Younger Me adored Guy Gavriel Kay. Older Crabby Me has tried reading him, but found him melodramatic. But when I saw one of his I’d never heard of on the library shelf, I decided to give it a try.
It takes place in the same world as Sailing to Sarantium, but that one was never one of my favorites (Tigana or Fionovar all the way!), so I don’t remember aaaaanything about it except mosaics and melodrama. So I can’t even tell you if this one takes place way before or way after, but I’m pretty sure none of the characters are the same, and it’s a whole new story.
A dude who keeps insisting how unremarkable he is keeps stumbling into big important situations with big important people. He does small things that may or may not have huge impacts on the Fate of the World (melodrama!). He repeats himself a lot, dramatically: “It could be enough. It was enough.” The country is on the verge of war, and two toxic masculinity poster boys are squaring up to end their decades-long enmity and feud. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but they both happen to be captains of huge mercenary companies, which means lots of people will die and cities will fall because of their mutual hatred.
Kay does this fun thing where he takes one small character and follows him to the end of his story as a sidebar, showing how the ripples of destiny affect everyone. There were several times I would rather have been following those side characters (especially the atheist lady doctor) rather than the main cast.
He can definitely spin a yarn, but this one felt a little paint-by-numbers. Conflict, then Small Tragedy, but it’s okay because Destiny, then Big Tragedy that concludes the story and Changes the Shape of the World. This review feels harsh, but I mostly enjoyed the book while reading it. I just think it confirmed that I have outgrown GGK. I’m tempted to reread Tigana and see if I still love it, but I’m also worried. Once-favorite turned melodramatic cringe would be sad!