In the early nineties, I took out a book called “The Darkest Road” from the town library. It had an incredible cover by John Howe and the author, the blurb said, had helped Christopher Tolkien edit The Silmarillion. This had to be good.
What I failed to see was the little red “3” on the front, and it was only when I started reading that I realised this was the third book of a trilogy. The library didn’t have the first two, and you couldn’t get English books in Bremerhaven back then, so this had to wait.
I got the other two on an England trip a few years later. The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the densest stories I’ve ever read (at least until G. R. R. Martin), with a huge cast of characters and a story that draws heavily on Celtic mythology. What has stayed with me more than anything else was the language. Kay writes beautifully, and there are lines and verses from his books that I find myself saying aloud just for the love of the sound. There nothing like reciting
“When the Wandering Fire
Strikes the Ring of Stone
Will you follow?
Will you leave your home?
Will you leave your life?
Will you take the Longest Road?”
at the cheese counter at a supermarket. ;)
I’d read the books more than twenty years ago, and had forgotten almost everything about the story and even the characters, but some phrases and scenes are still with me. Such as this one, of the young Tabor and his blood-red winged unicorn Imraith-Nimphais. When she appears to him in a vision as his destined totem animal, he reacts with astonishment because he expected an animal more down to earth, and she tells him to not reject him, for they will have “only each other at the last.”
In the final book, in the final confrontation with Maugrim the Unraveller, the heroes face a terrible dragon, and as every other way to overcome it fails, it is down to Tabor and Imraith-Nimphais to take on the dragon, having only each other at the last.
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