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(Lyonesse #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,951 ratings  ·  302 reviews
The Elder Isles, located in what is now the Bay of Biscay off the the coast of Old Gaul, are made up of ten contending kingdoms, all vying with each other for control. At the centre of much of the intrigue is Casmir, the ruthless and ambitious king of Lyonnesse. His beautiful but otherworldly daughter, Suldrun, is part of his plans. He intends to cement an alliance or two ...more
Paperback, 490 pages
Published 1985 by NORD (first published 1983)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  4,951 ratings  ·  302 reviews

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Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mixed feelings.

I wanted to LOVE this book, wanted it to prove how Jack Vance is the vanguard of best writers you’ve not read, this was going to be the diamond in the rough, the treasure chest uncovered and raised from the depths of out-of-printness.

And there were parts, PARTS, I did love.

I loved the idea behind the book. Take a thirty-year mortgage of artistic license and slap a scotch tape amendment on the globe and you’ve got an idea about the cajones that Vance displayed. I mean, he just ADD
Kat  Hooper
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

As I'm writing this, Jack Vance's under-appreciated Lyonesse trilogy has been off the shelves for years. My library doesn't even have a copy — it had to be interlibrary loaned for me. Why is that? Publishers have been printing a seemingly endless stream of vampire and werewolf novels these days — same plot, same characters, blah blah blah. If not that, it's grit. We all want grit. Or maybe it's that more women are reading fantasy these days and publishers
Wow. What a wonderful surprise!

For an early eighties fantasy, it reads rather fantastically easy, with a near perfect blend of adventure, spry heroes and heroines, and an almost mythical command of myth, history, and magic in a hugely creative blend. We're not even bogged down in any such weird concepts like "historical accuracy", either.

And actually, I loved the whole idea of slap-dashing a whole continent next to Gaul and throwing in Merlin (Murgen), Mithra, evil christians, the fae, chivalr
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

Centuries in the past, at that middle-distant time when legend and history start to blur, Blausreddin the pirate built a fortress at the back of a stony semi-circular harbor...


Blausreddin plays no further role in the present story, but his fortress eventually evolved into a city of fame and wonder : Lyonesse, the capital of the Elder Isles, an imaginary archipelago in the Atlantic, somewhere off the coasts of Britain and Bretagne. As for the period in which the adventure takes place, the meeti
If Lyonesse were a food, it would be:

Bits of different kinds of things all thrown into one receptacle but where you can still taste each individual food item, all smothered with custardy gooey goodness. So, how about a Lyonesse recipe you ask?

1 loaf of fantasy geopolitical intrigue, heated till crisp and diced finely
A large punnet of wild fairy tales
A large cup of piquant tongue-in-cheek
Another large cup of creamy purple prose
Old myths for seasoning

- Marinate your wild fairy tales with th
aPriL does feral sometimes
'Suldrun's Garden' is written with an amazingly huge number of disguised and re-imagined classic fairy-tale tropes using many of the non-fiction historical soap operas of England's actual royal families as a platform for the fictional plots. It is also book one in the Lyonesse trilogy.

Lyonesse was one of ten minor kingdoms on a large (fictional) island and some nearby smaller ones called the Elder Isles, situated to the west of Old Gaul (The actual United Kingdom) in the Atlantic. The Elder Isl
Ian Farragher
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyine with a willingness to be surprised.
Jack Vance is the best writer you've never heard of.
You can get lost in his tales whilst still believing that you are looking into the lives of real people. They may be people 10,000 or 100,000 years in the future; or further back, in some Ur-Common myth. His characters are what make his stories.

Lyonesse is a distant memory. I sought these books many times in yesteryear. The world has caught up a bit. What I remember from the first time is: being impressed with the way Vance did fantasy. I was m
Feb 17, 2017 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Crisp and complex, with a surprisingly bold earthiness, and an elegant opulent finish; the heady aromatics are reminiscent of oaks in bloom. Pairs well with edam.

Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First things first: we desperately need to have a deluxe illustrated edition of the Lyonesse series with art by Charles Vess.

Ok, now that that is out of the way what is Lyonesse? It is one of the few works of ‘pure’ fantasy by the speculative fiction Grand Master Jack Vance (as opposed to his much more numerous science fiction and science-fantasy books) which manages, like perhaps all of Vance’s work, to be pretty sui generis. The story ostensibly takes place in the early middle ages of our wor
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eddie Costello
Mar 01, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I was highly disappointed in this book, there was sparks of greatness but mostly disappointment

-Thankfully the author didn't stretch the story out with useless dialog he gets straight to the point which was refreshing
- Suldrun is an awesome character and fully fleshed out
- I also enjoyed the references to Avalon and the setting of this book is a real place that I believe sunk into the ocean(don't quote me on that but I'm pretty sure it's something similar)

- mostly horrible characters t
May 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The first book in the Lyonesse series Suldrun's Garden is a mixed bag of reading experiences. Some aspects of the novel have been well portrayed but not so in some other cases.

