Guy Gavriel Kay,
The Fionavar Tapestry
The Summer Tree
The Wandering Fire
The Darkest Road
(Arbor House, 1984-86)

It all begins in The Summer Tree when five college students, Dave, Paul, Kevin, Jennifer and Kim accept an invitation from Lorenzo Marcus' dwarfish secretary Matt to meet the famous scholar and speaker at his hotel room. There, Lorenzo reveals that he is not merely an expert on Celtic culture, but a wizard called Loren Silvercloak from another world. He is looking for five people to accompany him to Fionavar, the first world created, to celebrate the fiftieth year of King Aillel of Brennin's reign. When they accept, they immediately find themselves swept up in events of enormous magnitude.

In Fionavar, they meet a most interesting assortment of people. There is Diarmuid, the glittering Prince who always hides his true feelings behind misdirection and showmanship. Cold Jaelle is High Priestess of Dana, the Mother, and she has very little liking for men. Aillel the King was once a great man, but is now only old. And there are many more, too numerous to list here. They learn also of the existence of the evil Rakoth Maugrim, chained beneath the mountain Rangat, and of the five blue wardstones that will flash a red warning should Rakoth break free.

Kim is the first to find her destiny in Fionavar. She becomes a Seer, white-haired, with wild war magic in the ring on her finger. Kevin and Paul become members of Prince Diarmuid's band until Paul, driven by grief and hidden guilt, offers to take the King's place as a sacrifice on the Summer Tree. Dave, separated from the others, is accepted as a warrior among the Dalrei, the fierce people of the Plains. And Jennifer ... Jennifer is kidnapped and taken north to Starkadh, Rakoth's fortress, where he is biding his time, waiting until the proper moment to announce to the complacent fools of Fionavar that he is no longer bound beneath Rangat.

The second book of the trilogy is The Wandering Fire. It opens with the quintet back in their own world, waiting for Kim to have a dream. Jennifer is pregnant with Rakoth's child and determined to have the baby because Rakoth wanted the child dead. When threatened by Rakoth's lieutenant Galadan, Jennifer and Paul cross back to Fionavar, but the crossing causes Jennifer's baby, Darien, to be born early. Leaving the baby in Fionavar to be fostered, they return to their own world.

Kim at last has the dream she has been awaiting, the dream that tells her how to summon the Warrior to go to Fionavar and war. The Warrior, none other than King Arthur, is condemned to undeath and eternal battle for the Herod-like murder of children early in his reign. And when they return to Fionavar and Arthur meets Jennifer, it becomes apparent what the other part of his punishment is.

The Wandering Fire tells the story of the gathering of forces to fight the coming war with Rakoth Maugrim. The summoning of Arthur is only the beginning.

The final book of the trilogy, The Darkest Road, tells of the war itself and how each of the characters meets his or her destiny. It is greatly concerned with Jennifer's son Darien and the choice he must make between Light and Darkness.

The Fionavar Tapestry is without doubt one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. Kay weaves together an astonishing number of threads using simple words and phrasings that many times brought me to tears. He has an amazing ability to evoke deep joy or sorrow with just a few well-chosen words. The world of Fionavar is a blend of Celtic, medieval, Norse and Indian-like imagery seamlessly worked into a believable whole, with touches that are uniquely Kay's own.

Kay has, in the past, helped Christopher Tolkien edit his father's works for publication and it was obviously an apprenticeship well-spent. If The Fionavar Tapestry were to be submitted as a master work, Kay would certainly be judged a master.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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