The Lions of Al-Rassan
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The Lions of Al-Rassan

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  9,652 ratings  ·  593 reviews
The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khaira...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published June 28th 2005 by Harper Voyager (first published 1995)
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mark monday
The Lions of al-Rassan is a sweeping historical epic that examines the price of war, the deadly toll on lives that can occur when religion and politics meet and clash, the seemingly endless give and take between Christians & Muslims & Jews, the power that certain charismatic individuals can exert during times of tumult and change, and - just as important as everything i've mentioned - the nature of love and of friendship. its cast features El Cid and Ibn Ammar; it is set during Moorish S...more
If I scored my nerd tendencies I’d fall much closer on the scale to comic books and Star Trek than to Lord of the Rings and other swords-n-sorcery kind of fantasy which is weird because I do enjoy the kind of world building and political intrigue that is often a big part of the genre.

My hesitation about reading more of this kind of stuff is due in no small part to how it seems like common practice for fantasy authors of turning those stories into multi-book epics, but then stalling out in the m...more
Jun 26, 2011 Terence rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: GR Friends too numerous to name
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Perhaps it’s incipient dementia?

I’ve lost too many brain cells to time and American TV but I just don’t get the GGK “love” evinced by many of my GR friends. I struggled through the first 100 pages of this book and seriously considered giving up entirely but I persevered to the end (albeit skimming through many pages) and left profoundly unimpressed.

Upon reflection, my difficulty with the novel is that at no point did the writing engage me. I didn’t find the alternate Medieval Spain all that inve...more
Veronica Belmont
First of all, allow me to give Kiala her due for picking this book for Vaginal Fantasy. After last month's pick, we were sorely due for something of substance. I will also remind everyone that last month's pick was MY doing, so I'm duly chastened.

Anyhow. The Lions of Al-Rassan is an absolutely mesmerizing book. As I understand it (and please correct me in the comments if I am incorrect) it's a fantastical alt-history of the Iberian Peninsula. With one small exception, I would pause to call it f...more
Sep 04, 2012 Mario rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with a heart and half a brain
You will fall in love with one of the characters in this book. I absolutely guarantee it. The only question is, with whom?

Will it be with the flamboyant Ammar ibn Khailan, poet, spymaster, kingslayer, warrior? With Jehane, strong and stubborn doctor? Perhaps with Miranda, so beautiful and queenly even when managing a horse ranch? Or with proud Rodrigo, the Scourge of Al-Rassan, brave, virtuous, faithful?

Or will it be with one of the minor characters? Starstruck Alvar, alluring Zabira, the wise...more
I needed a couple of days to let this sink in before writing a review. That's how powerful the book was, and its incredible ending.

This is one of those books that it's very difficult to write a spoiler-free review for. I could mark it as such and go for it, but then people that haven't read the book will skip the review.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is a book I will push on friends. When asked for recommendations, it will float to the top of my list every time. I won't say it's my all-time favorite, bu...more
This book has come highly recommended by almost all of my friends, and so naturally, I was very excited to read it. This was my first experience with Kay, and the consensus seems to be that this is his best work. Certainly the Goodreads average rating bears that up. Lions of Al-Rassan currently has a an average rating of 4.27 of 5. Pretty impressive, and the highest of all of his books.

It just didn't quite get there for me. Maybe it was the expectation of greatness that let me down, but I don't...more
Wow. I don't even know what to say. I'm speechless! This was only my second Kay novel, the first being A Song for Arbonne, and I didn't really know what to expect. I have to admit, the blurb didn't really catch me... But I had found it in a used book store for cheap, so I decided to try it out. I am so glad I did!

I have to be very careful not to spoil it... It's hard not to gush though. The ending was so heart breaking, yet at the same time so beautiful and hopeful. The entire book was wonderful...more
Molly Ison
Reads like a movie novelization. A movie intended as pseudo-historical reenactment Oscar-bait with beautiful sweeping landscapes and beautiful actors and actresses who take it all so damn seriously. The women are spunky (I hate that word, so it's appropriate for Jehane) and inappropriately modern while remaining in the margins - props to the masculine deeds of the leading men. Every fight is a show of athleticism, perfectly choreographed. A light-hearted moment that isn't actually funny. Charact...more
The peninsula of Al-Rassan has been split into three kingdoms; formerly under Jaddite control and known as Esperaňa. The split between the three Jaddite factions in the north and some Asharite kingdoms in the south makes for a volatile relationship of political and religious indifferences. The book centres on three protagonists from different races; Jehane bet Ishak, a Kindath physician in Fezana; Rodrigo Belmonte, a Jaddite captain of a company of cavalry and Ammar ibn Khairan, an Asharite poet...more
I can't even think how to review this book. First of all, I guess, it's a good lesson on why not to give up on a book before you finish it. I was more than halfway through, and getting a little frustrated and somewhat bored with Kay's POV changes and introduction of new and mostly peripheral characters so far into the book. This is the fourth Kay book I've read, and I find myself a little put off by his distant approach to events that are positively horrifying. He introduces one of the main char...more
Jan 11, 2011 Jon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: SciFi and Fantasy Book Club Jan 2010 Fantasy Selection
Of the six novels by Guy Gavriel Kay that's I've read, this and Tigana vie for my favorite of his work. How does he manage to make me care so much about his characters? And he creates a reflection of our world on the cusp of a rigid religious fervor scything inexorable destruction before it. A glimpse of the beauty crushed and the horrors perpetrated in the grip of zealous belief and political expediency. A lament for the loss of the previous generation's glories and grandeur. A glimpse of the p...more
I was very excited to read this because of the premise: Alternate medieval Al-Andalus, clash of cultures and religions, the fall of an Empire, the end of an era, and romance!

