Book Title: The Lions of Al-RassanWhat did I think?
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: 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 led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.
Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated 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 the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate 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.
This book made me weep. That's all you need to know, isn't it? Guy Gavriel Kay came highly recommended by many fantasy fans, even though he doesn't write your usual fantasy. There are no elves and dwarves. There are no strange creatures and no dragons. And there is almost no magic.
Guy Gavriel Kay writes historical fantasy. The Lions of Al-Rassan is his version of medieval Spain and the conflicts between the different faiths. This book is about war and the intolerance different cultures and religions have for each other. People don't need to be evil to do the unthinkable, they just need to do it in the name of war or religion.
The book starts out slow and takes its time throughout, but about halfway through I could no longer put it down.
The writing style is very descriptive and beautiful. The characters are well developed. The world building is exciting and mesmerising and once you're hooked, Guy Gavriel Kay makes sure to punch you in the gut with all he's got.
Only one thing bothered me: Kay likes to injure his characters without telling the reader which one, and then forces the reader to rush through another chapter in a desperate attempt to find out just how upset they need to be. (And the sex scenes made me cringe... but that's often the case.)
I recommend this highly to anyone interested in history more so than fantasy.