Sunday, May 16, 2004

Review: "The Last Light of the Sun" by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is, at once, the most fascinating writer in fantasy and one of the most frustrating. When he's on, there's no better writer in the genre. When he's not, drying paint can be more exciting.

Thankfully, he hits the mark more often than not. His latest, "The Last Light of the Sun" ($24.95, Roc), may be one of his best. The book takes readers back to the world of Sarantium and Al-Rassan, but focuses on a part of the world that he hasn't explored yet.

Like so much of Kay's work, the world and people are based on cultures and time periods from our own world. His writings are equal parts fantasy, historical fiction and literary fiction.

"The Last Light of the Sun" is based largely on Norse, English and Celtic cultures, and the book shows a great deal of research on Kay's part. Perhaps more familiar to the average fantasy fan than the medieval Italian world Kay chose for his excellent "Tigana," this world is no less fascinating.

The book begins with a series of seemingly random events that offer no clue to where the story will take the reader. But when the large cast of characters begins to come together, the pattern of Kay's well-laid plan becomes clear. Kay takes the seemingly unrelated threads and weaves them into a masterpiece.

Another nice touch in this book is the change in Kay's style. His normally flamboyant and flowing writing style gives way to a shorter, simpler and perhaps even a bit choppy approach. Fans of Kay's usual eloquence may not be sure what to think of it, but I think it's very effective. This is a book dealing with simpler, more barbaric cultures than the sophisticated ones that David Gemmell has worked with in the past, and the writing style reflects that well.

After the disappointing "Sarantine Mosaic," it's nice to see Kay hitting his stride again. "The Last Light of the Sun" probably won't be remembered as Kay's best novel, but it's still an outstanding read. It has a faster pace than his previous work, and it further builds on a world where the cultural interactions are just beginning to emerge. It's easily one of the best books I've read so far this year.

No comments: