The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay Readalong Part One

So we find the Weaver back at the loom ready to finish this tapestry, and two dreaming group of adventurers reunited again. I cannot remember the last time a readalong group I’ve been part of has romped through a series like this, because it hasn’t happened. Sometimes I think about suggesting we finish off Phedre’s journey with Kushiel’s Avatar, but I don’t really want to talk about that scene…

I’m getting sidetracked. We’re here for The Darkest Road, final act of The Fionavar Tapestry. We’ve seen five fairly normal kids go through hell and heaven. There has been death, attempted suicide, self-sacrifice, rape, incredibly uncomfortable destinies, but a great deal of joy too. How will it all end?

Well, I already know as this is my Xth reread, but I’m looking forwards to rediscovering it with my fellow dreamers, so let’s get this bingo game on the roll.

1. We’re straight back in where the last book left off – how are you feeling about returning to Fionavar?

I am hyped. Very hyped. I suppose I should feel a little sad it’s the end of the road, that there are no further adventures here, that Kay never expanded on the world, but that’s what rereads are for.

And fanfic I guess if that’s your thing. I’m now idly curious actually. Maybe once it’s done.

2. There are a lot of characters that, whether through long life, immortality, or reincarnation, have long memories. How do you find this shapes the story?

There’s a very real sense of everything here being the resolution of a very old story, and the poor old characters being like a wrecking ball attached to a chain of near infinite length. We all know the sort of momentum that sort of thing can generate!

As an aside, I think that’s something 80s/90s Epic Fantasy really picked up and amplified from Tolkien and I think it makes for some great fiction, and I now wish it was a little more in fashion.

Anyhow, going back to the topic, I think Brendel’s brief melancholic point of view helped shape this sense most in this early passage. The way the power of these events has him thinking of his whole life and perspective has, well, power. Damnit, my internal thesaurus isn’t doing much work right now. Fliadais has something of the same air too, his great quest and life’s obsession struggling with Jennifer’s very presence. It has a pleasing narrative weight.

3. What do you make of Galadan’s point of view and what do first time readers think he might do to Jennifer?

I have talked of the power of narrative weight and momentum, but I’m not sure Galadan has enough behind him to make this more than an interesting aside. Which seems odd given how much Galadan has featured into things, but for all his stylish savagery, his story is a little too straight forwards and this passage is a little too cryptic. Maybe if we’d seen more of his daddy issues? I think there’s a possibly interesting narrative parallel between him and Kim here though. Both have received a hard time and are, in essence, passing it on. There’s quite a gulf in proportion in terms of what they’re passing on, and how they feel about what they’re doing, but there’s a lot of similarity. Galadan felt an immense emotional betrayal – probably more than one, to fixate so heavily on Lisen – and seeks to comfort this, to assert his control, by destroying everything. Kim hasn’t felt betrayal, but her experiences as a seer have been traumatic, and yet due to the Baelrath’s insistence keeps forcing other people to go through traumas with her.

4. We have finally met the Paraiko and there is a lot to unpack. Here’s your chance to talk about it!

It’s quite nice to see someone gentle all the way through in the severe and violent world of Fionavar, and that they have their own severity of sorts makes them fit in well. I wish we’d seen a bit more of them before Kim ends their exile from the world, but I see enough.

As for Kim herself… it’s all starting to really add up and affect her mind? I love the way she laughs at the world but there’s less and less laughing.

5. As both of the previous books, The Darkest Road is very heavy on sacrifice and it doesn’t seem to be easing off anytime soon. As we’re near the beginning of the end, do you have any predictions or thoughts for this book?

My lips are sealed, so I’ll just talk a bit about other characters, mainly Dave and Aileron. That council at Celidon shows just how much both of them have grown in confidence and grace. You can see the lines and thought patterns of the awkward exile Kim first met in Aileron, but that forceful assertiveness is now married to a deep courtesy and calm. Dave is far less calm, which makes his internal journey from getting frustrated with Dhira to liking Dhira all the more endearing. Ditto the brotherhood between him and Levon and Torc, and the way his mind grapples with no more Kevin. Dave’s a good ‘un.

And that’s it I guess. Time to catch up with Part Two.

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4 thoughts on “The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay Readalong Part One

  1. I’d pay good money for a book focused entirely on the Paraiko – they are wonderful and my heart broke for them when Kim did what she did.

    Also, wouldn’t say no to a read-aling of Kushiel’s Avatar!

    Liked by 1 person

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