It all began with a lecture that introduced five university students to a man who would change their lives, a wizard who would take them from Earth to the heart of the first of all worlds - Fionavar. And take them Loren Silvercloak did, for his need - the need of Fionavar and all the worlds - was great indeed.
And in a marvelous land of men and dwarves, of wizards and gods, five young people discovered who they were truly meant to be. For they are a long-awaited part of the pattern known as the Fionavar Tapestry, and only if they accepted their destiny would the armies of the Light stand any chance of surviving the wrath the Unraveller and his minions of darkness intend to unleash upon the world....
©2001 Guy Gavriel Kay; (P)2009 Penguin
Say something about yourself!
I read The Summer Tree (and the rest of the Fionovar Tapestry) many years ago and absolutely loved it. Consequently, I was a little apprehensive about the audio version - worried that the story might not live up to my fond memories, or that the narration might not match my vision of the characters. My apprehension was unfounded on both counts. I really enjoyed listening to the story unfold - a bit like visiting an old friend and being made to feel totally at ease. Simon Vance is a wonderful narrator - and I particularly liked the way he used regional British accents for the races/characters in the stories. It felt right. This is a 'Tolkienesque' style fantasy series - a bit 'Fairy Tale', with its mythology and classic fantasy components (dwarves, mages, elf type creatures, horse-riders etc). Some suspension of belief is required - of course! There is nothing ground-breaking here, so don't expect to have your mind blown by an innovative story. In my opinion, however, it is really well written and has an interesting plot and characters; that's what makes it special. The Summer Tree is perhaps 'the slowest' of the trilogy. The Wandering Fire has more action and I found the end of the series (The Darkest Road) particularly moving. But then - I am a big softy. I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good old classic Fantasy romp.
I first read The Summer Tree in the early 80's and have loved it ever since. At a time when fantasy literature was just becoming popular most books were either Tolkien rip offs or D&D clones, and often part of very predictable ongoing series. Kay, draws his inspiration from mythology, and although we find orcs (Svarts) elves (Lios Alfar) dwarves and other fantasy staples they are not the usual flat stereotypes. Kay brings a language style reminiscent of the Morte D'Arthur and weaves a magical tale that set a new standard for fantasy at the time.
Simon Vance is a great performer and brings the characters to life. Initially the accents and character voices felt strange, but only because I've read the book so many times and have my own versions in my head. I've yet to hear a bad reading from him.
No. I kept waiting for the characters to become interesting, and for the world-building to seem believable, but it never did.
The characters were very two-dimensional. They were given back-story to flesh them out, but then their history seemed a very one-line explanation to explain why they were a particular way. The characters were all definable by a few characteristics, and one event.The world-building felt as if the author had a very cool idea for a whole world, but didn't think hard enough about how it would affect things. For example, the world the book is set in (Fionavar) is linked to 'alternate' worlds, one of which being our own world. However, the characters in Fionavar constantly encounter problems that our world could trivially solve, but Fionavar seems to have no people interested in making any use at all out of the alternate worlds.
In training to cycle across Cuba in October, audible is essential for those long treks across the Yorkshire moors.
My husband and I tried really hard to get into this book. We failed and gave up after two hours of incomprehensible tedium.
"Obviously the first book of three"
I would have given this one 3.5 stars if I had been able to, but please don't take me wrong. I love this series and found the narration here to add significantly to my enjoyment. Many characters are introduced in this, the first book of the Fionavar Tapestry. Simon Vance gives us a clean and easy to follow interpretation of the, possibly too many, different regional groups that we meet herein.
If you like books that delve in to character development, Kay very rarely disappoints. Additionally, the world he creates is different enough to be fantasy without being so strange that it becomes completely ridiculous. Here, not only do we get a world that becomes the setting for the story, but a glimpse of things to come and an interweaving of that world's legends with our own.
In true Kay fashion, we are introduced to so many different characters and groups that is can become confusing. The narration, giving each of these characters and groups a unique voice, should go a long way to saving this one for those who haven't read it in print. Also, and true to many a first-of-trilogy tomes, a great deal of this book is spent introducing us to people, concepts, lore and mythology of the world within the story. This can make it feel a bit long at times, mostly because we don't yet know why much of it is important.
If you can read this with the understanding that it is the first book of three, it is a wonderful introduction to story and character. However, without reading the "rest" of the story, this book does fall a bit short of being able to stand on its own merit.
I do believe that this trilogy is worth reading and that the story and characters become more compelling with each successive book. I also think that you need to go in to this one with the understanding that it is the first 1/3 of a story and so much of it is spent giving us enough knowledge to follow and enjoy the second and third books.
"Poetic and Heroic"
I read this series a great many years ago and remembered the books with fondness. Therefore, I was very happy to experience them again in audio. I think they may have been best in the reading however. Guy Gavriel Kay writes quite poetically, with a lot of high-flown language. On audio, it comes across a a bit over the top.
Don't get me wrong: there are still the characters you get very attached to and the heroic story that brings to mind Greek, Celtic and religious mythology and the best of Tolkien. "The Summer Tree" is rich with lots of psychological and mythological undertones, yet it is firmly grounded by the Canadians who travel from our world to Fionavar. And I love the references to the woven tapestries that make up each of our personal stories and our collective ones
If you enjoy poetic, heroic sagas with a lot of drama, you will enjoy "The Summer Tree."
"Good tale, but a little slow"
I enjoyed the book, however found it really dragging in certain places without realizing why...it just came to me, however, as I listen to the last quarter of the audiobook: There are a lot of instances of characters explaining things rather than living them. A lot of background and character history is told to the reader through extended soliloquy which really loses my attention.
