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Kay, Guy Gavriel.

Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, c1984. 323pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-7710-4472-0. (The Fionavar Tapestry Book One). CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Patrick J. Dunn

Volume 13 Number 5
1985 September

The Summer Tree is the first volume in Guy Gavriel Ray's trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry. In this work, five friends (Kiberley Ford, Kevin Laine, Jennifer Lowell, Dave Martyniuk, and Paul Schafer), all University of Toronto students, accompany Loren Silvercloak, a mage, and Matt Soren, his source, through the loops and whorls of time to the land of Fionavar, ostensibly to help celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the High King's reign. Once there, however, matters quickly become far more complicated and serious than expected. The peace of the tranquil kingdom is shattered when the vengeful, fallen power, Rakoth Maugrim the Unraveller, breaks free from his thousand-year prison beneath Mount Rangat and the five find themselves unwittingly, and sometimes unwillingly, drawn into the cataclysmic conflict between Light and Dark. As events unfold, Kimberley is apprenticed to Ysanne to become the new Seer of Brennin; Kevin, drawn to Diarmuid, younger son of the High King, becomes a member of his band; while Dave, separated from the others during the crossing, lands among the Dalrei and swears blood allegiance to Tore and Levon. For his part, Paul offers himself, in place of the High King, for sacrifice upon the Summer Tree. At the same time, Jennifer is abducted by the svart alfar to be held hostage in Starkadh, Maugrim's mountain fortress. The book ends with a desparate attempt to save her. Will Kimberley be able to control the wild magic of the Baelrath stone to rescue Jennifer? Will Aileron, the Exiled Prince, attack Starkadh? Will the friends be able to return to cross in their own time and place? The answers to these questions and more lie within The Wandering Fire, the second volume in the trilogy, to be published in the fall of 1985. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Without doubt, Kay has done a superb job of creating his fantasy world: the characters, the landscapes, the history, the mythology, all are rich and deeply satisfying. For pure entertainment, action, humour, and drama abound aplenty. And yet the work can be read and appreciated on a number of levels other than the literal. The powerful emotional interplay among the principal characters reveals much about their inner psychological workings. As the adventure progresses, we witness considerable change in them, and yet this change is always credible, ever consistent with what we already know about them and their pattern of existence within the mundane. Furthermore, Kay's use of symbol and archetype is not forced, never artificial. His villains and their underlings are all too painfully fallible in their quest to restore order. There are no one-dimensional, wooden players in Fionavar. They all live and breathe, whether dark elves or supernatural animals, malign powers, or beneficent spirits. And the reader's pulse quickens as they grieve and laugh, suffer and triumph in the universal clash of Good and Evil.

Most certainly, this is the stuff of wonderment. If you have enjoyed Tolkein, Le Guin, Cooper or Donaldson, do not miss The Fionavar Tapestry. Recommended, without reservation, for all fantasy collections in high school or public libraries.

Patrick J. Dunn, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
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