By the time I got 100 pages into it, I was skimming. Pretty soon I was skipping whole chapters, looking for the names of people that vaguely interested me. This is not to say that the prose isn't good, and I know that the premise what went wrong? The following.

1. The set up surrounds a woman Kindath (Jewish) doctor,...more
Full review:

Guy Gavriel Kay has been on my “must try” list for years. I have heard him recommended so many times and I have come across devoted fans that will praise his prose endlessly. And on top of that, he writes stand-alone novels, so there is no fear of commitment here. With all of that, I have no idea why I have not read one of his novels previously. But, I nominated The Lions of Al-Rassan for one of my book club reads and happily it won. No more e...more
The dialogue is witty and meaningful and the characters are well developed and have depth. Kay weaves an intricate tale and trusts you to figure out the plot. He doesn’t talk down to the reader by handing them the story’s intricacies through dialogue or useless plot shifts. He expects you to pay attention and if you don’t, well then to bad, you won’t get it.

The dialogue, the description and the inner thought processes of the characters are all written in beautiful prose, sometimes poetry. A wri...more
Daniel Roy
I usually have a rule that if a book doesn't grab my attention within 50 pages, I just drop it and move on. Too many great books, not enough time. I gave The Lions of Al-Rassan a good chance with 150 pages, and it still utterly failed to grab me. Maybe it was a bad idea to read a high-minded historical fantasy epic right after The Black Company. Or maybe I'm too old and grumpy for bombastic opera-like fantasies. Maybe A Game of Thrones has made fantasy unpalatable unless it features a threshold...more
Feb 14, 2008 Martine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of good pseudo-historical fiction
Guy Gavriel Kay is best known as a fantasy author. However, as far as I'm concerned, he is at his best when he's writing semi-historical novels -- novels in which he re-imagines some historical event or place with just a little recourse to fantasy elements. The Lions of Al-Rassan is such a novel. In it, Kay tells the story of the Spanish Reconquista, a thrilling time during which the Christians drove the Muslims (who had by then ruled the southern half of their peninsula for several centuries) f...more
Tinha este livro debaixo de olho desde que foi lançado, devido às boas referências que tenho lido em relação ao autor (apesar de ainda não ter lido nada dele), e por isso a simpática oferta da Saída de Emergência devida à minha participação no Fórum BANG! foi recebida com bastante alegria e expectativa.

O espaço físico deste livro centra-se numa Península Ibérica medieval dividida pela fé religiosa, na qual encontramos 3 povos distintos: os Asharitas (baseados nos muçulmanos), os Kindates (basead...more
Feb 12, 2011 Jon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jon by: SciFi and Fantasy Book Club Jan 2010 Fantasy Selection
Of the six novels by Guy Gavriel Kay that's I've read, this and Tigana vie for my favorite of his work. How does he manage to make me care so much about his characters? And he creates a reflection of our world on the cusp of a rigid religious fervor scything inexorable destruction before it. A glimpse of the beauty crushed and the horrors perpetrated in the grip of zealous belief and political expediency. A lament for the loss of the previous generation's glories and grandeur. A glimpse of the p...more
A friend recommended this book to me, not so much for the story, but for the two main characters. I decided to give the book five stars, not so much for the quality of the story, but for the creation of two amazing leads, neither of which could have existed without the other.

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors, and usually that would mean that I had devoured every word he'd written by now. However, I almost think that I purposefully take my time getting around to each of his books, be...more
Carol Kerry-green
I am always torn between saying this book, or Tigana is my favourite Guy Gavriel Kay novel, both sweep you up in their intensity and rich story telling. In Lions, we following the story through the eyes of three people, Jehanne a Kindath physician, Rodrigo Belmonte a captain of a company of cavalry (turned mercenary) and Ammar ibn Khairan a poet and a mercenary for many years the advisor to King Almalick and tutor to his son.

