An enjoyable palate cleanser between series – book review of The Last Light of the Sun
Guy Gavriel Kay’s reputation as essential reading in the epic fantasy sphere is reiterated with The Last Light of the Sun — a standalone epic fantasy novel and alternate historical saga heavily inspired by Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology.
I loved it from the prologue, which succinctly set the scene through the eyes of a foreigner. As such we submerge easily into this world, immediately recognising comparisons with a harsh and adventurous viking-like culture.
Those ancient cultures of Nordic, Celtic and Saxon peoples dovetail frequently within classic tropes of epic fantasy. Yet readers never tire of the magic, warfare, weaponry, landscapes and romance such tales evoke. In this story, those cultures are known as the Erlings, the Cyngael and the Anglycyn. Three sets of characters from each group occupy the foreground and background of the story at different times, weaving their various threads so that by the novel’s end a complete tapestry stands before us in a satisfying and beautiful piece of fantasy literature.
Needless to say one of the things I enjoyed most about this book was Kay’s aesthetic. I found myself admiring his words as one would admire a painting. His literary mastery is a joy to behold. I also enjoyed the many pearls of wisdom dripping throughout the story that made me feel at times I was reading a stoic demonstration of life rather than a novel. Here’s a favourite:
We like to believe we can know the moments we’ll remember of our own days and nights, but it isn’t really so. The future is an uncertain shape and men and women know that. What is less surely understood is that this is true of the past as well. What lingers, or comes back unsummoned, is not always what we would expect, or desire to keep with us.