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The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry #1)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  16,782 Ratings  ·  942 Reviews
The first volume in Guy Gavriel Kay’s stunning fantasy masterwork.

Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds. They have been called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak, and quickly find themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events. For Kim, Paul, Kevin, Jennifer and Dave all have their own part to play in the com
Paperback, 383 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Roc (first published 1984)
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Gary Linton Clearly, it is an inspiration to WoT in some respects -a lot really (Game of Thrones as well). This is a good thing actually, and common really.…moreClearly, it is an inspiration to WoT in some respects -a lot really (Game of Thrones as well). This is a good thing actually, and common really. Jordan did homage to a number of earlier writers: Le Guin, Tolkien, Herbert etc.

Wheel of Time is not similar enough to The Summer Tree to warrant advising others to stay away from The Summer Tree if you do not like WoT, however. They are vastly different in all the major aspects of writing.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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mark monday
Jul 18, 2011 mark monday rated it really liked it
this is a wonderful novel. it is hard to love at first. sometimes you get to know people who seem automatically awkward, whose social style is stilted, composed of quotes from movies or off-putting attempts to be clever, insisting on repeating tired tales, who seem eager to please yet incapable of easy connection. but you get to know them over time and those trappings fall away, the awkwardness fades and they become real, three-dimensional, a friend even. and so it is with The Summer Tree.

at fir
Aug 29, 2014 Kay rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: they're taking the hobbits to isengard-gard-gard-gard
The first thought I had when I read the description was, "Gawd, not again *groaning moaning*". I've read attempted to read enough Tolkien wannabes with elves, orcs, and swords, and had enough.

Then, I read extremely favorable reviews on GR about this book. It piqued my curiosity. Wait, what? This is how Tolkien should be written??

What the...

Frankly, upon finishing this book, I'm inclined to agree with the favorable critics. This is very much like LotR, so much that I can see many fans either lov
(This will serve as my review of the entire Fionovar Tapestry- Spoiler pearl clutchers beware- there be dragons of plot and theme reveals here!)

Confession: I am a bit of a Requiem fanatic- I own several versions of the Verdi, the Mozart, the Brahms, and copies of the Cherubini, Berlioz, Dvorak, and Benjamin Britten Requiems and I am always looking for more. I am fascinated with each and every one of them personally, but when it comes time to try and explain my obsession to someone else, I always
Apr 10, 2014 Bookwraiths rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This "portal" fantasy from the early 1980s has more than a little bit of Tolkien, a dash of Donaldson, and a lot of excellent writing. Sure, it is an old school fantasy with many of the recycled elements from "The Silmarillion" and "The Lord of the Rings", but that is not a detriment here at all, mainly due to Mr. Kay's fabulous storytelling ability. Because from a rather slow start, the characters begin to come to life even as the story crystallizes into something hauntingly beautiful.

No doubt,
Feb 27, 2008 Trin rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, canadian-lit
Five Canadian college students are transported to a magical kingdom, and all of them are pretty blasé about it. Their lack of reaction cued me in pretty early on that I wasn’t going to like this book. None of these characters felt like real people to me; the students are pretty interchangeable (one’s a bit crankier! one has guilt! two possess vaginas!) and they all completely lack one of the most important things, in my opinion, for a successful fantasy novel: a sense of wonder. Nothing about th ...more
Dec 15, 2015 Brad rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I'm of two minds with this work. I think I'd rather give this one a 3.5 on sheer enjoyability, having the reaction that I'd read this all before, and it's pacing was slow, slow, slow, but after having read it and having some thoughts as to what Kay was trying to accomplish, I'm revising it up to a solid 4.

There is a lot to love in this novel, but unfortunately, it takes a long time for it to develop and ripen. Right off the bat, I noticed that this was taking an old trick that so much Fantasy (a
May 02, 2011 Sparrow rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grown-up Narnia fans
Recommended to Sparrow by: Kay
Shelves: reviewed
Part I of this story is in many ways a grown-up The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read the Narnia stories when I was little, and to be honest, I think C.S. Lewis will always have a place in my heart. To me, he’s a sort of philosophical grandpa, whom I ignore when he’s spouting cultural faux pas, but who brings out something lovely and profound at least as often as he says something unfortunate. Anyway, this book is not about C.S. Lewis, but I think the affection I feel for Narnia made a dif ...more
Dec 16, 2015 Lindsay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review is from my reread of this series in 2015/16.

The Fionavar Tapestry was a formative work for me in many ways, with my first read from soon after they came out in the 80s and with multiple rereads since. I mention this to explain why I'm not completely objective on them, as there are several issues from the lens of a 21st century reader including the way some of the women are portrayed here and the lack diversity in a book set across multiple countries and peoples that is meant to be th
Sep 13, 2008 Mark rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: fantasy
The Review

I generally don't write a review for a book unless I finish it. I don't think it's fair to the author or to others interested in the book.

