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The Lions of Al-Rassan

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995) Guy Gavriel Kay

lionsofal-rassanThis is fantasy, but it parallels the history of the Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Middle ages. But the parallels aren’t complete, as women aren’t nearly as subjugated as they would have been in Europe at the time.

Jehane is a Kindath physician, and in high demand in Fezana, even though the Kindath are outsiders, and often reviled as such, but she is still safer in Cartada than she would be in Esperaña, where the Kindath are rumored to kill and eat babies. In Cartada, her suffering is limited to high taxes, just for being a Kindath.

I really really love Jehane.

Jehane had been raised, by her mother and father both, to show deference where it was due and earned, and not otherwise.

“Such ‘niceties,’ as you prefer to call simple courtesy, ought to matter in Cartada as much as they do here,” she said levelly.

But I also love Ammmar.

Depending upon one’s views, Ammar ibn Khairan was one of the most celebrated men or one of the most notorious in the peninsula.

It was said, and sung, that when scarcely come to manhood he had single-handedly scaled the walls of the Al-Fontina in Silvenes, slain a dozen guards within, fought through to the Cypress Garden to kill the khalif, then battled his way out again, alone, dead bodies strewn about him. For this service, the grateful, newly proclaimed king in Cartada had rewarded ibn Khairan with immediate wealth and increasing power through the years, including, of late, the formal role of guardian and advisor to the prince.

And yet just as much do I love Rodrigo.

(T)he talk was of crop rotation and the pattern of rainfall here in the tagra lands.

“We aren’t the real warriors of Valledo,” he’d said to his company upon mounting up again after one such conversation. “These people are. It will be a mistake for any man who rides with me to forget that.”

“This,” said Rodrigo Belmonte of Valledo plaintively, “is distressingly familiar. A woman putting me in my place. Are you sure you’ve never met my wife?”

And there are so many passages that rang true for me throughout the book.

I can only say that past a certain point accepting the things (he) has done feels like sharing in them. Being responsible for them.

Jehane hated to cry; she regarded it as a defeat.

There was something to be said for straightforwardness in a world of oblique intrigue.

It is an old truth that men and women sometimes miss what they hate as much as what they love.

(He) opened his mouth and then closed it. There was nothing he could think of to say. There were places into which words could not go. Not the words he knew.

There is so much I love about this book–love even though it made me cry–makes me cry now, re-reading passages as I write this.

It is beautiful. It is wonderous. Even decades after I first read it, when all the details were gone, the feeling remained, true to what I felt reading it again.
Rating: 9.5/10
Published by Harper Voyager

Categories: 9.5/10, Alternate History, Fantasy
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