Aah, but I do love a read-along! So my excitement knows no bounds that there are two to join in with for this year’s Wyrd and Wonder!
If you’re interested in taking part in this read-along the schedule can be found here at There’s Always Room For One More, and each week’s prompts are being posted on Twitter (join the read-along community over there to get access), and imyril is also popping them up on Instagram.
In this first read-along, of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay, we are entering the magical world of Fionavar along with Jennifer, Kevin, Kim, Paul and Dave. Kay is an author I’ve wanted to read for a long time now, but always been intimidated by (for no better reason than that he writes chunky books and has a three part name – in the past I have also been intimidated by the names Mary Robinette Kowal, Aliette de Bodard, Lois McMaster Bujold, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Kim Stanley Robinson – seriously, this sh*t doesn’t even make sense to me and I’m the one feeling it!) It is therefore, a massive relief and joy to have read the first quarter of The Summer Tree and enjoyed myself immensely. Let’s talk about that…
Week 1: Overture through Chapter 6
The prose style is as distinctive as calling the prologue an overture. How are you finding it?
I’m loving it! It’s so … flouncy!
Seriously though, Kay’s writing style is beautiful, it feels as though every word has been picked with care. I always get a huge kick out of lovely turns of phrase and words ordered in such a way that you pay attention to each one, and that’s exactly how Kay writes. Even if I weren’t interested in what was going on in the story, I’d enjoy reading this for the way it’s written. Fortunately, I’m pretty hooked by the tale too.
Each visitor gets a little moment to define them before they arrive in Fionavar. What are your first impressions of our travellers? Anyone you particularly like or dislike?
I am most intrigued by Kevin and Paul at the moment. Kevin, because he’s stylish and socially adept, but underneath also caring and concerned for his friend, (I liked the scene between him and his Abba). Paul because of his emotional state. Dave seems very insecure and angry, and I didn’t find it easy to like him, but I kind of understood that he was under the influence of that nasty little voice we all get in our heads sometimes that tells us everyone’s better than we are. He’s got a small amount of my empathy right now, but he needs to watch his step if he’s going to keep it. If he’s still alive, that is.
Kim and Jennifer feel less clear to me as characters. I don’t feel like either of them have been given much chance to speak yet. Kim seems quiet anyway? And Jennifer is beautiful. And both of them notice what is going on around them, even if they make no comment.
… and what do you make of the characters and politics of Paras Derval?
The people of Brennin are a completely different matter. I’m not at all sure that any one of them is trustworthy, or what they appear to be. I am deeply suspicious of Diarmuid, who seems to be a bit of a lout, albeit an elegant one. His game with Sharra is just … horrible. To go to such lengths, and to mess with a person in that way … I hope he gets what’s coming to him. Scumbag. If he turns out to be some kind of hero I’ll eat my copy of the book.
I’m less sure about his dad, High King Ailell. He’s interesting. An aged warrior, but not prepared to go to the Summer Tree and not prepared to accept someone willing to go in his stead? I need a lot more information about this tree and about Mörnir and about Aileron before I decide how I feel about the High King.
I have no real understanding of the factions at play in Brennin to know where Gorlaes stands, but I know I didn’t like him much at first meeting. Metran just seems very old and not quite all there. Jaelle is angry, possibly permanently? Ysanne’s pretty cool. And Na-Brendel is awesome. But then I always did love a haughty elf.
The obvious question: would you accept Loren’s invitation? Given the reception from Diarmuid and Gorlaes, would you regret it?
Heck no. But then I wouldn’t have gone for drinks in some random dude’s room, no matter how many friends I had with me. And if I’m going to find myself in a magical land far away from home, it’s going to be through a secret doorway, or a looking glass, or something like that. Not via some bloke who says he’s a wizard. Call my cynical …
But if I had, then oh my goodness yes, I’d regret my decision as soon as I got there. Between Diarmuid (lecherous git) and Gorlaes (pompous git) I’d have immediately felt it was time to go home. Then again, why wait for them two? The insolent guard (Vart?) would have been enough.
How/Do you judge Loren for keeping so many secrets from the visitors?
Yes I judge him! Dude! Not cool! You’ve just dragged five unsuspecting people into a political crap storm! And there was the hint of a suggestion that you know something bad is going to happen to Jennifer (???). What are you playing at? I kind of like you – well, I like Matt, and you seem to care about him*, so you can’t be all bad – so for now I just have to assume you are either being compelled to act by something outside of your control, or you have a very good reason for your actions that you’ve yet to share.
(*Then again, you care about Matt because he’s your magical battery, so maybe I want to know a lot more about the relationship between the two of you before I assume you care).
There is a lot of world-building so far! Intriguing or overwhelming? Anything standing out for you?
I am 100% intrigued right now. I like the way we’re learning about things (handy having those outsiders, huh?) and I’m happy to wait for the picture to resolve itself into something understandable. I want to know so much more about mages and sources – that’s possibly the most interesting thing to me at this point – and about the Summer Tree. I’d like to know where the Big Bad, Rakoth Maugrim, originally came from – elemental force? God? Power-crazed maniac? – because I don’t really like nebulous Big Bads without a credible reason for existence. And I’ve a soft spot for gods and mythologies, so anything else we learn along those lines will be more than welcome.
I can’t wait to read everyone else’s thoughts!