Read-along: The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (week 2)

 

Things have quickly deteriorated this week as Jennifer, Kevin, Kim and Paul (and Dave, where are you, Dave?!) get drawn into the weave of Fionavar’s fate. Sacrifices are made, battles are fought and the mood dims with the rise of Dark forces in the first of all worlds. This week, the lovely people over at The Fantasy Hive are posing the questions, so let’s get stuck in …

 

Week 2: Chapters 7 through 8

There was a little confusion last week on whether Chapter 6 was supposed to be included, so let’s explore this one first. We discussed the Pervy Prince (Diarmuid) last week – would you like to weigh in on his antics across the border?

I was one of the people who read to the end of Chapter 6, so I’ve already mentioned that I think Diarmuid is a bit of a scumbag. ‘The Pervy Prince’ is the perfect name for him. I’ve spent this week quietly seething at his behaviour, but having caught up with Sharra briefly in Chapter 8 I have a glimmer of hope that she will get some sort of revenge. I don’t think she’s the kind of person to just let it go at any rate.

 

We’re a sizeable step into the story now, so how are we all finding the pacing?

I like how quickly everything has gone to the dogs (unintentional pun). It feels like those first few chapters were just to allow us to acclimatise ourselves to Fionavar, meet most of the principal characters and get used to Kay’s lovely prose. Now we’re into the meat of the tale. While I don’t feel like the author is rushing us anywhere, it does feel like a lot more has happened in this week’s chapters.

I do keep thinking that Kim, Jennifer, Kevin and Paul have all accepted that they’re in another world very quickly. Hmm, I don’t quite mean ‘accepted’ though, I think I’m more struck by their lack of wonder at this whole other world in which there is magic and prophecy. I’d love to know what other read-along readers think about this because maybe I’m just not picking up on their reactions, being so engrossed in my own.

 

Loren continues his mysterious antics, have your opinions about him shifted at all? Or is there a certain other mage you’re now more concerned about?

Nope. No change in my opinion of Loren yet. But I didn’t see it coming that doddery old Metran would be pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes! Colour me surprised! And that is some long-burning hatred right there if Metran wants to restore the House of Garantae. Wow. I can’t help but feel that he’s going to be disappointed, however. He crows to Galadan about having gained the Cauldron and all I could think was that he’s a small fish in a bigger pond than we’ve yet seen. If Metran has been revealed so quickly, then there’s a bigger, more powerful bad behind him, and that doesn’t bode well for him any more than it does for our young friends.

 

Between the children’s game and Kim’s dream, not to mention Ysanne’s mutterings to herself, prophecy is a key element weaving through this story. What are your reactions to the various foretellings so far?

If last week was characterised by Fionavar’s politics, this week feels all about being taken deeper, into the beliefs that underlie them. I don’t know if I’m in a different mood now to when I started reading, but I feel like the colour of the story has changed. That children’s game, the ta’kiena, made me feel nervous (kids doing portentous things has that effect) especially when poor Finn was chosen for a fourth time. (I don’t know why ‘poor’ Finn, but it doesn’t feel good, does it?) And then there’s Ysanne bidding the sleeping Kim farewell … the tale has taken a mournful turn, (the words “lost” and “forever” get echoed a couple of times – sad, sad, sad).

I’m also fascinated by something that Ysanne thinks, just before she says goodbye to the unconscious Kim:

” … there had been true fear at her first foreknowledge … but it had passed. The thing was very dark, but no longer terrifying; long ago she had know what would come.”

This feels like a thought to sit with for a while. If prophecy is something you live with, then you also live with the emotional cost before the event – something that makes you very different to the people around you. It’s an interesting idea and, stupidly perhaps, not something I’d ever considered before. I’m curious to see if we will see a change in Kim as she learns to live with what she can see.

 

Let’s address the massive sacrificial magical tree in the room – would you have offered yourself in Paul’s shoes?

If I were in Paul’s shoes, I think I might. Feeling that I should’ve died instead of Rachel, and then seeing an opportunity to die for something – that makes a kind of sense to me. And grief is a strange beast, I don’t think any one person can judge how another grieves. This felt like an inevitable decision – as if Kay had already been telling us that this was going to happen, without ever putting it into words. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s how it felt to me, reading it.

