Monday, February 8, 2010

The Fionavar Tapestry

So Guy Gavriel Kay is supposed to be this amazing fantasy author. Perhaps he is. But what matters to me is whether an author can captivate my imagination, and he could not. Others may enjoy his books, and, like with the ASoIaF guy, I can acknowledge that this guy can write well, but it just doesn't work for me. Anyway, enough with the apologizing, here's what I thought. So I read all of The Summer Tree and most of The Wandering Fire. I got so far because at parts Kay really did succeed in making me interested and care about the fate of these characters and this land. Although I have to wonder, if Fionavar is the first of all the worlds, why's it stuck in the middle ages when Earth is all whoosh jet planes? But I digress. Anyway, you've got these five university students from Toronto who are whisked away to a magical world on a suspiciously frivolous cause, just to be special guests at a festival. But of course they all have magical destinies, because no one in a fantasy novel ever doesn't have one of those. Hm, this reminds me of why I read so little high fantasy. Anyway, the five characters are Dave, Jen, Kevin, Kim, and Paul, and I only gave a crap about two of them for more than a couple pages at a time. Paul's a whiny emo kid because his girlfriend died. And you know what? If you can't make me care about tragic sundered love, you're doing it wrong. Kevin's a two-dimensional horndog who only cares about doing the ladies. Jen... I didn't really have a problem with her, but she didn't get, like, any fleshing out before she disappeared from the main plot for a while. I liked Kim well enough. She seemed to deal with her Destiny without totally going all mystical. And when Dave finally showed up, I really enjoyed the portion of the book with him and the Dalrei. That was fun. I dunno, there were snatches of the book where the characters seemed realistic and like interesting people, but too often the narrative was third person omniscient, not in anybody's head. And furthermore, the viewpoints jumped around so much, and more often than not the characters would have revelations about their Destinies, and though the reader was watching the character, the reader would not be clued into what any of this was about. And look, all of them are special? All of them have magical destinies? It's like a forum roleplay, where players keep trying to one-up each other in terms of power levels and specialness. "My character has a magic sword!" "My character can turn into a dragon!" "My character is the reincarnation of a dead hero!" "My character can completely manipulate the time flow and is immortal and can nullify any bad magic!" I mean, seriously.

Well, this was a vitriolic little review. Bad weekend. Got my wisdom teeth taken out and then couldn't even recover peacefully 'cause of the ruddy blizzard knocking our power out for a little under two full days. So I'm not in the mindset to be charitable to this series. The Fionavar Tapestry isn't bad, but it's certainly something that you need to have the right taste for.

With luck I'll finish some of the half-written reviews I have on my computer and post them soon.


Anonymous said...

Haha, part of that was Kay deliberately invoking the tropes of high fantasy, which do require a little bit of suspension of disbelief to enjoy.
And yeah, Paul's a douche and no one likes him. Thankfully Kevin dies since he was pretty lame, too - Kim, Davor <3, and Jenn are probably my favourites.
Third book is uber epic. Gets it.
Also, Dave is notable for being the Badass Normal. He isn't any kind of hero, and doesn't have any kind of special power or role... he's just a guy who happens to kick ass.

The third Fionavar book is the best, imho. But also remember, this was Kay's first novel, and he improved hugely over his career. Again, check out "The Lions of al-Rassan" or "Tigana." Shorter than Fionavar, too. x3

Amy Lynn said...

I guess I'm past my phase where your standard high fantasy interests me. So it makes sense that I wouldn't have the patience for the hallmarks of that genre without the innovations that later writers came up with to make those types of stories less trite. But, yeah, Dave was pretty awesome like that. I did like how he just managed to be awesome without having any sort of Destiny.