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Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,195 ratings  ·  264 reviews
From award-winning author John Crowley comes an exquisite fantasy novel about a man who tells the story of a crow named Dar Oakley and his impossible lives and deaths in the land of Ka.

A Crow alone is no Crow.

Dar Oakley—the first Crow in all of history with a name of his own—was born two thousand years ago. When a man learns his language, Dar finally gets the chance to tel
Hardcover, 442 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by Gallery / Saga Press
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Jeeps I did a lot of googling about this myself; looks like it's Gaelic for "shame."…moreI did a lot of googling about this myself; looks like it's Gaelic for "shame."(less)

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 ·  1,195 ratings  ·  264 reviews

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Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Intellectually, I know that the world is unfair. Somehow, though, that knowledge doesn't make it easier to accept the fact that John Crowley remains a relatively unknown and uncelebrated author. His writing never fails to sustain me, engage me, move me (not the easiest task, frankly), and, most of all, please me. Little, Big is my favorite book--no qualifications. It brings me more joy than anything else I've ever read. Now I'll have to figure out where Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr fits in ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Crowley’s writing is so graceful and lyrical and contemplative that his novels often feel like long elegiac poems masquerading as prose fiction. His latest, Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr is quite possibly the most John Crowley-esque of John Crowley novels. It is a beautiful work of art – enchanting and reflective, rendered in stark images and hermeneutical musings on the nature of life and mortality. It is also relentlessly and frustratingly cerebral; intellectually and aesthetically sa ...more
I guess one of the great things about reading John Crowley is that it never goes quite how I think it will – even when I have mixed feelings about his work. It’s impossible to deny that the man is brilliant, and a very talented prose stylist; alas, sometimes, his wordy pirouettes are just a bit too dizzying for my puny brain. But my husband loves him, and considering how many books I relentlessly pushed on him, it’s only fair that I follow his recommendations from time to time.

“Ka” is definitely
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-shelf, fantasy
I'm conflicted about this read.

On the one hand, I think, with managed expectations, this is a delightful book. Mild, thoughtful, and almost always following the PoV of a special crow through the ages. One that has died, traveled the land of the dead, come back, and lives on and on. Sometimes Dar Oakley talks with men and women, sometimes he just has adventures, but they all tend to revolve around life and death.

I think it has a really good premise.

What I wanted was something more, however. More
Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr is a work of art with a capital A. From the very first pages, I knew I was reading something extraordinary. A cross between magical realism and historical fantasy, this is told from the eyes of a two-thousand year old crow, as he flew throughout the history of man, the history of Ymr – our world, Ka – the world of the crows – and what lies in between, under, and beyond.

I truly never really paid attention to crows before this book. Their reputation as messenger
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Stories, Coyote said. Not to tell you something you don't already know. We're made of stories now, brother. It's why we never die even if we do.

In the near future, a dying man tells the story of Dar Oakley, a Crow who steals and then loses "the most precious thing in the world" and is doomed to eternal life. The deaths and rebirths of Dar begin in Iron Age and medieval Europe then jumps to North America with Native Americans, the Civil War and ends with a world in gradual decline.

I want to under
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
a tremendous novel that seems doomed to be woefully underread. the transportive, evocative prose we’ve come to expect from crowley, superlative worldbuilding, an astute meditation on the power and role of storytelling, and a charming, at times heartbreaking, study of the morphing role of crows in myths and tall tales. one of my favorites of the year and probably my third favorite (after little, big and engine summer) from a wonderful writer
[4.5 stars] Hmmm, a guy named John CROW-ley, who's not too far from the end of his natural lifespan, writes a novel about crows and death. Coincidence?

I’ve appreciated animal-based fantasy novels over the years (e.g. Watership Down), and this one sounded like it had some literary qualities. It’s probably more in the realm of magic realism than fantasy, though, blurring the lines between the real world and a land of the dead, which is a place that, according to the storyteller, is really meant fo
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After having been to the Limestone Kingdom and magical Austin in my last two books, I thought this was the best choice, thematically. Well ...

