Read-along: The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay (week 4)

We’ve made it to the end of the Darkest Road, and the Tapestry is woven. It’s been an emotional final week’s reading and I don’t know about everyone else yet, but I’m wrung out. Fortunately, the perspicacious Peat of Peat Long’s Blog has provided this final round of questions to help funnel our thoughts into coherence.


So, without further ado (and I don’t have to warn you about SPOILERS, right?) …


Week 4: Parts 4 and 5 (Chapters 14 through to the end)

Perhaps the most important characters, after the five, have been the sons of Ailell and the Dark Rose of Cathal, and their arcs have received a fiery culmination as the sun sets one last time for Diarmuid, leaving the people he loved most deeply and complicatedly behind. Tell me of your reactions, your thoughts, and what you make of these three at the end.

I am currently eating my copy of The Summer Tree, as I said I would, back when we began the Fionavar Tapestry, if it turned out Diarmuid was a hero. I can’t say I ever worked myself round to liking his character, but I did make my peace with his existence in the trilogy (although I’d still have been much happier if Sharra had killed him when she tried to).

I honestly expected Aileron to die though. Not that I wasn’t impressed with the way Diarmuid chose to go out. Fight scenes can often leave me cold, but sheesh, that was a heck of a fight! There was a line, just before it began: “a foe that was too much more than mortal for a mortal man to face” that just seemed to capture the whole thing (I remain in big love with Kay’s prose); there was no way that Diarmuid could win, and yet I thought he just might, nonetheless. And I’ll admit to feeling a little emotional (for Sharra) when the Pervy Prince breathed his last breath.

I am left wondering what will become of Sharra. I’d have liked to have caught a glimpse of her before the end, after everything.


This being the ending, it’s big old battle time, with lots of twists and tragedies and all. Did any of the twists particularly surprise you, or fulfil your expectations? Anything you wish had been done differently … even no battle at all?

Before I read this week’s chapters, if you’d have asked me ‘battle or no battle?’, I’d have said no battle. Two armies clashing on a battlefield isn’t my favourite thing to read. But I liked that way this was done, mostly.

The dragon was probably the biggest surprise – I didn’t see that coming at all. And I loved Kim’s moment of realisation that that was why she should have bound the dragon of Calor Diman.

I also didn’t see Tabor’s survival coming. Imraith-Nimphais’ decision to throw him free, and her last words had me all teary-eyed (start as you mean to go on) and sniffly.


It seems perhaps appropriate that The Darkest Road’s ending involves an ending for the child on The Darkest Road, but it’s sad too. What were your feelings at the end of Darien’s search for acceptance? And if you haven’t mentioned him already, what of the other child on The Darkest Road – what of Finn?

Oh, Darien. This was such a heart-wrenching end to his road. His actions have often come from a place of hurt, which has made him difficult to like, but I’ve never had a problem empathising with his position. Maybe we’ve all got a bit of this confused, hurt kid in us. I’ve flinched every time he’s met someone new, and I dreaded his final confrontation with Maugrim – how could it possibly go well? – even knowing that it was inevitable.

And it’s been an interesting conundrum, Darien’s situation. He has looked for acceptance from everyone he’s met, but his predicament has been that he must choose before he is accepted. How perfect that he only numbers himself with the army of Light after seeing their struggle from the point of view of his father, lord of Dark. This whole scene hit all the right notes for me and I loved it, while sobbing wholeheartedly.

(I maybe had a sneaking suspicion that Lökdal would play a part in his death).

Finn’s death was a gut-punch of about equal weight. When Leila was able to pull him out of the Wild Hunt I never thought for a minute that he’d die. And the way he died was almost too much. (My notes read: “does Kay hate children?”). I’m not cut out for all this emotion – I was a snotty, snivelling wreck by the end of all this.


At the heart of this story was always the Five, even when reduced to Four. As we say goodbye to them, tell us what you think of who they’ve been, how they’ve grown, and how they end.

