vehicle for exploring how stories are told. Characters' concerns with memory and legacy are matched by a self-conscious authorial voice, which directly and indirectly examines how decisions made in the telling of a story can shape the reading of it.
For all its use of traditional epic motifs, this is a distinctly unconventional fantasy, constantly upsetting assumptions of how it should unfold. Farmers' daughters are woven in alongside warriors and kings, and in this transitional world the ordinary and accidental echo just as strongly as great deeds.
Blending history, myth and fantasy into a seamless, poetic whole, The Last Light of the Sun is an accomplished and truly evocative novel.