We meet Dark Oakley, a crow (yes yes, I know the bird above is NOT a crow, but ravens are more prominent on the internet *shrugs*). We meet him back when he didn't have a name. We follow him when he is named, when he finds a world next to his own (Ka). We follow him when he travels from one world to the next, meeting horses, owls, boars, foxes, humans of a
Christopher Owen
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking and beautiful, Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr is a major achievement in writing from a master of the craft. The novel approaches in significance and power Crowley’s earlier masterworks like Little, Big and Engine Summer, while at once surpassing those novels in grandness of scale. This fine novel should be on everyone’s must read list, particularly if you’re a fan of beautiful prose and writing that has been honed to perfection throughout. It also should appear on the ever-presen ...more
T.D. Whittle
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. I have only just discovered John Crowley this year and have read several of his books now. This one is my favourite. Philosophical, somber, poetic ... but maybe don't read just now if you've recently lost a loved one, or are grieving in general. ...more
Oleksandr Zholud
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a novel about a crow’s view on human civilization. Maybe I should start with deciphering the title: Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr. Ymr is the real of humans, both living and dead from Norse (?) myths; Ka is its equivalent in the crows’ world; Dar Oakley is the name of the crow, who narrates most of the book.

The book starts with the author, who recently lost his wife, found a wounded crow and takes it home. In time the crow and the author develop a common tongue and the crow tells his
Before the mountain at the world’s end was built on the river plain, before the high city there grew up, before most of the Ravens went away into the forests of the deep, before the People’s long rage to kill Crows, before Dar Oakley’s sea-journey into the West, before the Most Precious Thing was found and lost again, before the ways were opened to the lands of the dead, before there were names in Ka, before Ymr came to be and therefore before Ka knew itself, Dar Oakley first knew People.

Dar Oak
Allison Hurd
Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, man-author
Dar Oakley is from Ka, the realm of Crows. Through association with People he discovers Ymr, their realm. From there, Crowley takes us on a journey through the ages of crow-based folklore. Death bird. Trickster. Omen. It's full of beautiful, poignant lines and replete with enough references to mythology and history to satisfy all sorts of readers.

And yet I never felt entirely swayed. This book is the sort you open and it has both atmosphere and an underlying purpose. It is trying to tell us some
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a big book, with a slow start, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to finish it anyway. I mean, crows! And I've been doing a lot of reading about what we're currently learning about crows, and about animal sentience in general, and apparently Crowley has, too, because he gets it right.

The mix of science, history, and fantasy/mythology reminds me directly of Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History and also The Kin. The fantasy itself reminds me a bit of Neil Gaiman. Of course it can als
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a novel, but an opera. The story is just silly, but I went for the music.
Daniel Polansky
A view of humanity’s journey from the stone age to just beyond tomorrow, as told (sort of) by Dar Oakely, a magic, immortal crow. I like John Crowley a lot, even though I haven’t liked all his books. He’s brilliant and has a fine prose pen and most importantly (particularly in the thimble-sized genre in which he writes) he’s ambitious, his writing defying easy convention or simple analysis. Ka is a lot easier to get through than say, Aegypt, but still this is the sort of book which is going to t ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dar Oakley didn't need to be told where he was. It was where they were while they were what they are...

This book is a work of beauty – there is no other way to describe it in my opinion. It is about death, about the mercilessness of life and nature, about legends that weave themselves through our existence from the beginning of humankind on.

John Crowley wrote a legend himself, full of enchantment and ease. Parts I and II are absolutely perfect, the end is wonderfully melancholic – only two chapt
Executive Summary: This book wasn't really for me. It's more about the journey than anything else, and I found the journey full of lulls. 2.5 Stars.

Audiobook: I'm generally not a fan of authors reading their own work. I think this story might have been better with a different narrator. Mr. Crowley isn't bad per-say, but his voice is kind of soothing and when the story was slow, it was easy to sort of lose my concentration.

Full Review
There have been a few books whose point is the journey that
Chris Chester
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: prose
Ka is a story about a crow. But equally, it is a story of death.

