Great Fantasy Novel in Historic Last Light of the Sun

Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay, great fantasy novel, fantasy novelsLast Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay

This great fantasy novel is a sweeping tapestry of people’s lives, set at a time when the Vikings ruled their part of the world with terror and the Anglo-Saxons were just beginning to get the idea of a king in what would in the future be a kingdom called England. Kay is renowned for his historical books and in this one he once again brings his meticulous research to good use. You can almost smell and taste the way of life in 9th century Europe here. Of course, the difference is in the fantasy elements he brings into the story, and the alternate world he presents.

A Matter of Choices

Much of the story evolves through little stories of chances taken. Brothers who do a cattle raid at the wrong time and so become involved in a more dangerous raid on a farmhouse of a nearby lord. A landless son, whose theft of a horse from a dead governor leads to a life as a raider without land. The growing leadership of a son, who retakes his father’s kingdom, indeed evolves into the land’s first king. Each story, from the simplest tale of a mother’s loss to the complications of new found loyalties are woven together as these lives in time all touch on one another and influence the world they live in.

Small Lives, Big Impacts

Along the way we get a look into the lives of people of the era. It is a time when women were very much in the background, and yet the decisions they made could turn kingdoms. We see that reflected here. It begins with a cattle raid gone wrong, and through that action we meet Dai and Alun, two “princes” in early Wales. We watch the brothers make choices that impact them and all those around them, driven by a girl they meet. She in turn makes choices that will change lives in time. Kin matter, friendships are harsh and life is short. In the midst of the stories of these lives as they unravel and rewind in new ways are the fae in the woods. They don’t seem to have a huge impact at first, but as the story builds their role in the end changes the outcome of an important battle.

Queen’s of a Varying Sort

One of the scenes that stayed with me was when Alun watches the Queen of the Fairies take the soul of his brother for her companion. It is riveting, emotional and to me a scene that reflected the wonder and fear that the people had of the fae. It was to be a pivotal scene in the story as we saw this one decision domino into others and in the end force the hand of the King in the Swamps. Compare this great fantasy novel scene to the one of the Anglcyn Queen who seeks the forgiveness of a king through prayer and you see how the women may be in the background but they are hardly powerless.

Storytelling at Its Finest

If you know your British or Viking history you will likely recognize most of the characters. But even if, like me, you don’t it doesn’t detract from being fascinated by this book. I will admit I was thrown at first by each time a new character’s story was introduced. I would just get to know them, and we would switch to another one in another land. But gradually I began to see where their stories would all come together. Where the myriad choices they made in the beginning impacted each other’s lives and in the end would make a nation of a people, and end another people’s dominance of the ocean.

This is a great fantasy novel where ancient history and visions rooted in old mythology are so well blended that you have a hard time knowing where one ends and the other begins. A masterful storyteller, Kay has won numerous awards for is historical fantasy worlds set in an alternate version of early Europe. If you are looking for a fantasy that is heads and shoulders above the run of the mill writing in fantasy, Last Light of the Sun will be a treat. I particularly like that it is available in paperback, hardcover and kindle versions as it is the kind of book that gets better with each successive reading.

Categories : Historical Fantasy   

2 comments on “Great Fantasy Novel in Historic Last Light of the Sun

  1. Justine S. on said:

    Kay is a great storyteller, no doubt about it, but his earlier works definitely encompass more fantasy in the writing than do the later ones. Odd that you chose this particular work to review, as I think it is not really his best fantasy work at all. I much preferred Tigana and the two books of The Sarantine Mosaic (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors). I’ve been a long time reader of Kay’s work and I have to say that I personally felt a bit lukewarm about this particular book.

    • Justine – Thanks so much for your comments. I had the book recommended to me, and I must admit I may be hunting down these other books that you have mentioned. If this was a book you only feel so-so about, I can’t imagine how much I will enjoy reading and reviewing others by Kay. I really encourage anyone who looked into Last Light of the Sun and has read other books by Kay to let us know what you think.

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