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Guy Gavriel Kay

Author of Tigana

29+ Works 35,224 Members 1,014 Reviews 320 Favorited

About the Author

Guy Gavriel Kay was born on November 7, 1954 in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada. He became interested in fantasy fiction while working as an assistant to Christopher Tolkien. He assisted him with the editing of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. After receiving a law degree from the University of show more Toronto, he became principal writer and associate producer for the CBC radio series, The Scales of Justice. He also wrote several episodes when the series moved to television. He has written social and political commentary for several publications including the National Post, The Globe and Mail, and The Guardian. His first fantasy novels were The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road, which make up the Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy. His other works include A Song for Arbonne, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Beyond This Dark House, The Last Light of the Sun, and Under Heaven. He has received numerous awards including and the Aurora Award for Tigana and The Wandering Fire, the 2008 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Ysabel, and the International Goliardos Award for his work in the fantasy field. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Twitter profile picture, public domain


Works by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana (1990) 5,081 copies, 145 reviews
The Summer Tree (1984) 4,048 copies, 101 reviews
The Lions of al-Rassan (1995) 3,213 copies, 101 reviews
The Wandering Fire (1986) 3,121 copies, 56 reviews
The Darkest Road (1986) 3,001 copies, 49 reviews
A Song for Arbonne (1992) 2,739 copies, 54 reviews
Sailing to Sarantium (1998) 2,570 copies, 51 reviews
Ysabel (2007) 1,996 copies, 89 reviews
The Last Light of the Sun (2004) 1,991 copies, 51 reviews
Lord of Emperors (2000) 1,950 copies, 43 reviews
Under Heaven (2010) 1,916 copies, 116 reviews
River of Stars (2013) 830 copies, 51 reviews
Children of Earth and Sky (2016) 778 copies, 42 reviews
A Brightness Long Ago (2019) 627 copies, 34 reviews

Associated Works

The Silmarillion (1977) — Editorial assistant — 35,425 copies, 274 reviews


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Common Knowledge

Legal name
Kay, Guy Gavriel
Canada (birth)
Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada
Places of residence
Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
University of Manitoba
University of Toronto
Associate Producer (radio)
writer (radio)
fantasy writer
Awards and honors
Guest of Honour, Eastercon, UK (2000)
Scales of Justice Award (best media treatment of a legal issue, Canadian Law Reform Commission, 1985)
Guest of Honor, Vericon, Cambridge, MA (2007)
Short biography
Guy Gavriel Kay (born November 7, 1954) is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categorization when possible. Kay was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. When Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J.R.R. Tolkien's unpublished work, he chose Kay, then a student at the University of Manitoba, whose parents were friends of Baillie Tolkien's parents. Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in the editing of The Silmarillion.

He returned to Canada in 1976 to finish a law degree at the University of Toronto, and became interested in fiction writing.

Kay became Principal Writer and Associate Producer for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio series, The Scales of Justice.

In 1984, Kay's first fantasy work, The Summer Tree, the first volume of the trilogy The Fionavar Tapestry, was published.



Guy Kay - where to start and other discussion in The Green Dragon (April 2013)
Tigana Spoiler Thread: Fantasy February Group Read in 75 Books Challenge for 2013 (February 2013)
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay: Fantasy February Group Read in 75 Books Challenge for 2013 (February 2013)
For Guy Kay fans in FantasyFans (June 2012)
Group Read (March): Guy Gavriel Kay in The 11 in 11 Category Challenge (April 2011)


Guy Gavriel Kay is above everything else, a poet. His language is beautiful, almost melodic. Reading his books I often have the feeling that I am listening to a song, instead of reading a book. It is a very agreeable change from the terribilità of modern fantasy. That, and only that, is what I miss from time to time. Some scenes of the book should not be sung with a lyre. They should be yelled. I missed some spice. However, it is a most pleasing reading experience, very worth re-reading or expanding to the follow up.
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cdagulleiro | 115 other reviews | Jul 3, 2024 |
Guy Gavriel Kay has his way of composing a novel, and he does it so well. He takes a historical period, reads a lot on it and gets inspiration from particularly interesting real events and people, and translates it all to a thinly-disguised fantasy version of the world, which gives him freedom to deviate from real history when needed. Add to that his brilliant writing skills and you have a winning formula.

Nevertheless, it seemed to me that after the Sarantine Mosaic his output had been a bit less inspired (I have yet to read River of Stars and Children of Earth and Sky, though). A Brightness Long Ago in some ways is a return to his better form, I would say. Perhaps not quite as good as The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana, but very good.

This one, like Tigana, is inspired in Renaissance Italy, a very interesting period for the flourishing of the arts and the political chaos, with no nation-state and many more or less independent cities, to say nothing of the Vatican, warring with each other, often hiring mercenary armies.

There are four main characters, but the central part of the story is the feud and rivalry between two very competent mercenary leaders who lead two rival, albeit minor, cities. In the same way as with Rodrigo Belmonte and Ammar ibn Khairan in The Lions of Al-Rassan, you can probably end up liking, or at least respecting and enjoying, both larger-than-life characters, even if they are in opposite sides of the conflict.

There is also a lot of emphasis on the stories of little people, not just powerful figures, on women who strive for agency in a world where it's difficult for them to escape from the traditional role of passive wife and mother, and also on same-sex relationships besides the usual heterosexual ones. All this is more inclusive, but it also has the downside that the characters in historical fantasies increasingly seem to be more aligned with 21st century values and way of thinking. You may decide for yourself whether that's a good thing, or whether we risk making all past periods too uniform, or perhaps both.

The fantasy content is very light, as usual with Kay, but it exists. There are some emotional and moving moments, and other parts that seem more like a skilled craftsman going through the routine, but all in all this is a very enjoyable story.
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jcm790 | 33 other reviews | May 26, 2024 |
Quite good, although not at the level of Kay's best novels (like The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana). It's secondary world fantasy inspired on ancient China. It was an interesting story, but a bit slow to start, and the main character was likable but perhaps a bit too contemplative to warm up to him right away.

GGK has a special touch as a writer, though. He is good with emotions and he uses the themes of his stories in a powerful way to make it resonate with the reader. He also can write beautiful passages. I particularly enjoyed the final part of the story.… (more)
jcm790 | 115 other reviews | May 26, 2024 |
Maghi invasori scagliano maledizione, principe e ribelli destabilizzano politica del regno x riconquistarlo e sciogliere (orribile) maleficio

(molto poco fantasy, personaggi che quando non sono piatti sono antipatici, suspance e colpi di scena non pervenuti, e nemmeno il ritmo, ma quello non serve perchè non succede mai niente.... però qualcosa c'è: la maestria del narratore e qualcos'altro che si nasconde tra le righe e quindi 4 stelle, che per me è una valutazione molto alta)
LLonaVahine | 144 other reviews | May 22, 2024 |


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