Read-along: The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (week 3)

Phew! What a week! Some Big Things have occurred in this week’s chapters: Paul has spent three days and nights on the Summer Tree, Maugrim has made his first move, we’ve met Aileron and finally found Dave. I’ve gone from sniffling (I wasn’t crying, I had dust in my eye) to nail-biting, and there’s not enough book left for all my questions to be answered! Argh! Let’s tackle Ariana’s prompts before I chew a hole in my thumb …

 

Week 3: Chapters 9 through 12

We’ve seen some extreme behaviour – we learn that Galadan wants to unravel the world because it witnessed his rejection. Ysanne’s sacrifice takes her out of the Tapestry entirely. What were your reactions to these and other character motivations?

Yeeaaah, Galadan’s reasons for wanting to unravel the world made me chuckle. You want to destroy everything because you got rejected? Wow. Dude. You need to work on yourself. (There’s a much larger conversation here about gods, demigods and humanity, pride and humility etc, but I’m sleepy right now, so I’m just going to judge Galadan by my standards. Which makes him a daft git. Albeit a very dangerous one).

Ysanne’s sacrifice was much more interesting to me, (hmmm, actually, Galadan = massively selfish – an inability to love? – and Ysanne = massively selfless – tremendous capacity for love. Just saying). By dying in the way she has, she’s essentially given all her instinctive knowledge of Fionavar to Kim? So, while she’s no longer in existence in the most complete way possible, she sort of lives on in Kim? This is fascinating. Unfathomably generous.

Talking of extremes – I’m not sure I quite get why the High King kept refusing Aileron when he offered to go to the Summer Tree. For love of his son? Because he thought Aileron would die needlessly and nothing would be achieved? Either way, by refusing Aileron and banishing him, he still loses – I don’t get it. I’m probably being exceptionally dense. Enlighten me, anyone?

 

And speaking of sacrifice, Paul has spent his final night on the Summer Tree and all his defences have been stripped. How are you feeling towards Paul now and what do you think might happen to him next?

This was intense! Paul’s story from the beginning to here is a book in itself, and that he finds a measure of forgiveness and acceptance on the Tree was poignant (*sniffle*), but also proof (for me) of why it’s worth the fight to save Fionavar. It feels like this is a world that requires a lot from its people, I needed to see some proof that the world ‘cared’, if that makes sense?

I actually like Paul a lot more for seeing how human he is. The staunch front he was putting on was all very noble and mysterious, but it’s hard to truly like someone without being able to empathise with them too. Without being able to see their squidgy centre. What the future holds for Paul, however, is a mystery to me. I feel like this is only the beginning of his journey in Fionavar and that having been in the presence of Mörnir and Dana is going to mark him out and/or make him a target. Either way, I don’t think he’s going home any time soon.

 

Alongside (or because of?) Paul’s time on the Summer Tree, some cosmic forces seem to be moving in Fionavar again. Last week we talked about prophecy, but how do you feel about the role of deities and mythology in the book?

The way Kay has presented prophecy in The Summer Tree has me intrigued. Now that the gods have made an appearance I’m all eyes. Not just those Paul has met, but also Dave’s uncanny meeting in the woods, and Tabor’s encounter with his totem – an animal that does not yet exist. The way Kay writes these beings is what I’m finding most satisfying. They’re mysterious, other-worldly, but also aware of what’s going on and interfering, but not in an immediately clear or understandable way. Yes! Give me all the strange behaviour of beings beyond our ken!

I am still struggling to really get to grips with the stories than underpin Fionavar – the mythologies on which so much rests. I almost want a Tolkien-esque tome explaining it all to me because I’m still blurry on the origins of Maugrim. And I’m sure it’s been covered – I’m just being dense.

 

We have (officially) met the banished print Aileron! Impressions? And does his presence and return to court give us any further insight into the politics of Brennin?

This has the feeling of a legend in the making. You can almost see the shape of the story … just for a second. I have to admit that I didn’t see it coming at all that Aileron has been in plain sight all this time, and the relief (I thought Tyreth was going to be some kind of enemy spy) has made me inclined to think favourably of him. That and the fact he’s a bad-ass swordsman. Although I have strong views on people who can’t say please and thank you (particularly thank you), so he’s not got a free pass yet.

I can’t wait to see the reactions to his return in Brennin. Especially Diarmuid’s reaction. *claps hands with glee*

 

At last, Dave has returned to grace the pages! His absence has caused much speculation, but how do you feel about him now that we know what he’s been up to?

DAVE!! There you are!

