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The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995)

by Guy Gavriel Kay

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,170None2,987 (4.31)1 / 324
  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 (60)  French (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
I'm a fan of El Cid, so this fantasy is harmonious with some of my day-dreams. The Map is a serious drawback, as the peninsula is not, I believe conducive to developing the societies in the story. but Kay wries well and the result is a second-class work compared to "the Last Light of the Sun" , "Under heaven" or the Sarantium books. It is still worth the money to most readers. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 16, 2014 |
Originally posted at

the turbulent region that used to be the stable empire of Al-Rassan, petty kings vie for power. Each of these rulers is ambitions and clever, but none of them has been able to acquire his position without the help of others — crafty advisors, brave army commanders, brilliantly inventive doctors, devoted wives and children — and sometimes the same people who have served them well are the same ones who may later cause their downfall.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is the story of a few of these people, how they worked for (and sometimes against) the rulers they pledged to serve, and how they brought about the rise and fall of nations. The infamous Ammar ibn Khairan — King Almalik’s soldier, advisor, assassin, and poet — is known as the man who assassinated the last Khalif of al-Rassan. The notorious Rodrigo Belmonte — King Ramiro’s best commander — is the most feared soldier in the region. Jehane bet Ishak, a woman who’s ahead of her time, is the stubborn but brilliant daughter of a famous physician. These three, who share different religious beliefs but the same uncompromising personal standards, will have a profound effect on each other and the fate of an empire — not just because of what they do, but also because of their influence on the people they meet along the way.

Like Guy Gavriel Kay’s other works, The Lions of Al-Rassan is well-researched historical fiction (this one hardly counts as fantasy). The setting is similar to the Reconquista and the Crusades of Moorish Spain, though the religions Kay uses are not actually based on Christianity, Judaism and Islam (even though the character and place names sound like they are). Also like Kay’s other stories, The Lions of Al-Rassan is full of political intrigue, romance, poetry and lots of passion. The setting is epic, the characters are epic, and the conflict is epic, but rather than focusing on the grand picture with its galloping armies and bloody battles, Kay has us view a series of small significant moments in which the acts of our three heroes, who learn to love each other despite their differences, influence the big events.

If you’ve read any GGK at all, you know that he loves to create vivid characters that are worthy of the grand settings they find themselves in. His villains are ambitious, brutal, and ruthless. His heroes are brilliant, clever, subtle, witty, dangerous, ahead of their time, and multi-talented (e.g., Ammar ibn Khairan is an excellent fighter, diplomat, advisor, scholar, poet, and lover). Nobody wants to read about dull characters, but Kay’s characters are so impressive that they stretch the bounds of belief. They’re also incredibly introspective and philosophical. They regularly spend pages at a time talking to themselves in their own heads — considering their feelings, reflecting on their past successes and failures, analyzing the motives and behaviors of others, and contemplating the future.

As much as I admire Kay’s characters, sometimes I wish they would stop thinking and just get a move on. The Lions of Al-Rassan could have used a little more action; much of the conflict resolution actually occurs off-screen between the last chapter and the epilogue. Kay elevates the tension and drama by using cliffhangers, intentionally withholding information, and even playing a trick on the reader in the epilogue. While I’ve read most of Guy Gavriel Kay’s work, I haven’t been able to completely embrace his style which is somewhat melodramatic and manipulative and, therefore, intrudes into the story as if it were a character in its own right.

If you’re a fan of Kay’s work, The Lions of Al-Rassan will almost certainly please you — Kay uses the same formula here, just in a different setting with a different plot. His characters are bold and full of life, and they live and love in a tumultuous world.

The audio version of The Lions of Al-Rassan, recently produced by Audible Frontiers, is outstanding. Euan Morton, who also read A Song for Arbonne, has the required strong masculine voice, yet reads the female roles well, too. His voice is suitably dramatic (yet not overly so) and his pace and cadence are flawless. This was a great production and highly recommended. I do suggest having a list of character names to view, however, because many of them sound similar at first. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Ένωση ιστορικού βιβλίου(Ισπανία, ​11ος αιώνας) και φαντασίας. Έξυπνο, λίγο μελοδραματι​κό και πάρα πολύ όμορφα γραμμένο. Το καλύτερο του ​συγγραφέα που έχω διαβάσει μέχρι τώρα.​

( )
  Antonis.Papadakis | Jan 30, 2014 |
This book had been sitting on my TBR pile for years. It came highly recommended (just look at the other reviews here), and I’m surprised I let it wait for so long. The result was high expectations, and I wasn’t let down.

Jehane bet Ishak is a Kindath physician in the city of Fezana, a northern city in the kingdom of of Al-Rassan. Trained by her father, and later by the Jaddites in Esperana, Jehane is well-known and respected within the community. On the night of the grand consecration – the social event of the year – Jehane finds herself not only entangled with known courtesan and assassin Ammar ibn Khairan, but fleeing the city after her treatment of a silk merchant who was meant for the slaughter. Events spiral, as they will, and we find ourselves in the midst of preparations for a holy war between three civilizations clearly representative of Christian, Muslim, and Jew.

This was the first thing I’d read by Kay, and I found his writing breathtaking. I read the book in an afternoon, unable to pull myself away from it. For such a short novel, he does an amazing job of creating characters with believable depth, characters you can’t help but come to care for. Which is the point, of course, since he can’t break your heart if he doesn’t first make you fall in love.

A truly stunning story, set against the backdrop of love, loyalty, political intrigue, religious intolerance, and above all, friendship. Recommended for anyone. ( )
  philosojerk | Jan 21, 2014 |
An excellent fantasy novel of a very thinly disguised Reconquest of Spain, dealing with the ties of loyalty and love across the peoples of the peninsula, and the tensions war and honor place upon them.

My only real issue is that I despise concealing what happened only to reveal it ten pages later once you've drawn it out long enough. Seriously, it ruined the ending for me. ( )
  trouthe | Sep 23, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guy Gavriel Kayprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Odom, MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:09 -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)

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