What an amazing novel! THE SUMMER TREE, the debut novel of author Guy Gavriel Kay, blew into the historical fantasy world in 1984. Echoes of Tolkein are aplenty in this novel, not surprising as Kay helped Christopher Tolkein edit his father’s unpublished work when he was but a 20-year-old student at the University of Toronto.
THE SUMMER TREE opens at the University of Toronto, when five fellow students and friends decide to go to a lecture given by famous academic Lorenzo Marcus. However, Marcus is not quite what he seems, and thus the engine of the story is set in motion.
Although this is a spectacular debut, you can tell that it is an early work by an author still finding his craft. There are too many times where one of the characters stops the action dead in order to make a flowery speech about people with long unmemorable names in a fictional past which frankly doesn’t seem to have much bearing on the story. As one of the Amazon reviewers said, Kay’s work has gotten a lot better. This is true, but for those of us who enjoy fantasy portal mysteries, you should give yourselves permission to enjoy this one. Five stars.