Read-along: The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay (week 1)

Wyrd and Wonder this year introduced/revisited Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry by running a read-along of the first volume in the trilogy, The Summer Tree. This whetted the appetite enough that a stalwart company of Wyrd and Wonder-ers then went on to tackle book two, The Wandering Fire, in July, and now our little band is soldiering on to the end with this read-along of the conclusion The Darkest Road. I predict emotions. Many, many emotions.

The ever-awesome Ariana from The Book Nook has set the questions for our first week. (We’re on a four-week schedule, reading, rather neatly, a part per week, except the last week, where we’ll read parts 4 and 5 together).

 

As this is the final book there are going to be SPOILERS aplenty, from the start, for the trilogy. Tread carefully, traveller…

 

Week 1: Part 1 (Chapters 1 through 3)

We’re straight back in where the last book left off – how are you feeling about returning to Fionavar?

Reading the opening chapter felt very much like I imagine being sucked down a toilet would feel (without the water, or the excrement, or the eventual destination … OK, nothing like being sucked down a toilet, in fact, but I was trying to be *waves hands* descriptive). What I mean to say, is that I felt very much like I’d been drawn magnetically back into the story, right back to where we left Kim and Brock in the mountains. I was at first relieved that they were able to escape immediate destruction (there’s no telling who Kay’s going to bump off next though), and then appalled when the death rain of Eridu was revealed. Holy cow.

I was also immediately fascinated by these outcasts, Faebur and Dalreidan (who I can’t help but call “Dalrei Dan” with a really perky fake American accent). Mostly, I think, because they present such differing perspectives on being outcast: the young archer, Faebur, still has some hope of belonging somewhere, pouncing on Aileron having been an exile before he became king; while the much older Dalrei Dan seems to be resigned to his people-less-ness, does not seek power or position within the group he finds himself with, and, after killing Ceriog, intending to move along, not expecting to remain welcome. When they asked to join Kim and Brock on their journey to the cursed Khath Meigol to help the Paraiko, they immediately made it onto the Good Egg list. I’m just a sucker for any rag-tag group trying to achieve the impossible, it would seem.

  

There are a lot of characters that, whether through long life, immortality, or reincarnation, have long memories. How do you find this shapes the story?

This! I frigging love this! At first, I was irritated when Kay alluded to some piece of history or mythology of this world that he then failed to expand on, but I’m kind of finding it easier now just to roll with it. I keep thinking about Kay helping Christopher Tolkien with The Simarillion and J R R Tolkien’s exhaustive work on the history and mythology of Middle Earth, and I wonder if this is why he’s written The Fionavar Tapestry this way. He throws in so much that hints at breadth and depth, but doesn’t concern himself with filling in all the details (the Kevin/Liadon thing is a frustrating example of this, but he definitely does better with, say, Owein and the Wild Hunt and other bits and pieces that I can’t remember right at this moment).

Anyway, what I’m getting to, is that I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying the way old stories are being worked into the current story. And I suspect that Jennifer in Lisen’s Tower is going to draw on another thread, even as the Jennifer/Guienvere-Arthur-Lancelot thing plays out at the same time. I’m here for it. Bring it on!

  

What do you make of Galadan’s point of view and what do first time readers think he might do to Jennifer?

I found Galadan’s brief point of view really interesting. It was helpful to understand a little more about where he’s coming from (a character who wants to annihilate all life isn’t the easiest to comprehend) and what he thinks of Maugrim, and some of the events so far, but also just … what it’s like in his head. Two things stuck out: that “since Lisen” for Galadan “there could never again be joy, he had no access to such a thing.” I didn’t really remember that he had loved Lisen (was this something we learned way back in The Summer Tree?), nor what kind of love it was, but that any capability for joy has been shut down for him “since Lisen” makes me suspect that Jennifer has got far more troubles coming her way than I originally thought. Whether she can reawaken Galadan to joy, or whether he will want to destroy her for not being Lisen, remains to be seen, I guess.

Seriously, did Kay’s heart get broken by someone called Jennifer? Why does she have to suffer so much???

 

We have finally met the Paraiko and there is a lot to unpack. Here’s your chance to talk about it!

Holy cow! I don’t know that I have the words for all my feelings about what has happened with the Paraiko. I was delighted that Kim and co were able to get them out of the caves (even while lamenting “The cost! The cost!” to see Tabor literally beginning to fade away – my heart is rain, I tell you), and that they sang the kanior of all kaniors, healing and absolving and grieving so much … but then what Kim had to do … I get it, but crikey, it hurt!

