Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Book Report: The Summer Tree

Second January book (which means I am on track for 24 books this year despite the fact that my work life has become a whirlwind) is The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay. Let's get to it: 

It must be at least a decade since I first heard about this book. I don't remember where, or what was said, other than that it was all positive and I put the book on my 'to read' list because it intrigued me. It proved difficult to find in shops, and this was before I had a debit card with which I could order things online. Then there were other things to read and... I just didn't get around to it. Until now. So, sadly, I can't really remember my expectations for this book. 
I was expecting it to be good, and I was expecting it to be fantasy. As it turns out, it wasn't the type of fantasy I thought it was. It was the kind where humans from the real world are dragged into the fantasy world. As much as I love C S Lewis, that isn't really my preferred form. 

Despite that, I did enjoy this book. It didn't take long at all for me to get past the 'why is this book set in Toronto?' factor and start really getting into the emotional meat of the characters. And the characters certainly do have a lot of emotional depth which is slowly uncovered. Not only the humans from our world but the Dwarf King and the Magician as well. I struggled to keep the five humans straight for a while, but eventually got the hang of it. The relationships between them are interesting, as are the varying relationships between each character and their families. There's not a lot of that, because they move to the fantasy world fairly fast, but what there was was enough to keep me interested in their stories. 

The structure of this book did some interesting things. At the beginning, it seemed normal as we followed the group of five humans plus two Fionavar residents. Then, as the character went their separate ways the narrative started switching between them. There was no warning that this was happening, the book would just launch into a new viewpoint. (This may have been a fault in my ebook, but I doubt it.) I swear, towards the climax of the novel the sections got much shorter and it started to feel almost like they were weaving in and out of one another.Which is appropriate, as there's a lot of reference to The Weaver (a god figure) and The Tapestry (fate). Then the narrative went back in time to almost the beginning of the story, which was incredibly frustrating because I want to know what happened. But then, as with the best authors, I got into the new story - which wasn't presented in the tapestry form. Even though this structure didn't really carry through, it was still interesting. 

I don't have a lot of criticism for this book, and most of what there is revolves around the end. I was not entirely pleased to find that there's surprise rape and torture about thirty pages from the end. It was well written, and not explicit, but I still could have done with it. Though, that said, it made the actual final-page ending a lot more powerful. The other problem with the ending was that it was a cliffhanger. Now, this is part of a serious so I wasn't expecting everything to be neatly wrapped up, but I do prefer not to be left wondering if everyone is still alive.

Final Thoughts
I'm not sure this book is AS good as the praise I heard made it out to be, nor am I convinced it was worth waiting ten years for. I did enjoy it, though, which is more of an achievement given I don't like this specific subgenre that much. The characters were enough to carry off any faults with it, and I find the structure interesting. 7 stars. 

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