Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Lions of Al-Rassan” as Want to Read:
The Lions of Al-Rassan
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Lions of Al-Rassan

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  19,709 ratings  ·  1,383 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Lions of Al-Rassan, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Andrew Tupper Karen, most of Guy Gavriel Kay's books are in this 'historical fiction' style, and I personally don't think any of them are poor quality. A couple are…moreKaren, most of Guy Gavriel Kay's books are in this 'historical fiction' style, and I personally don't think any of them are poor quality. A couple are multi-part and you may wish to avoid them initially until you're sure. You might like to try 'Under Heaven' or 'Tigana' as superb stand-alone books... but really they're all good.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  19,709 ratings  ·  1,383 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Lions of Al-Rassan
Oct 28, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can’t believe this is happening but here I am, my first ever DNF.

I DNF’ed this book somewhere around 60% and because of that I will still give this book a rating, my second 1 star rating; the first one was for Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

This is an extremely unpopular opinion and I know a LOT of people loved this book, so please keep in mind that this is just my honest opinion. At the time of posting this review, there are less than 200 readers—including me—who gave it a 1 star rating, out of 15.
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 Spain.

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
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Chris Berko
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The things some people can do with words are breathtaking. I absolutely loved this book. I have ranted about it to everyone possible, including strangers in cars next to me on the street. I tell them to roll down their windows and then I tell them to read this book. My mom stopped taking my calls because instead of happy mother's day, I quoted lines from this book when I talked to her. There are a lot of reviews for this so I'm not breaking any new ground here, but sincerely, if you have not rea ...more
Scott  Hitchcock
I feel like I should have loved this book. Parts of it were so good and it had that tortured world gritty feel to it that's right up my alley. Friends on GR who share common interests one and all loved it. But my god the middle 60% was a slog for me. I had to put it down and restart it so many times. The ending tragic and redeeming but I still can't give it more than 2.5*'s. ...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
Apr 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. 5 Stars. All the Stars.

It’s a slow burn. I can easily acknowledge that, but the characters are intriguing from the start and Kay’s writing is just beautiful. The world can be a bit confusing as well if you don’t understand the background of medieval Spain as a lot of names and history are thrown at you from the start. There’s also three different religions and the strife between them is the center stage of the book; the Kindath are Jews, the Jaddites are Christians, and the Ash
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. The story is seductive and engaging, the characters are adult, well-rounded and sophisticated, the writing style is very versatile: it offers both lavish descriptions, witty dialogues, elegant poetry, emotion and brutal detachment to a great, immersive effect. Subtle, delicate, harrowing, the plot entertains and develops with depth of themes, drama, humour and evenly paced action. It is historical fantasy, with little or none fantastic elements.

The characters and the current g
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
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, Guy Gavriel Kay. Did you make me fall victim to my own unreasonable expectations yet again.
Em Lost In Books
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it

Story revolve around people of three religion and their struggle to prevail over each other. These three religions are Ashar (worshipers of Stars), Jad(worshipers of Sun) and Kindath (worshipers of Moons). On a day that was known as “day of moat”, physician Jehane bet Ishak, a Kindath, met Ammar ibn Khairan, most famous Ashar warrior, and Ser Rodrigo Belmonte, a fierce Jad captain. This is the story of how these three become friends and what they choose when it come to make a decision between
Molly Ison
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
This novel gained power and complexity as I made my way deeper into its pages, and in the end I came to greatly appreciate its rich subtleties, its many-layered characters, and its fascinating world. I was more emotionally captivated by, and more propelled to burn through, Kay’s incredible Tigana, but I’m very glad to have read more of Kay’s work, and I will certainly continue to do so.
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book and would put it in the league of Under Heaven and River of Stars, all three fantastic (and slightly fantastical) quasi-historical fictions that took really world events and tweaked them just a bit. They were all gorgeously written and populated with subtle and nuanced characters, caught in the great events of their times and doing what little they could to protect themselves and their loved ones form those events.

In the case of The Lions of Al-Rassan Kay brings us to an alter
I'm don't tend to be a crier when I read. If a book can make me cry it deserves 5 stars. The story was woven together so well that the last chapter and epilogue sucker punched you. Yes there were tears. Yes the book by the end moved me that much. Readers of historical fantasy you might just find this book, inspired by medieval Spain, a story you will love. ...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
Daniel Roy
Sep 03, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Matthew Quann
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by: Helen Robson
It's been a long time since I've read something by Guy Gavriel Kay. His Fionavar Tapestry fantasy trilogy was one of the formative fantasy series of my youth, and aside from an attempt at Tigana and a vaguely remembered reading of A Song for Arbonne, I've not really gone back to his work.

Fortunately, my wife's aunt inspired my return to Kay's work by sending The Lions of Al-Rassan our way. I was expecting something that would scratch an itch for epic fantasy, and though the book has very li
Hmm, a tough book to rate. On one hand, the writing is exceptional. This is definitely a literary novel. On the other hand it vacillates between interesting and been there done that to the nth degree. An epic tale of two roguish men w/ integrity and honor who respect each other, are the bestest fighters and generals for their "at war" tribes. Brutality, war, injustice, trauma, politics, blah blah blah, the love of a good woman. Intermixed w/ a variety of characters that have one special gift. Th ...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,
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
Ned Lud
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Exquisite prose. Superb characterization. A tale that will incite emotions of love and hate. Historical fiction does not get better than this my friends! A novel I am unlikely to ever forget.
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
August 2017 buddy read with Candace! Our BR only got delayed about a year...
Kate Quinn
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Crying. Crying helplessly. What a book.
I have been known to argue against hope. To argue that hope is evervating. That it leads to apathy and inaction. That it is anathema to change. I have argued these things and probably will again, so it is particularly strange that one of my all time favourite books should be a book so filled with hope, so about hope.

In this age of fantasy books great and not so great getting their own shows on HBO or Netflix or MTV, my most fervent wish is to see The Lions of al-Rassan on screen. Not only do I
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
First GGK book, I eventually chose to read this before Tigana, i'm happy I did. I'm truly lost for words, this was simply a great experience. I can't find any fault with the world, characters or the story.
Rodrigo and Ammar were my favorites among st so many awesome characters.
I will definitely re-read this book later. I hope to read Tigana soon.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Fantasy Buddy Reads: The Lions of Al-Rassan 87 78 Mar 10, 2017 07:24AM  
Play Book Tag: Lions of al-Rassan 10 31 Jan 27, 2016 04:50AM  
Read Runners: Buddy read: The Lions of Al-Rassan 56 59 Apr 28, 2015 07:14AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Curse of Chalion (World of the Five Gods, #1)
  • Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City (The Siege, #1)
  • Paladin of Souls (World of the Five Gods, #2)
  • The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor, #1)
  • Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive, #4)
  • The Sword of Kaigen
  • The Last Uncharted Sky (The Risen Kingdoms, #3)
  • The Warrior Prophet (The Prince of Nothing, #2)
  • The Bone Ships (The Tide Child, #1)
  • The Trouble with Peace (The Age of Madness, #2)
  • A Shadow in Summer (Long Price Quartet, #1)
  • To Ride Hell’s Chasm
  • We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire, #1)
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1)
  • The Hallowed Hunt (World of the Five Gods, #3)
  • The Price of Spring (Long Price Quartet, #4)
  • The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1)
  • The Golden Key
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Where do you go for fantastical, must-read book recommendations? This summer we're turning to the experts of illusion,...
141 likes · 36 comments
“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.”
More quotes…