In the instances in which they do actually live out the story, there seems to be a lot of overwrought description about the intensity of their experience...too much really, kind of over the top. I find myself rolling my eyes a little at the pleasure or pain or sadness or embarrassment or take-your-pick-of-emotion that each of the characters experience.
Kay is a very good writer and Vance is a good narrator, but the story just seems to drag and wander at points during the book.
I really liked A Song for Arbonne and looked forward to starting this trilogy. Unfortunately the first book has not quite lived up to my expectations - don't get me wrong, its still good and I will probably burn the credits to finish up the trilogy, but its not quite as good as I expected it to be.
"A great story."
It all began when five Canadian college students attended a lecture by a reclusive genius named Lorenzo Markus. After the speech, the man himself sought ut the five and invited them for a drink back at his hotel room. All but one of the five agreed gladly,. The fifth, Dave Martyniuk, found himself tagging along at the insistance of te rest. Lorenzo reveals tat he is in fact Loren Silvercloak, a Mage from the world of Fionavar, who has come to Earth seeking five young people to attend the celebrations in honor of the fiftieth year of the reign of King Ailell of Brenin. Once again, four of the five agree enthusiastically. At te last instant Dave attempts to back out but is prevented from leaving by Kimberly Ford.
Upon arrival in Fionavar, the five quickly become involved in the complex series of events taking place. Kim Ford is recognized by Ysane, the Seer, as the successor whom she had prophetically dreamt long ago, and takes her on as an apprentice. Jennifer Lowell is made a Guestfriend of Jaelle, the icy High Priestess of the Mother Goddess Dana. Kevin Laine and Paul Schaepher become members of the band of rogues led by Prince Diarmuid of Brenin, sole remaining heir to King Ailell after the exile of his elder brother Aileron. But Paul has a tragic secret from his past and, after a game of Tabael (chess) with the aged king, he makes a drastic decision that just might end the killing drout that has plagued the kingdom.
Dave, meanwhile, was separated from the others in the crossing despite Kimberly's intervention and ended up far to the north among the Dalrei, te Riders of Fionavar. After nearly being killed by one of them who mistookhim for a monster, he quickly becomes involved in the daily lives of the Third Tribe and is later escorted southwards towards Brenin by a band of them.
By now it's clear that evil is stirring again in Fionavar, and that Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveler, is preparing to again wage war on the armies of light. And what destinies await the five in Fionavar?
"Amazing, but I do wish it was longer"
Like other books by this author, this book almost reads like poetry. It stands with The Silmarillion as one of the two books who's mere choice of words has brought tears to my eyes.
Story wise, much of the general plot is highly LotR-like. It doesnt help that the writing style is so similar either (and I think the reader might actually be the person who read the audio versions of those books that I listened to)... Hell theres even a magic ring. However, despite all that, the specifics of the plot are NOTHING like LotR - oh sure theres a Dark Lord in his fortress over there behind that volcano (not kidding), but the similarities more-or-less stop there. I think the most notable difference is that the gods/goddesses aren't sitting this one out. Oh, and the wizards actually do things (other than talk).
Also there are no hobbits.
Humor aside, this really is a good book, I've left out most of what makes the story good (and different) to avoid spoiling things. My only complaint is that I prefer much longer books (+20h) and it hurts me to spend credits on these shorter ones, despite how worth it they may be. If your someone that appreciates language as much as a good story you'll get a double treat out of this one (also, the reader is perfect for this book).
One warning though, this is not for kids.
"Best fantasy writer around"
The scope and elegance of Kay's writing have impressed me for years, It is amazing how fast 15 hours can go by. The book is incredibly ambitious not
Though I have read the books before, listening to them brings out nuances and connections I've missed, the theme of tears and loss, the specific character arc of each of the heroes.
Vance is a great performer - he understands the book and brings each of the separate characters to life smoothly and it seems effortlessly.
"Already on my Re-Listen list"
Guy Gavriel Kay has a style that is spare and succinct, yet richly inspires the imagination. I read these books when they were first published with great enthusiasm. It was fantastic to revisit these books so many years later in this format. I was surprised at how well they transpose. The story is compelling and deeply affecting. I am already re-listening to the series. The story moves along quickly, and there is no wasted prose. For those that like Card or King, you'll likely enjoy the style of writing. The books contain some brutal scenes and some mature elements... definitely not for the pre-teen. For adults however... it's a rare find.
"The Summer Tree: The Fionavar Tapestry, Book 1"
OK, I just didn't get it. Another book that I tried and tried to hang in there with. But, I grew so bored and lost. I finished it, but I now wish I hadn't wasted my time. The reader is excellent, as aways. Seeing that Simon Vance was the reader is what made me give this book a try. In quite a few instances, I found myself lost in the story and not following what was going on.
"Brilliant, but where is part 3??!!!"
The Fionavar trilogy outstrips Lord of the Rings in its own field. This is the most fully-imagined, fully-realized epic in the whole of the genre, and a must-listen for anyone who loves intelligent, spell-binding fantasy. The narration is a bit stiff off the top but soon warms. But WHERE IS PART THREE??? We are hanging on by our fingertips waiting for it.
"Simply one of the best!"
I never pictured the riders as Irish, but it worked! I've read this series several times in print, but it was thoroughly enjoyable to sit back during my commute and have it read to me. None of the vibrancy and depth of Kay's adult fantasy was lost. I'm sure I'll listen to The Summer Tree again in a couple of years!
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