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The Summer Tree

(The Fionavar Tapestry #1)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  21,877 ratings  ·  1,415 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 Ace Books (first published October 1984)
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Saul the Heir of Isauldur Whereas WoT borrows a lot from Eastern philosophies: renewal, rebirth, opposites-create-balance, The Fionavar Tapestry (of which The Summer Tree is th…moreWhereas WoT borrows a lot from Eastern philosophies: renewal, rebirth, opposites-create-balance, The Fionavar Tapestry (of which The Summer Tree is the first book) borrows more from Celtic mythology.

WoT is large in scope, the very definition of epic, from the main villain to its length (seriously, 14 books). I'm not saying that Fionavar isn't epic (believe you me, Kay is a master on par with his mentor Tolkien).

To an outsider, all fantasy is similar, and most fantasy books have more or less the same themes. If you like epic fantasy, I'd recommend you read them both. (less)
Kostas It's a trilogy, so, not well. :)…moreIt's a trilogy, so, not well. :)(less)

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mark monday
Nov 22, 2010 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
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I read this book for one of my group challenges and I’m so glad I did as it was awesome!!

Happy Reading!!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Jan 16, 2008 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
Mayim de Vries
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
“There are kinds of action, for good or ill, that lie so far outside the boundaries of normal behaviour that they force us, in acknowledging that they have occurred, to restructure our own understanding of reality.”

If you missed Gandalf and the Fellowship of the Ring, miss them no more. The Fionavar Tapestry will provide you with the much needed Tolkienesque fix, perhaps a shade darker and a touch more sensual than the original. It is a five star, compulsory read for the lovers of this style, an
Jul 18, 2011 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
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
*** 4.35 ***

A buddy read with the awesome Kay Squad @ Fantasy Buddy Reads Group!

Every time I pick up a book by GGK I am filled with anticipation almost equal to that of children opening presents on Christmas Day morning. The first night of Hanukkah!!! A time of celebration of the soul, despite not being sure if it will live up to the expectations at the end. I have been very lucky for now and everything I have had the pleasure of reading by him has brought me much more pleasure than disappointm
(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
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, fantasy
”But above all he could wait: wait as the cycles of men turned like the wheel of stars, as the very stars shifted pattern under the press of years. There would come a time when the watch slackened, when one of the five guardians would falter. Then could he, in darkest secrecy, exert his strength to summon aid, and there would come a day when Rakoth Maugrim would be free in Fionavar.
And a thousand years passed under the sun and stars of the first of all the worlds…”

In the midst of a strange night
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
Buddy read with the fabulous Kay Squad at FBR

An amazing masterpiece by a brilliant writer!

Whit this book, Kay manages to give you a story in which you can get lost and forget yourself reading for hours on end.

Five university students embark on a journey of self-discovery when they enter a realm of wizards and warriors, gods and mythical creatures--and good and evil…
It all began with a lecture that introduced five university students to a man who would change their lives, a wizard who would take
Mar 25, 2013 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
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, buddy-read
4.5 stars

**Buddy Read with the awesome Kay Squad at Fantasy Buddy Reads**

"There are many worlds," he said, "caught in the loops and whorls of time. Seldom do they intersect, and so for the most part they are unknown to each other. Only in Fionavar, the prime creation, which all the others imperfectly reflect, is the lore gathered and preserved that tells of how to bridge the worlds - and even there the years have not dealt kindly with ancient wisdom."

This is the tale of five twenty-somethings -
If you were stalked by some dudes who claimed they're a mage and a dwarf who wanted to take you to their fantasy kingdom through a magic portal, would you receive their invitation immediately? If yes, then this book might be suitable for you.

If you like your characters to get so skilled and powered in a very small amount of time (i.e. Suddenly Always Knew That) because of...well, plot, then you would like this book.

If you don't mind wasting time getting involved in inane court intrigue or dreami
Took me the better part of a year to finish this one.
Except for the ever grieving character of Paul, nothing/no one in particular worked for me, unfortunately.
A classic case of its-not-you-but-me.
Would I continue with the series? Maybe. Someday.
This is the third of Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels I’ve read, but it was the first he wrote, and while there are some first-novel weaknesses apparent, there is also, as ever, an abiding depth and sureness of approach that is always compelling. Of the three I’ve read (Tigana — his masterpiece — and The Lions of Al-Rassan being the other two), this is by far written in a style that is most traditional to the tropes of High Fantasy, and that’s where some of its occasional creakiness lies; there are lots ...more
Meredith Holley
Mar 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grown-up Narnia fans
Recommended to Meredith 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
Aug 08, 2008 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 loo
Sebastien Castell
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I wonder if everyone has their favourite era of fantasy, and whether that era corresponds to when they first truly became enthralled with the genre. For me, it was mid-1980's. It's not that fantasy was better in those days; in fact, I'll bet any number of literary scholars would argue earlier works were more innovative and more recent ones more sophisticated and inclusive. But the language and style of the 1980's were the ones that I first learned and that stuck with me. It's easier, somehow, to ...more
As much as I have really liked GGK for Tigana and Under Heaven, this did not grip me. There were some very lyrical moments, but mostly, it seemed like it had been done before, and better. It first suffers from The Chosen One syndrome, as at least one Intrepid Adventurer has the Powers Needed to Save Everything. There's a Guy With a Troubled Past who makes a Huge Sacrifice (done better in, oh, The Lord of the Rings, American Gods, Norse Mythology, or even The Bible). And don't get me started on t ...more
Dec 15, 2015 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
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, epic-fantasy
This is one of those five star books that I've always been reluctant to actually review. Partly because Guy Gavriel Kay is a writer of such a high caliber that writing about his writing feels more than a little ridiculous. Like anything I have to say is going to sound like "duhhh dis wuz real good!" next to the actual book. But also partly because Kay's writing has always sort of defied description. He writes epic fantasy of the highest order but getting into how affecting his writing is, how it ...more
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
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!!!
Constantina Maud
"At the end we only have ourselves anyway, wherever it comes down." ...more
Jan 23, 2012 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
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 06, 2010 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
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
May 30, 2012 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, 2014 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
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. ...more
Jane Jago
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I will review the three books as one, because that is how I am reading them. But there is a hint in the five stars
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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

Other books in the series

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

Articles featuring this book

Science fiction and fantasy have spawned some of the most imaginative plots and settings in existence. Makes sense, given that these genres are...
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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.” 71 likes
“We salvage what we can, what truly matters to us, even at the gates of despair.” 30 likes
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