Plot Suldrun's garden is a low fantasy set against the backdrop of Arthurian Myths. It tells the story of an Island king and his ambitions and his ignored daughter Suldrun. Apart from one surprising moment the story is pretty much straight forward.

World Building The author makes good use of Arthurian folklore and he ble
Sad Sunday (If I say it's bad, it's bad)
DNF at 38%

"- Shimrod, do you love me?
- I am fascinated and obsessed.


And I am not even sorry.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it's Arthurian fantasy. The dreamy, all over the place Arthurian fantasy. I rarely read it, and while I wasn't warned by any notifications on the cover, I thought it will be fine. But it wasn't. I guess me and Arthurian fantasy are not meant to be together.

Everything happens just because, fairy there, princess here, everything is blurry and a little bit messy. Char
Does any other author write amazing and strange fantasy so eloquently as Jack Vance? The question is nuncupatory.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
This story...I can only say, the narrative brings the Lord of the Rings to mind, that with genealogies, the lore, the mild tone. And yet, and yet, I was glued to it. Suldrun's tale is riveting and no matter the omniscient narrator, or maybe thanks to its voice, immersing in the Elder Isles imagery, I turned and turned and turned the pages, forgetting everything else.

“What are dreams? Ordinary experience is a dream. The eyes, the ears, the nose: they present pictures on the brain, and these pict
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of High fantasy, literary fantasy fans, Vance fans
This is the 29th Vance novel/collection that i have read and The Dying Earth novels with Cugel, Rialtho is still my all-time favorite Vance because i like the world of Dying Earth so much but this is easily the best i have read of this legendary author.

I dont even like to read High fantasy usually but a dense for a Vance novel, story that is so imaginative, bold, ambitious and Vance at his literary best when it comes to prose style, use of language. I would like to write a lengthy review to ana
Peter Tillman
Jack Vance in the 25th Century -- and Beyond
Lyonesse by Jack Vance: Suldrun's Garden (1983), The Green Pearl (1985), Madouc (1989, World Fantasy Award 1990)

Lyonesse is, I think, Vance's masterpiece: a mannered, leisurely faux-historical fantasy, set in the mythical Elder Isles (south of Ireland and west of France) at about the time of Uther Pendragon.

"The dark musings of Suldrun's Garden shade into the exuberant colours of The Green Pearl and then into the more intimate amusements of Madouc, i
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, classics
One of the best fantasy novels that I have read in a long time, and probably the best example I have seen of a modern dark fairy tale. We have trapped princesses, tricky fairy folk, curses, witches and trolls that live in huts in the woods and who have a taste for children, etc.

Also be aware that when I say dark, I mean DARK. Like, children stuffed with vegetables and roasting on spits dark. This book makes Game of Thrones look like a quaint bedtime story.
Paul  Perry
Aside from the Dying Earth books, I’ve not read much Jack Vance. Which is odd, as I do adore those, the complexity and richness of the language, the sly wit and dark humour, the anti-heroes so well rendered. Lyonesse is a quite different beast. In some ways it feels far more of a traditional fantasy than the much earlier tales of Cugel the clever and Turjan and Chun the Unavoidable. It is definitely more of a true novel; most of the Dying Earth books are portmanteau made up of episodic short sto ...more
Scott Gray
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Lord Dunsany had written "Game of Thrones", the result might have been something like this often overlooked fantasy gem by F&SF legend Jack Vance. The setting is the Elder Isles, a magical realm that occupies the seas south of Dark-Ages Britain and Ireland. The story is built on a wonderfully fractious narrative that spins out between a half-dozen characters caught up in the political turmoil roiling the isles' kingdoms. In Lyonesse, the princess Suldrun rejects her father's plans to marry he ...more
I first read Suldrun's Garden when it came out in the 1980s. At least I think I did; maybe it was later. In any case, I didn't like it much. I recall thinking that it seemed like an effort to get in on the latest Arthurian craze (Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon came out around the same time. It felt like references to myth and legend were shoehorned in, and Vancian imagination was crowded out. It was still written in his inimitable style, though, so I read the rest of the series anyway. ...more
John Wiswell
The novel begins intriguingly with its numerous references to what will become Arthurian mythology. Lyonesse itself is a historically apocryphal part of the Pendragon/Arthurian Britain, but Vance has no desire for historical accuracy and populates it with wizards, unicorns and monsters that none of the pseudo-realistic Arthurian writers bring out today. His book begins with the lives of several privileged children that are either privy to the political designs of their parents or are being prepa ...more
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people looking for escape from the real world
Recommended to Ollie by: can't remember - probably just picked it up by accident
I've read Lyonesse 4 times - placing it in my own personal pantheon right at the top with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