Loosely based on the Moorish occupation of Spain, Kay's countries and p...more
I learned something reading this book. I dislike Guy Gavriel Kay's writing. It was my first book of his and it will probably be my last.

I was reading several other books at the same time, a habit of mine, and the further I got into this book, the harder it became to make myself leave the other books to give this one its turn. I almost stopped reading it in the middle of the book.

I was reading David Copperfield, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and Shadow & Claw at the same time. David Cop...more
Lions have been symbols of royalty for millennia. The ancient Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, and even the medieval English used lions as royal symbols. So, it is no surprise that Guy Gavriel Kay entitled his fantasy novel about a thinly disguised Medieval Iberia as The Lions of Al-Rassan. It is a fantasy novel in the sense that it features imaginary places, but it is different in that those imaginary places are remarkably parallel to Iberian geography and history. In addition, there isn’t any...more
I expected to love The Lions of Al-Rassan. After all, it's Guy Gavriel Kay, and my mother wept for hours over the ending. I have to say I didn't cry, but I came close.

In terms of plot, this is again one of his semi-historical ones, and again, I don't know the time period very well at all. I think it'd probably help if I did: with this one, I just had to keep pushing through my confusion to grasp what was going on -- not that that was a hardship. I've found that even if you don't quite know what'...more
May 23, 2007 Kelly rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Kay fans, historical fantasy fans, epic lovers
I'm reminded of something, thinking of this book. I was reading the Unbearable Lightness of Being recently, and there was a motif introduced from a piece of Beethoven's. "En muss sein!" or, translated, "It must be!". In other words, a 'heavy' (as Kundera would have put it) sense of your own life and destiny. All the characters have that here, but in such a way that you love them for it, you don't want to hurt them for being pompous as is occasionally a problem in epic adventures. It's all about...more
Andrew O
I vacillated between loving this book and being annoyed with it at times due to it's pacing. It is either blindingly-describe-every-tiny-detail slow or if-blink-you-missed-major-important-parts fast, with little in between.

However the story itself is brilliant, the characters are great and it kept you interested. I just wish he would have cut out some of the superfluous details and added in more when it was actually needed.
Clever use of story to open out reflection on the whole history of the three great monotheistic faiths but through fantasy. In another time, with three other great imagined religions; war, friendship, campaigns of exploration and conquest. A huge number of characters and decades covered, battles and loves and transformation. My main bugbear is, it is the wrong main character who dies at the end but then that is purely personal
Sumit Singla
The peninsula of Esperana lies divided, and in the throes of transition - a transition that promises war, destruction, and change.

The Lions of Al-Rassan deals with the interplay of political games of intrigue, alliance, and betrayal among the sun-worshipping Jaddites, the moon-worshipping Kindath, and the star-worshipping Asharites. The kingdom of Sancho the Fat has been carved out among the Jaddite kings of Valledo, Ruenda, and Jalona, who all vie amongst themselves to reign supreme. Excellent...more
Terá sido graças a influência do filho de J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher, que Guy Gavriel Kay terá esquecido a Filosofia e o Direito para se dedicar à escrita, iniciando em 1984 uma das trilogias mais aclamadas da fantasia A Tapeçaria de Fionavar, com a qual venceu o prémio Aurora e que foi lido por gerações de amantes de literatura fantástica mesmo depois do seu grande sucesso. Foi nomeado três vezes para o World Fantasy Award e venceu o Internacional Goliardos Award pelo seu contributo à liter...more
Arun Divakar
Fantasy is never an easy genre to write I suppose : to create a world, populate it with characters and a history and to not let it become a mediocre and laughable piece of work is to me a tremendous effort on the part of any author. To say nothing of weaving history into that fabric of fantasy achieves much more enjoyable a piece of work. My first brush with Guy Gavriel Kay came with Tigana which I found to be tremendously enjoyable, Al-Rassan is not different either.

Taking a look at the author'...more
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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...
Tigana The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry, #1) The Darkest Road (The Fionavar Tapestry, #3) The Wandering Fire (The Fionavar Tapestry, #2) A Song for Arbonne

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“The deeds of men, as footprints in the desert.
Nothing under the circling moons is fated to last.
Even the sun goes down.”
“Eyyia?" said her husband, and Eliane bet Danel heard the mangling of her name as music.
"You sound like a marsh frog," she said, moving to stand before his chair.
By the flickering light she saw him smile.
"Where have you been," she asked. "My dear. I've needed you so much."
"Eyyia," he tried again, and stood up. His eyes were black hollows. They would always be hollows.
He opened his arms and she moved into the space they made in the world, and laying her head against his chest she permitted herself the almost unimaginable luxury of grief.”
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