I feel like there’s so much to say about the choices here – the Paraiko’s choice not to fight in any way, no matter what. Kim’s choice to do what the Baelrath and her dreams urge her to do. I don’t feel that either party have to do as they do, choice is always a part of it. That’s why it hurts.

I could go on a lot longer, but it would all still boil down to my very heavy heart.

 

As in both of the previous books, The Darkest Road is very heavy on sacrifice and it doesn’t seem to be easing off anytime soon. As we’re near the beginning of the end, do you have any predictions or thoughts for this book?

*rolls up sleeves* Right, prediction time.

I’m going all out here: I reckon Jennifer won’t retrace the old old love triangle with Arthur and Lancelot because she’s a very different person to Guinevere. Hopefully, Lancelot will die. Horribly, would be good.

I guess Arthur will have to die too, but my secret hope is that he finds some peace – maybe the Weaver will release him from the pattern? I’d like that, but I’m not holding my breath.

I do think that Jennifer is going to die, though. I just can’t see her surviving all that she’s been through and going back to a ‘normal’ life afterwards. Maybe Galadan will be a part of her death? I don’t know.

I also suspect that Paul won’t survive Fionavar. He’s another character who has been pulled too far into it to be able to get out in one piece. Maybe he’ll choose to stay there, maybe he’ll die. He does have a final meeting with Galadan in his future (if I remember right?) so maybe that’s how he goes out?

And then there’s Kim. While I’m on my everybody’s going to die kick, I think she will too. Being the bearer of the Baelrath and Ysanne’s soul will surely break her? Or if it doesn’t, can she escape being Brennin’s Seer? I just can’t see a good ending for her.

Which means I’m pinning all my hopes on Dave making it through to the other side! Of them all he’s the one who has retained his sense of self, maybe even become more himself thanks to his time in Fionavar with the Dalrei, and I can imagine him returning to his own world, or maybe staying and making his home with the Dalrei, but definitely surviving whatever is to come. (Come on Dave, don’t let me down, dude!)

Finally, I have faith that Maugrim will be defeated, but I suspect that the cost is going to be astronomical. Probably far worse than my own predictions. And I can’t look away!

 

10 comments

  1. Glad you are continuing to enjoy the books! I definitely want to finish the series at some point but just couldn’t do it back in July lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes it’s just not the right time to read a thing, no?
      There’s a lot of cool stuff in here, but I think the Fionavar Tapestry will be a one-time read for me, nonetheless. This isn’t a world I think I’ll want to revisit.

      Like

  2. Dalrei Dan ….I’m gasping, here. Gasping. I love Dalreidan. We have so little context in this opening scene and Ceriog is set out as just über awful racist bandit for a moment before Kay pours all this horror on us like the world wasn’t terrible enough – and yet in the middle of it all is this low key older guy who is just ‘no, not cool, don’t be an asshole, fucksake’ and then – having disrupted the hierarchy – just walks away. Dalreidan is not here to lead bandits, he is a man of honour but no pride who did a terrible thing and is paying the price.

    We did get Galadan’s backstory in The Summer Tree. He loved Lisen, who was sent to kill Amairgen for daring to set foot in Pendaran – only she because Amairgen’s lover and source instead and killed herself when Amairgen died at sea; and Galadan has never got past any of it.

    I think your point about choice is absolutely spot on. So much of the story feels inevitable or fated but still almost always revolves around people having a moment in time where they can say yes or no. Choice matters, and the Weaver doesn’t control the outcomes.

    I obviously won’t comment on your predictions, brb, got to get popcorn.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 😀
      Ah, but your summary of Dalreidan is perfect!

      Thank you for recapping Galadan’s story for me – I couldn’t remember, although Kay has done a good job of kind of re-hinting at this, so I sort of, kind of, ish, knew what was going on.

      Enjoy that popcorn! I’m dying over here!

      Like

    • Ooooo, I hadn’t thought about that possibility – maybe Kim could just pass it on, like you say. I’d like her to survive, after Dave I think she’s the next nicest, mostly-still-herself character (not that there’s that many of them left already).
      I hope we’re not done with the girl connected with Finn (Leila, was it?) – whether she becomes the next Seer, or something else, she’s an interesting thread.

      Liked by 1 person

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