Dar Oakley, or Dar of the Oak by the Lea, is our main avian character. He seems at first a humble crow. Through Dar Oakley the (presumably human) reader comes to know and regard the humble crow and his social relationships and hierarchies, his mating behaviors and general perspective on life.

The universe changes, however, when Dar Oakley comes into contact with Fox Cap, the harbinger of a nascent humanity into the world of the crow
Stephen Richter
It ain't no Watership Down. Bird Lovers will love it, but I am not a fan of the crow having a group of the miserable beasts who hang out on the telephone lines pooping on my car. This book never kicked into gear for me. Like a hike that you are glad you did it, but there was not anything interesting enough to ever do the effort again. ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-read
An elegantly written novel with a unique storyline, a combination sadly rare and to be valued. Then why only 2 stars? The book did not engage me, not a fault of the writer in this case. I wish readers could rate books in two ways, one based on the perceived quality, and the second on whether the reader liked the book. The two do not necessarily go together.
Dec 11, 2018 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: sword-and-laser
I tried getting into the audiobook and found it very boring. The language was beautiful. The POV was not interesting. I gave up when most of the S&L people said it was "more of the same, rinse, repeat." ...more
Melissa Bennett
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars
This is really a hard review to write. On one hand I loved the words. They were written very eloquently. They felt very smooth and dreamy while reading them. On the other hand, the book just seemed to go nowhere for such long periods of time that even the loveliest of writing couldn't hold me to it. I really thought I would love this book since I have an affinity for crows and ravens. Maybe I set my standards too high to begin with. Either way, I slogged through and was left wanting.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well this was haunting and strange and consuming and basically everything I needed and expected from a new John Crowley novel, written about a crow, read in the darkest days of winter.

“Why,” he asked, “did we come back by the way we did? When it wasn’t the way I went in?”
She was looking far off, hand shading her eyes. “You never come out the way you went in,” she said. “And if you go back in again, you never go by the same way.”
“Because,” she said, “you never do go back anywhere. You only g
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have not seen many (or any?) folks talking about Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruins of Ymr by John Crowley. I just finished it yesterday.

It's an interesting blend of post-breakdown-of-society (not exactly apocalypse) with History-of-Western-Civilization-Through-a-Crow's-Eyes with Watership-Crow plus Land-of-the-Dead. There's a framing story of Dar Oakley (a crow) telling the stories of his many lives (he keeps getting reincarnated) to a dying man, and then what happens after all the tales are told.

Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
December 2018- My second time through this great novel. It's a myth that attempts to encompass all myths and mostly succeeds. It's narrated by a man who lives in a post-climate collapse mid-northwestern America and is presumably the last human companion of Dar Oakley,
a crow who has lived through ages of the rise of humanity and now seems to be there for the end. He is in some way THE crow of myth and the story is his. Beautifully written without excess. Ambitious without pretension.

Last year
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A tough book to rate, but uniquely and often beautifully written, and memorable.

I was frequently moved by the amount of emotion conveyed by both the Crow and the various shamans/sensitive souls to whom he is attached. Dar Oakley is an outsider, and feels deeply. He witnesses human kind's folly and destruction, and learns a great deal about the world.

But long stretches of this book also drag along. Several trips into the Underworld feel repetitive, and Dar's syntax and crow descriptions of human
Spencer Ellsworth
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a really poetic and interesting book, a ton like Watership Down, although its structure (Dar Oakley lives many lives, stretching across history, doing things that are sometimes magical and sometimes just interesting) sometimes made it too easy to put down.

It's definitely not an edge-of-your-seat book, but it's the kind of book that really makes you think about humanity, and feel as though this animal character has a lot to teach you about your own humanity. And I did finish it all witho
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

John Crowley was born in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942; his father was then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after colle

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“There aren't many now who leave from the same world they were born into. Not here, not anywhere on earth as far as I can tell or know; the simplest and most unchanging of human societies have been shattered in the last hundred years, people flung into centrifuges of change and loss, that there comes to be nothing at last to say good-bye to. I was leaving the world, but it was not my world I was leaving” 2 likes
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