 

There were two pretty major battles this week. The lios alfar were slaughtered by Galadan, and Paul witnessed a truly moving fight between Galadan and his mysterious canine protector. What were your reactions?

No, no, no, no, no!! Na-Brendal! And then the grey dog! What are you trying to do to us Kay?! The slaughter of the lios alfar, beginning with the death of the messenger Tandem of the Kestrel a few pages before, was heart-breaking, (the line “A celebration of life was woven into their very essence” right before they’re set upon by the svart alfar and the wolves, near killed me).

But then the grey dog jumps into a fight with a bloody great big wolf to protect Paul, and, you know, all dogs are puppies forever, and it can’t possibly survive the encounter, and then …

“But it was alive, and it came haltingly over to gaze up at him, lifting its torn head under the light and succour of the moon it had waited for. In that moment, Paul Schafer felt his own cracked, dry soul open up again to love as he looked down upon the dog.”

Oh my heart! Puppies forever!

So yeah, my heart is rain right now. Can’t talk, crying.

 

There’s still no sign of Dave! First time readers – any theories?

Daaaaave! I’m hoping he hasn’t fallen into the wrong hands or been killed. Since Loren went in search of the plains people, the Dalrei, and didn’t find them before turning back, I’m hoping Dave somehow ended up with them. But that’s a pie in the sky hope, I think. Remembering how grumpy Dave was, I suspect that he’s actually fallen in with some nefarious group or other and will end up doing something ruinous, unwittingly or deliberately I haven’t decided. I couldn’t think of who Dave reminded me of last week, but he made me think of Eustace from The Chronicles of Narnia – he hasn’t read the right sorts of books. I hope I’m wrong and that his storyline is more interesting.

 

I would also like to mention that I read this section in one sitting. When I started it was gloriously sunny outside, but within the hour or so it took me to read Chapters 7 and 8, it became ominously overcast. It hasn’t started to rain yet … and part of me thinks it won’t now until I read about Paul’s final day and night on the Summer Tree … so yeah, this book got under my skin fast.

 

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19 comments

  1. I agree – Paul and Kevin especially just seem to take everything in their stride (altho arguably their week is the least magical until Paul goes to the Tree). Kim does seem kinda overwhelmed by Ysanne, and Jennifer is at least taken aback at the Temple and beguiled by the lios before she’s dropped in pure horror at the end. All this is happening much faster than I remembered – if you’d asked up front I would have said the Tree and the kidnapping were at the climax, not before the halfway point!

    I’m so glad this is working for you; I wonder if there’s room for a lot more shared GGK in our future 😄

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I agree with Imyril. Jennifer is definitely going through a lot of culture shock and Kim has her moments of being overwhelmed.

    Although I think in a way Paul’s reaction is the most interesting. I’m thinking of his conversation with Coll, where Coll is defending the killing of the farmer as being the best thing they could do… and Paul is already grasping this new world’s logic so quick he thinks the farmer made it happen. It’s kinda eerie, and it speaks directly to Paul’s “you should be able to handle everything” philosophy, and I think it says something about his lack of wonder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m certainly starting to think that I’ve been missing the character’s reactions to the world because of my own. Perhaps with the exception of Paul, who I’m a bit more tuned into because of his grief, which shows itself in odd ways, so he’s been on my radar.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, if your reactions are that strong, that sounds a good thing. I’m still finding things I hadn’t really spotted before too! GGK really liked to hide things and try and spring surprises it seems.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! I was just thinking that he’s more about layers – like, a second read of this will show me things I didn’t see first time, and a third read will show something else again.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Daaaaave! He definitely feels a bit like a Eustace or an Edmund, so perhaps there will be a character arc of acceptance?

    I hadn’t thought of it directly before, but I think subconsciously I was feeling the same thing about the characters’ lack of wonder – it’s all described as matter of fact, and they very rarely even compare things to their normal lives. Even if they’re only staying for two weeks (hah! good luck with that) there should be this sense of amazement and perhaps, because of the time limit, a desire to take absolutely everything in. In some ways that is reflected in how Paul and Kevin readily go off with Diarmuid, and on Jennifer’s desire to see the city and go for rides, but it’s not quite strong enough…

    Liked by 2 people

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