I’ve really enjoyed this whole section in the company of Ivor’s people. I love this other way of life, and I really love that Dave/Davor has taken to it and is generally less of a grumpy bum now. His reactions to being in Fionavar seemed the most genuine too. Yes, he’s getting on with it all, but we also see him reflect on the oddness of where he finds himself versus where he’s come from, and I appreciate that. I have warmed to Dave massively in this section. I felt sure he was going to be a fly in the ointment of my enjoyment, but I take it all back. I think, what I’m noticing, is a more straightforward and familiar set up here than in Brennin (look at these noble people, living with the land, nomadic warriors, etc), so in part I’m reacting to the familiar, but it’s also a relief to be interested in Dave’s journey now, because I didn’t like resentful chip-on-his-shoulder Dave half as much as I like Davor.

 

Dave’s time with the Dalrei gives us a great deal of insight into a previously unseen culture within Fionavar, so it’s time for a worldbuilding check in! Anything standing out?

Loving it!! I guess this kind of wild plains tribe is a bit of a trope now, but I don’t care, I really like it and the contrast it gives to life in Brennin. It always makes a world feel broader and deeper to have multiple ways of life, so this is definitely adding that for me, but I also just like these characters a lot more. Ivor, Tabor, Levon and Liane, Torc (especially – I love me an outcast), Gereint – they’re all compelling characters that seem a little less opaque than some of the Brennin lot (I don’t really feel like I ‘get’ Chancellor Gorlaes, I’m not happy about Diarmiud, Jaelle is an angry placeholder so far and even the High King is a bit of a puzzle still. Or was, I should say). This could all be down to a lot of tired, short reading opportunities though, so don’t judge me too harshly, please.

All I know for definite right now is that the number of pages left is in no way enough space to satisfy my curiosity and I have a bad feeling that there’s a cliff-hanger coming … which is going to nark me, a lot. (This is me hinting heavily that we better be doing a read-along for book two soon!)

 

13 comments

  1. Re Aileron and Ailell – I think your guess is as good as anyone’s. That said, since every motivation seems to have a bright and a dark side, i think we can assume love… but what about shame? Stick yourself in Ailell’s shoes and imagine having to live with the idea your own son sacrificed himself to save you because you weren’t brave enough. That seems impossible to live with from where I’m sitting, so maybe he just refused so he’d never have to live with that.

    Anyway, yay, I’m glad you like Dave now and that you’re so hooked!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooo, I like that: a bright side and a dark side to every motivation – you’ve woven a bright thing there Peat!
      And yeah, I can imagine shame playing a big part in that refusal too, now you mention it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ailell’s reasons for refusing Aileron are utterly opaque, but I’ll go with pride: he can’t/won’t let his son and heir make a sacrifice he’s unwilling to make himself. Why won’t he make it either? We know Ailell is a pragmatist – look how hard he worked to forge peace after his rebellion, and the compromises he embraced – and the fact that nobody EVER survives three nights on the Tree: he’s not going to (let his son) throw away his legacy. Which brings us back to pride…

    Maugrim is the Unraveller, the Weaver’s opposite – I don’t think we’ve been given more than that, so in my head he’s divine and beyond fate. I’m not sure where Mörnir and Dana fit in vs the Weaver and Maugrim, but given the similarities to Tolkien, I sort of read Maugrim as equivalent to Morgoth, and the other gods to the Valar (and the andain are Maiar).

    I love your contrasting of Galadan and Ysanne’s motivations. Very much this.

    And hooray, you like Davor! 😀 The Dalrei are so much easier to encompass and love – and I think it’s partly because we get an undisturbed view of them from fewer POVs (the luxury of several chapters with a single focus!), and the narrative is less elusive – GGK tells us what’s going on instead of spinning up allusions and conspiracies. Or maybe they’re just a more direct culture, and the narrative mimics that. Either way, so lovable. As is Davor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • *smacks head* Maugrim is the Unraveller! Opposite of Weaver!! How did I not pick this up … at all?!! So stoopid! 🤪
      Ha! I appreciate the Tolkien parallels – that all makes sense now. Thank you! 😁
      And yes, it also hadn’t occurred to me that getting the Dalrei side of things from fewer points of view helps with the ease with which I’ve absorbed their story.

      To sum up: I sleepy and when sleepy stoopid! 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a lot of GGK keeping story back about certain characters which, for me, makes it harder to like them, because I don’t understand them/their motivation. I wonder if that’s why the Dalrei are more readily likeable…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Getting their perspectives was so helpful. We get what multiple characters’ concerns are. And those concerns are deep. A dad worried about his kid growing up and maybe a little jealous but also proud. A person who is an outcast unofficially because of his dad and then he’s accepted. Like you say, we don’t get a bunch from everyone in the beginning. When Paul is attached to the tree is when I finally understood him.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s