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The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
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The Lions of Al-Rassan

by Guy Gavriel Kay

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,524742,399 (4.31)1 / 394
  1. 60
    Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (Anonymous user)
  2. 20
    The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett (Anonymous user)
  3. 00
    The Tyranny of the Night by Glen Cook (Jarandel)
    Jarandel: Both a simile, with Fantasy treatment, of European history in the era of the Crusades. Lions of Al-Rassan centers on the Spanish Reconquista, while the Tyranny of the Night has a wider scope.
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English (73)  French (1)  All (74)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Not perfect, but I have to admire the way Kay manages to force you to shift gears and follow his pace. Not as evident in this particular novel, but there's still a bit of it.

Although I don't object to the epilogue, I don't really like how it's written (the letter and so on). ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
But for a layer of fantasy, this book pictures the last days of Al-Andalus and the Reconquista, and the struggle of the main characters to find some peace, honor, dignity and freedom in the midst of religious bigotry in a land that was changing forever.
At times slow and at times deeply touching, the story improves along the way, until the reader ends up with the heart in tatters thinking of a world that could have been.
In any case, I would also recommend Amin Maalouf's [b:Leo Africanus|153496|Leo Africanus|Amin Maalouf|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172250764s/153496.jpg|2944320]to whoever liked GGK's Al-Rassan. ( )
  Tacuazin | Feb 28, 2018 |
Guy Gavriel Kay writes lyrical and emotionally powerful prose. Like Tigana, this novel is also filled with a lot of imagery of the moon and the night sky, making this a beautiful romantic work. This deals with the themes of religious strife and politics. Collective insanity of people. Men struggling against the tides of history. The melancholy for the lost past. But ultimately this is an allegory of love. While giving grandeur and romance to war, he also manages to convey the grief and loss involved in it.
It does meander a bit and gets a bit too melodramatic at times, but still a beautiful work.
( )
  kasyapa | Oct 9, 2017 |
The Lions of Al-Rassan is the second book I’ve read by Guy Gavriel Kay, the first being Tigana. I really enjoy his writing style. One thing in particular that I’ve enjoyed about both books is that they each managed to satisfy my epic fantasy cravings within a single, standalone novel. I enjoy a good epic fantasy series, but a standalone does have the advantage of being easier to fit into my reading schedule.

The story involves the cultural and religious conflicts between various factions in a peninsula on a fictional world. We follow some of the more influential characters from those different cultures, most of whom are very likeable, as their goals coincide and conflict with each other. The author writes characters and camaraderie very well. Sometimes I thought there was a little too much melodrama, and sometimes events were a bit too coincidental, but mostly it was a well-written and engaging story. It did get to the point where I was laughing every time yet another person ended up in Ragosa, though! And I laughed even harder when one of the characters remarked on it also.

It’s probably arguable whether this book really counts as fantasy. It definitely has a solid epic fantasy feel, depending I guess on what you think of when you hear “epic fantasy”, and it’s clearly set on a fictional world with two moons. However, there weren’t really any actual fantastical elements aside from one secondary character with an unexplained special ability. The story and setting are inspired by and have some parallels in real-world history.

It was easy to decide on a 4.5 star rating on the sites where I can give half stars, but it was much, much harder to decide whether to round up or down on Goodreads. In the end, I decided to round down. There was just a little too much bitter in the bittersweet ending, however much I expected it. I also felt frustrated with some of the characters’ choices, and there was the aforementioned melodrama and coincidences. Overall, though, I really enjoyed reading this book and I was completely engrossed by it while I was reading it. I’ll likely try to fit Kay’s work back into my reading schedule sooner rather than later. ( )
2 vote YouKneeK | May 6, 2017 |
Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the most consistently praised fantasy authors; for instance, Brandon Sanderson calls him the “the greatest living author of epic fantasy“. I had read the first Fionavar Tapestry book, THE SUMMER TREE, but I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about – I thought it seemed like a cross between a more adult Narnia and The Wheel of Time (“Tapestry” instead of “Pattern”). I figured I should give him another shot though, and I’m glad I did, because now I understand, and only the pile of unread books in the house is keeping me from buying his entire bibliography right now.

THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN is set in the equivalent of the Iberian peninsula in the era of Moorish Spain. The Asharite city-states of the south and the Jaddite kingdoms of the north have had a tenuous peace despite their religious differences, but the winds are changing. Rodrigo Belmonte, the celebrated Jaddite captain, and Ammar ibn Khairan, the notorious right-hand man of the Asharite King Almalik of Cartada both find themselves driven away from their countries, and end up in the same city. Jehane, a Kindath physician, finds that her life is increasingly interwoven with theirs, as the world that she knows slowly begins to fall apart around her.