Right. *rolls sleeves up* Imma get this off my chest first: It annoyed me beyond belief (in an otherwise emotionally wrought reading session) that Paul and Jaelle suddenly fell into each other’s arms at the end. With all the other blah blah blah love stories, I really liked how their relationship was that bit more complex, a sort of tentative friendship towards the latter half of the book, but still prickly. The oops-it-turns-out-I-love-you thing was disappointing after such a well written relationship. Although I suppose I’m glad Paul didn’t die.

I’m also glad Jennifer/Guinevere went on the boat with Arthur and Lancelot. I just didn’t see any way that she could have come back to herself after she remembered that she was Guinevere, and after everything that Jennifer has been through, this seemed like the kindest ending for her story. And I’m also glad that Kim didn’t die and didn’t have to remain in Fionavar. Weirdly, while yes, she’s the Seer of Brennin and carries Ysanne’s soul, she’s never really felt fully Fionavaran to me. It feels right that she get to go home (although I didn’t think she’d be allowed to), just as it feels right that Paul remains (because I have no issue with his staying in the first of all worlds, just with his relationship status).

The character I’ve come to love the most is Dave. I love everything that has happened in his storyline, beginning to end, (after that rocky start where he was such a grumpy bum). It breaks my heart that he has to return to our world, even though I can see that he’s grown and changed and he’ll be just fine. I guess at least he and Kim can keep the memory of Fionavar alive between them – small consolation, but I’ll take it.


And everything else! Thoughts on the Mattery and Loren, thoughts on the Children of Peace, the Wolflord, everything you’ve not commented on …

Something I’ve enjoyed more and more as the trilogy has unfolded is the relationship between Matt the magical battery and Loren. The affection and esteem they have for each other just really works for me. I’ll admit to having been deeply suspicious of Loren for the longest time for hoiking these five people out of one world and into another for Reasons, and for using another person as a power source (consensual or not, I don’t like it). But ultimately, his relationship with Matt won me over. The reversal in their roles in the latter half of the trilogy just cemented that feeling.

Galadan’s fate was … wow … unexpected. But good. And curious. I feel like I didn’t pay him the right amount of attention to fully appreciate his ending, I wrote him off as just another underling of the Dark Lord, but … yeah … the conclusion of his part of the story was pretty cool.


… but particularly what you think of the whole series now it’s done; its themes, its style, its relationship to other fantasy works, and anything else of interest.

Aww, see, I’m really no good at this kind of thing. I can only really say that I loved Kay’s writing style and the kind of story he tells here. I enjoyed how different mythic threads were drawn into it and that very little of what happened was predictable. I love how very not like The Lord of the Rings it is in some ways. It’s been a heck of a ride.


And I’d like to echo Peat in thanking everyone who took part in this read-along. Your company has been awesome (as I’m still catching up on everyone’s thoughts and posts, your company still is awesome). And to imyril of There’s Always Room for One More an extra special thank you for starting us all off down this road.



  1. I’m still working on my post but, yes, Dave’s ending is the one that stung my eyes the most despite it in many ways being the happiest. I also wish there’d been a little more connection between Paul and Jaelle before they fell for each other, although on this read it makes a lot more sense than it previously did to me.

    Finally… aren’t we all using other people for power, at some level?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oof. You’re right, of course. We ARE all using each other in one way or another. And everything is about power: power over our own lives, power to change things…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. DAVE 💖

    I don’t have a problem with Paul/Jaelle – it took my by surprise on first read, but on a reread it’s signposted from the second she cuts him down from the Summer Tree. They represent Dana and Mörnir in more ways than one, and their personal journeys towards a place where they can literally become as god and goddess to one another is a slow but steady enemies / rivals to friends / allies to but could we be lovers that my slowburn understated always-fell-for-a-friend heart can get on board with 😉

    My notes also more or less say ‘wow Kay hates children’ – they pay a very heavy price here!

    I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the journey. I hope to talk you into buddy reading some of the stand-alones 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Now that you’ve pointed out the symmetry to Paul and Jaelle’s relationship I can appreciate it. I’ll admit I really didn’t think of it in those terms, I was just pissed with them getting smoochie. 🤣

      I never need to be talked into buddy-reading with you – heck, just say the word. ❤


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