I didn't finish this book.

However, I did spend a significant amount of time on this book, so I think I do have the right to say something.

Wow. This book beat me. I don't know if was the method in which I read the book or if I just didn't have the mindset to do so, but I just didn't like it.

Reading became a chore and something that I didn't look
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 26, 2010 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I'm going to start my review of this book with some, at least slightly negative comments, so...before I do so let me say that I liked the book pretty well and am giving it 4 stars (I'd probably go 3.5+ if I had that option, but I don't).

I tried to read this book (these books as it's a trilogy) some years ago and was, shall we say, far from enamored with them. I put The Summer Tree down as not worth my time and didn't go back to it. Recently I've seen some reviews by people whom I've agreed with
5.0 stars. I just finished re-reading this book and was blown away by it. This is intelligent High Fantasy at its best. Gay Gavriel Kay is an incredible writer and his world building as fantastic. It is hard to be original in this well-worn genre, but Kay pulls it off and makes his characters and the world-setting unique and fresh.

Highly recommended!!!
Jun 15, 2012 Dawn rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2012
This book has been on my to-read list for a long time. I've read other Kay (and loved it all), but for some reason I just kept putting this one off. Every time I decided it was time to jump in, I'd read the blurb and decide to go with something else. "Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds." Yeah.. About that.. The whole magically transported into a fantasy world thing? Thanks but no thanks. It just doesn't do it for me.

So needless to say,
Jan 23, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it
Fresh from reading most of Tolkien's work, and writing a gigantic essay on it too, I have a different perspective on Kay's work. Especially when reminded that Kay worked on The Silmarillion with Christopher Tolkien. He has a lot in common with Tolkien, really: the synthesis of a new mythology (though not done as history, and therefore lacking all the little authenticating details that Tolkien put in) using elements of an old one (though Kay used Celtic and Norse mythology, and goodness knows wha ...more
Mar 28, 2015 Carol. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library, fantasy, myth
Nostalgia read, sparked by a bookclub desire to read the series. What can I say?

I first read this not long after the series came out (1984 for the first one). I was in my early teens, and there wasn’t much fantasy that felt inclusive of females, stories told in a lush world of sweeping scope. You know how desperate my thirteen year-old self was? Two words: Thomas Covenant. Kay was a refreshing summer breeze, and the writing–oh, the writing! It remained shiny in my memory, musical and strong enou
I am so glad I came to Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry late because I doubt I ever would have read his great books if I had read these first.

I was acting in a play with my great friend Jefferson when he suggested I read A Song For Arbonne. I was blown away. He told me to read Tigana. I loved Brandon and was in love with Kay. He told me to read The Lions of Al-Rassan, which I've read numerous times since, and I had found my favourite Kay. He told me to avoid the trilogy, though, because he knew I wo
Mar 27, 2015 Nicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I was 16 when I first read the Fionavar Tapestry. My boyfriend and I had just gone through what would be the first of many breakups. I'd argued with my family about the breakup. My three best friends were all leaving, and I would only see one of them again in the decade to come. While on holiday with them in the Netherlands I was thrown from my seat on a bus and injured my spine, which left me bedridden and unable to attend the goodbyes. I was, in short, as miserable as only a heartbroken 16-yea ...more
This is Guy Gavriel Kay’s earliest published novel. I’m sure there were previous books that didn’t get published, because you don’t become such a skilled writer without plenty of practice. To be fair, I have previously read two of his more recent novels (set in Ancient China) which are masterful and The Summer Tree is very obviously an early entry in his oeuvre. It is very complex, there are many characters, and there is a LOT going on. A very ambitious novel.

Okay, up front I have to say that I
Dec 20, 2015 Robyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
This is the kind of high fantasy that I can easily see re-reading, and rather wish I had come to earlier in life. (It's definitely not a kid's book, but I'd almost rather my fictional progeny read this than Narnia.) Kay takes touchstones from mythology and weaves them together in a haunting opener to this trilogy about the first world and the impact five people from our own world have on it, in the midst of an epic struggle between good and evil.

It's not without it's issues, but they're easily
Sarah Anne
I really enjoyed this story. I did have a few quibbles, mainly that the way that the story had people from our world transported into this fantasy world was quite jarring. I can see where this is his first novel but it's a novel of an author finding his sea legs and I'm looking forward to how the rest of the series develops.
Oct 25, 2007 Josh rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: die hard fans of the author
Shelves: fantasy
My first introduction to Kay was the stand-alone novel, Tigana. It took me a while to really get into Tigana, but I really started to appreciate Kay's eloquent style, fleshed out characters and whit in dialogue and plot development. I decided that before going on to read the rest of his works, I had better read Fianovar. I didn't quite find the same reading experience here.