I first read it as a teenager and immediately fell in love with it. Sure, there were some minor plot holes - especially as the story moved through the trilogy of the same name - but its overall charm won in the end. Then, a few years later in university, I tried reading it again and thought it was a terrible misogynistic creation - to the point where I took the whole trilog
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think this fantasy trilogy may well be my favourite. It's one I still reread with pleasure, probably because it is so clearly written for adults, though when I first read it as a teenager the violent indignities inflicted on Christian missionaries and the fate of poor Suldrun scared me off after the cosy safety of Middle Earth and Narnia. Luckily I went back to it. The dangers and cruelties of the Elder Isles anticipate the modern hard-boiled fantasy epics of Martin, Abercombie et al, yet the ...more
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only reason I persevered and finished this book is because it was a book club selection. The first third of the book was so tedious with the history of the Elder Islands and all the politics and wars. And it seemed like every chapter introduced 8 more characters.
But I’m glad I stuck with it because once the story focused on Aillas searching for his son, and Dhrun searching for his father, I became caught up in the story. I enjoyed all the magical beings – mermaids, fairies, trolls, 2-headed
Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Classic Vance- I was apprehensive since I've only ever read Jack Vance's Sci-Fi, and was unsure how well his style would translate to pure fantasy, but truly, I should not have doubted.
As always it's filled with his wonderful florid use of the English language, and I always feel smarter after finishing a Vance novel.

In this particular story, Vance has gone to extreme lengths to be especially unforgiving towards his characters, and there is elegant and discreetly described rape, torture, murder
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-series
Jack Vance puts together a huge cast of characters, a large island full of political intrigue, fairy realms and magic. Through all this, he comes up with a solid story and great prose to boot.

Politically, this island (south of the British Isles, west of France) has intrigues and minor skirmishes aplenty. At the mid point of the novel, two of these nations undertake a minor war, framing that section of the story and introducing one of the many main characters.

Magically, this island has several re
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vance offers us a book that is meandering, but endearingly meandering. I was only mildly entertained as the characters were introduced, but they all grow quickly and soon have real weight. There are very few amazing, jaw droppingly awesome scenes or concepts, but I was constantly intrigued, and every few pages Vance writes a line that cuts deep.
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden was first published in 1983 as a paperback novel. It is currently in print in a Spatterlight paperback edition and is also available as an eBook. My out of print copy has 439 pages of text, making this one of Vance's longer works. It is not science fiction but classic fantasy. This is the second time I've read it in recent years, and I rated it a 5 both times. All three novels in the Lyonesse trilogy are fascinating, magical masterpieces of the highest order. They are ...more
Austin Briggs
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More serious fantasy readers among us surely remember this book – a story about ancient, long forgotten islands on the Atlantic, consumed by its waters and about people who inhabited them. The Elder Isles – once home to magical creatures like elves, trolls and goblins; once home to human kingdoms of the 5th century A.D., with their politics, wars, passions and troubles; islands that have long submerged under the oceanic waves. In fact, Vance tells us this fact nearly at the beginning of the stor ...more
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Aka John Holbrook Vance, Peter Held, John Holbrook, Ellery Queen, John van See, Alan Wade.

The author was born in 1916 and educated at the University of California, first as a mining engineer, then majoring in physics and finally in journalism. During the 1940s and 1950s, he contributed widely to science fiction and fantasy magazines. His first novel, The Dying Earth , was published in 1950 to g

Other books in the series

Lyonesse (3 books)
  • The Green Pearl (Lyonesse #2)
  • Madouc (Lyonesse, #3)

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
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“Nothing is more conspicuous than a farting princess.” 9 likes
“You are sauntering along the back streets of Avallon; you step into a tavern for a cup of wine. A great lummox claims that you have molested his wife; he takes up his cutlass and comes at you. So now! With your knife! Draw and throw! All in a single movement! You advance, pull your knife from the villain's neck, wipe it on his sleeve. If in fact you have molested the dead churl's wife, bid her begone! The episode has quite dampened your spirit. But you are attacked from another side by another husband. Quick!” 3 likes
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