Despite being set in a secondary world, THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN is clearly meant to evoke history – the names of the countries are different, and the religions are based on the celestial bodies of their world – but the map of the world is the same, and the Asharites, Jaddites, and Kindath represent the Muslims, Christians, and Jews, respectively. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at first, but it’s a brilliant way for the author to take readers into how it felt like to live in that world without having to be too closely tied to historical accuracy.

Rodrigo Belmonte and Ammar ibn Khairan are the heart and soul of this book. They’re from very different worlds, but have a lot in common – both are larger than life, principled, intelligent, compassionate – heroes that actually deserve their reputation. When they finally meet, the world itself shivers a little bit. We see their story play out from many points of view, but the most important (and third protagonist) is Jehane, who is exceptional in her own right, but not as relevant to history. These three break the barriers of faith and country to develop an enduring friendship, but even the greatest of men are just men, and cannot resist the inexorable pressure of history waiting to be made.

The characterization of this book is exemplary – I’ve already talked about Rodrigo and Ammar a little bit, but Kay takes what would have been trite and cloying in less subtle hands and makes you truly believe in their legend. They’re not flawless – Rodrigo is somewhat reckless, and Ammar is a master of manipulation, but they still manage to make you believe in the ultimate goodness of humanity. I loved Jehane – the book blurb describes her as “increasingly torn by her feelings” which made me dread some sort of love triangle, but thankfully there’s none of that – she’s capable, intelligent, mature, and extremely skilled at what she does. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she’s also fully in control of her own sexuality. The supporting characters were fantastic, too – Alvar, one of Rodrigo’s young soldiers who gradually opens his eyes to the complexities of the world around him, and Rodrigo’s long-suffering, loving, and frankly, impressive wife Miranda were two of my favourites.

One of the biggest themes in this book is conflicting loyalties – to king, country, church, and family/friends. Rodrigo and Ammar are exiled by their respective monarchs, but they still don’t lose their love for where they’re from. Alvar loves where he’s from, but when he realizes what the world is actually like, he makes very different choices from what he would have imagined when setting out as a young soldier. Ramiro’s wife, Ines, is loyal to her god and her church, but that is tested when it endangers her country. Even the Belmonte’s cleric, Ibero, makes a terrible choice, and ends up regretting it dearly. Many of the choices made could have almost gone the other way, and are sometimes influenced by almost-random events (like Ramiro’s decision after the meeting with his fellow Espereñan monarchs) and it ends up making the coming war and its effects seem even more tragic.

Kay is an incredible writer – he uses the common themes of honor, loyalty, and sacrifice but elevates them to a whole different level – I thought I was beyond being moved by those things. He’s also tricky sometimes; there are several scenes in which you think you know exactly what’s going on but his cunning phrases and slight omissions mean that what actually happens is a complete surprise. The scene at the end of the Carnival in Ragosa, and the epilogue are two examples. I don’t think I could read his books all in a row if they’re all this intense, but I’m so glad I have them to look forward to.

I could keep going on, but I don’t think I could convey any better how amazing THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN is, so I’ll stop here. I highly recommend it, I think it’s one of the masterpieces of fantasy. ( )
1 vote kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guy Gavriel Kayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Howe, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morton, EuanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Odom, MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The evening is deep inside me forever

Many a blond, northern moonrise,

like a muted reflection, will softly

remind me and remind me again and again.

It will be my bride, my alter ego.

An incentive to find myself. I myself

am the moonrise of the south.

Paul Klee, The Tunisian Diaries
Dedication
For Harry Karlinksy and Mayer Hoffer, after thirty-five years.
First words
Always remember they come from the desert.
It was just past midday, not long before the third summons to prayer, that Ammar ibn Khairan passed through the Gate of the Bells and entered the Al-Fontina in Silvenes to kill the last of the khalifs of Al-Rassan. [prologue]
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060733497, Paperback)

The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan -- poet, diplomat, soldier -- until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.

Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated -- and feared -- military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.

In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve -- for a time -- the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate -- and increasingly torn by her feelings -- is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.

Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake -- or destroy -- a world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:59 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

In 12th Century Spain, the romance of Jehane bet Ishak, a woman doctor who falls in love with two men at once, Gen. Ammar ibn Khairan and Gen. Rodrigo Belmonte. When the generals go to war against each other, Jehane faces a difficult choice. Lots of period detail, the protagonists representing the three cultures, Jewish, Moorish and Christian.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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