While the characters in Tigana are well thought and believable, those in the Summer Tree are quite the opposite. The reader
Carson Kicklighter
Oct 11, 2014 Carson Kicklighter rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
I wasn't able to finish this novel because I found it bland and awkwardly written.

Five kids from the University of Toronto follow a wizard and a dwarf to the magical world of Fionavar, where the king is decrepit, a drought is persisting, and an ancient evil is about to break loose. There's little in the world to set it apart from any other traditional fantasy realm or D&D campaign setting. There's a castle celebration where clowns perform and peddlers sell "colorful goods'; there are taverns
Jan 08, 2010 Lightreads rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Epic fantasy. Five Canadians go across to another world, where an ancient evil is rising again.

Okay, I have to admit, this took a while. It's been a bit since I read srs bzness epic fantasy, and this is about as srs bzness (and earnest) as they get. It's all portentous droughts and visions making the seer's hair turn white and "And thus it came to pass that . . ." and so forth. Takes some getting used to again. That, and the way the characters just get shoved back and forth across the epic fanta
Dec 22, 2015 Amanda rated it it was ok
Shelves: audible
A bunch of my friends just love this series but unfortunately it just didn't click for me. I think if I had read it when I was a teenager I would have liked it better. I just couldn't get into the story or the characters. I didn't hate it, just not for me.
I've posted a general review of the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy before, here, but I never felt that quite cut it. So this a review of the first book, The Summer Tree, and separate reviews of the rest of the trilogy will follow. It's worth looking at my overview of the trilogy, too, because I'm not going to repeat all of it, necessarily.

Firstly, the trilogy does seem very derivative, mostly of Tolkien, although me and my mother once went through spotting myriads of possible influences. There are gr
Jun 16, 2012 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Having found Kay's Tigana overly cluttered and too much for a single novel, it was with trepidation I sat down to read The Summer Tree. Would it be better, would it be worse or would it be the same? Only the conjunction of my mind and eyes with the paper pages of the book would reveal. I was not let down by the contents of this book, overall. However I felt that were some elements of the text better handled this book could have earned a five star rating instead of the four stars I gave it.

The pl
Aug 23, 2012 Lydia rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
When I started laughing at the pompous language in the opening pages, I should probably have guessed how this book was going to go. Absurd names, complicated awkward sentences, all written in an overserious tone that reminded me of a B Movie, without the fun. I thought it would be a fun read at least, a bit of page-turning fantasy that would hook me into a series. I also wanted to see if scenes played out in the beginning of the book would make sense by the end. (view spoiler) ...more
Nov 05, 2016 Carmine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nel correre via non si va mai tanto lontano come si vorrebbe.

Fionavar del buon Kay - già conosciuto con l'emozionante "Il paese delle due lune" - è un romanzo, facente parte di una trilogia, che non si discosta molto dai cliché ed archetipi ereditati direttamente da Tolkien.
"La strada dei re" funziona nel momento in cui il lettore accetta di leggere un fantasy classico.
Questo non deve comunque alimentare dubbi circa la qualità del romanzo: l'opera è scritta egregiamente e riesce a risultare fort
Dec 11, 2014 Hudson rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy

This was my first book by Kay and I've been hearing for years how wonderful a writer he is. I agree.

I must admit to being a bit skeptical when I first started reading the story but as I kept reading, the story and in particular the writing drew me in.

The premise reminded me a lot of Chronicles of Narnia in that some younger people are transported to a fantasy world of elves and dwarves and magic and a battle of good versus evil ensues. Somewhat tired and cliche, right? But Kay somehow pulls it
Nov 22, 2010 Jackie rated it really liked it
This is the first novel I read by Kay, and I am not disappointed. He's got a new fan.

Since this is the first in a continuing trilogy, I don't feel I can review it in depth as the story isn't over.

I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Characters and settings were well defined and I've made some new friends in Fionavar.

I'm patiently awaiting delivery of the rest of the series; once I've read all three novels I will be able to do justice to the series in the form of a review.
Sep 12, 2016 Jon added it
Recommended to Jon by: SciFi & Fantasy Book Club June 2011 Fantasy Selection
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Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categoriz ...more
More about Guy Gavriel Kay...

Other Books in the Series

The Fionavar Tapestry (3 books)
  • The Wandering Fire (The Fionavar Tapestry, #2)
  • The Darkest Road (The Fionavar Tapestry, #3)

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“There are kinds of action, for good or ill, that lie so far outside the boundaries of normal behavior that they force us, in acknowledging that they have occurred, to restructure our own understanding of reality. We have to make room for them.” 58 likes
“We salvage what we can, what truly matters to us, even at the gates of despair.” 23 likes
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