The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

Rating 8.3/10
Kay is an excellent exponent of historical fantasy.

The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite Empire has splintered into decadent city-states lead by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan – poet, diplomat; soldier – until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.

Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated – and feared – military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.

In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve – for a time – the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate – and increasingly torn by her feelings – is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.

Hauntingly evocative of Medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake – or destroy – a world.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is novel written by acclaimed Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay. It is complex, often beautifully written tale drawing on the Spanish Reconquista for inspiration. Although the races in the book have new names, they are in fact well known to us – the Jaddites are Christians, the Asharites are Muslims and the Kindath are the Jews. The story centres on the relationships of Belmonte, Khairan and Jehane and how the imminent war affects them all.

One by one, through the course of a scorching hot, cloudless summer's afternoon, the elite of Fezanan society made their way along that dark, cool tunnel, and then, dazzled by the return to sunlight, followed the herald's ringing proclamation of their names into the white courtyard where they were slain. The Muwardis had been carefully chosen. No mistakes were made. No one cried out.

From: The Lions of Al-Rassan - Chapter: One

The characters are well rounded and created with depth. The narrative is evenly paced and told from the perspective of the individuals at its heart. The ending to the book is a slight disappointment and could have done with being curtailed by approximately fifty pages but this does not detract from the overall excellence of the book.

The Lions of Al-Rassan takes a while to get going but you will be amply rewarded for your patience. This is what is known as historical fantasy and there are few better exponents of this genre than Guy Gavriel Kay.

This is a grand novel with the scope of Lawrence of Arabia and the immediacy of today's Mideastern headlines. Des Moines – Sunday Register

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from Spring TX USA


This book would rank in my top 10 The characters are amazingly written, and connect you to the passions that shape this world, and define this tale in such stark reality.

9.2/10 from 2 reviews

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