Guy Gavriel Kay tackles new terrain in The Last Light of the Sun. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover
In this novel, Kay takes readers into a Viking-like culture of his fant-historical world first created in Lions of Al-Rassan. It is his first foray out of Mediterranean-like cultures since the advent of his fant-historical work.

The Last Light of the Sun opens as Bern Thorkellson decides to leave his far northern island as a fugitive. With his father in exile and all claim to his land revoked, Bern has been reduced to working as a servant to the man who bested his father. Now that this man has died, Bern is ready to exact his—albeit passive aggressive—revenge by stealing the man's horse before his funerary burning. Faced with the dubious task of escaping an island with a horse, Bern visits a conclave of shamanesses, hoping to invoke their power to aid his escape. Meanwhile, further to the south, tribes of clansmen have been converted to the faith of sun god Jad. Young prince Alun ab Owyn is a convert to the faith until the sudden death of his brother in battle. Faced with doubts, Alun is lured into the forest by mysterious forces and confronted with a spirit world that apparently contradicts his faith.

In this story, Kay will fulfill many of the expectations of his devoted fans. As usual, this novel is beautifully written, confirming Kay's status as one of the foremost literary fantasists of the contemporary scene. The story is also character-centered, focusing on the motivations and interactions of his characters; their stories are surprising and unpredictable but never gimmicky. Kay's parallel Europe is, as usual, well-researched and elegantly detailed. I only wish, in this novel, that Kay had focused in on a smaller number of characters. While the paths of each secondary character ultimately tie into the stories of the main characters, I felt as though Kay was constantly introducing new characters throughout the book, when all I wanted was to be back with the main ones. Kay does such an amazing and unique job of characterization that I wanted to follow his main characters in greater depth. I missed, as well, the certain passionate flair with which Kay infuses his Mediterranean-inspired settings, but I suppose in the coldness and uneasiness of the northern world, it would have been out-of-place. I must ultimately applaud Kay for exploring the outer reaches of his fantasy world, and he does so with a mastery rarely seen among widely-read fantasy authors today.

As usual, Kay gives readers a true literary fantasy sparkling with character, beauty and despair. Newcomers to Kay will enjoy this story as well as seasoned fans.


Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.