readalong, Wyrd And Wonder

The Summer Tree Read-Along Week Three

Gather ye round children, we are three weeks in to our readalong of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay, and everything is happening! Many things come to a head, gods roam the land, and Dave has finally reappeared! Today I’m providing the questions for chapters 9 through 12, so please beware of spoilers, both in the questions and in the answers.

We’ve seen some extreme behaviour – we learn that Galadan’s wants to unravel the world because it witnessed his rejection. Ysanne’s sacrifice takes her out of the Tapestry entirely. What were your reactions to these and other character motivations?

It is somehow both a little jolt of surprise and totally normal for this kind of book, and I love it. Especially Galadan’s motivations – they make me chuckle and seem totally in character based on what we’ve seen so far. I think the poor man just needs a hug, maybe? Ysanne, on the other hand… it’s so hard, because sacrifice is so often a big feature of epic fantasy – good ol Tolkien at work there again, as well as the biblical influences – and so in some ways I hardly blink at it. But when I stop to think of Ysanne and what she chooses (or is fated) to do, I feel sad, and can’t help thinking it’s a little unfair. Was it really so important to the story that Kim learn everything about Fionavar immediately? I suppose with what happens right after, things are moving very quickly, but would the world not have benefitted from two seers?

It just seems incredibly cruel that Ysanne will forever be separated from her love, unable to rejoin him in the afterlife, and it does speak to the depth of her sacrifice. It also makes me wonder about the mechanics of the afterlife in this world – is this like the Wheel of Time where the wheel turns and people are reborn into the world, or do people immediately go beyond the Tapestry? And does this apply to all worlds, as Fionavar is the first? So many questions!

And speaking of sacrifice, Paul has spent his final night on the Summer Tree and all his defences have been stripped. How are you feeling towards Paul now and what do you think might happen to him next? Rereaders – do you remember your first reactions to this?

Oh, Paul! It certainly makes me forgive him a little for his earlier reticence, though I can’t quite forgive how he was towards Kevin, who just wanted to help his friend. I think, leading up to the moment he keeps reliving, with the car crash, I was so worried – as he was, I suppose – that he had done something purposeful in a moment of blind anger, and was just as relieved as he was to find out it was simply human error and horrible timing. I must admit to getting quite anxious because of this chapter… car crash scenes give me massive anxiety, more so when on tv but even reading them can be unpleasant. I’ve never been in a road accident or had anyone I know and care about be affected by it, but it’s become a fear of mine. Something can so easily go wrong…

Anyway, tangent of my own mortality over, this whole scene was so momentous. So many emotions swirling around, with Paul’s pain finally being felt, and the awe-inspiring presence and kindness of the goddess. It was all so ethereal and one can easily forget that Paul is still hanging from a tree throughout it all. I do wonder, after everything, what will happen to him.

I also have to say one more thing – Rachel seems to me to fit into the category of extreme motivations I mention in the first question. All I could think while reading the flashback scene was that Rachel did not deserve Paul’s love if she could so quickly agree to marry another person just because he ‘needs’ her. I mean, I’m sure it speaks to the fact that Paul isn’t just standoffish when he’s grieving, and is always a bit more reserved than he should be, but that’s not really an excuse… or at the very least, she could have had this conversation with him long before this moment. He had no idea that’s how she was feeling… I don’t know, it was just a very odd situation and I would like to see what others have made of it, and if I’m being too harsh.

Alongside (or because of?) Paul’s time on the Summer Tree, some cosmic forces seem to be moving in Fionavar again. Last week we talked about prophecy, but how do you feel about the role of deities and mythology in the book?

I love it when the gods walk the earth! Cosmic forces are my jam, and I hope we see more of them at work throughout the story. It’s interesting whenever you have a world that has deities they know are real and they aren’t just worshipping in the hope that they might because it makes for a different dynamic when your god or goddess might just turn up when you ask them to. It does seem like it’s been a while since they’ve been around – possibly since the last king hung on the Summer Tree? – so I do wonder how everyone will react to that.

Though there is the very distracting fact of Maugrim blowing up his mountain and announcing his return… I do feel like that came a little out of nowhere… I was expecting us to see at least one of the stones go red, and the fact maybe kept a secret by someone, before we had any massive volcanic eruptions. I do hope we get to see a little behind the scenes of Maugrim’s scheming.

We have (officially) met the banished prince Aileron! Impressions? And does his presence and return to court give us any further insight into the politics of Brennin?

Ah, the noble banished prince! I am so glad he wasn’t evil, though now that I think on my fantasy tropes there really wasn’t much chance of that. Aileron seems to me quite a complex character, tough and reserved, but perhaps weighed down by the expectation of the throne and the rift with his father. I’m sure there will be more to say as we see more of him, but for now I will simply enjoy his epic sword fight.

From the brief moments with Diarmuid when his brother is mentioned, I got the feeling he quite liked Aileron, but if that is the case then the feeling is certainly not mutual. It’s the dynamic one usually finds with half siblings, but as far as I know they share the same two parents… but I suppose one can despise any sibling, no matter how closely they’re related. And I definitely think that if noble Aileron looks down on his brother so much, then there is little hope for Diarmuid as a character. I do still think he has some hidden motivations, but it remains to be seen how noble they are.

I was a bit confused by the scene in which Aileron and Kim have returned to Brennin, because it seems as if they just openly walked in and people are aware of their presence, but nobody is kicking off about an exiled prince walking among them? Unless they met Kevin, Loren, and Matt (I still can’t get over a dwarf being named Matt) in a secluded place? I guess those answers will come next week! I’m sure there will be people protesting the Return of the King™ for all their many reasons.

At last, Dave has returned to grace the pages! His absence has caused much speculation, but how do you feel about him now that we know what he’s been up to?

Dave!! Or should I say Davor? Dave and his adventures had really made this section, and I almost wish they’d come a little sooner, but there is something comedic about all his friends worrying about him and going through so many dangers and dramas while Dave is just kicking back with the Dalrei. There goes my theory that he was in the clutches of evil and an unwitting instrument for the release of the dark lord, but this is better.

Like the others, Dave adapts surprisingly quickly to being in a different world, though he does think more often on his normal life. It sounds like he, more than anyone, needed to get away and be somewhere magical, and somewhere people cared about him, so I’m very happy for him. I know it can’t last, but he’s at least got this little bit of time to be part of a loving family. And – sobs – he brought Torc friendship and ultimately helped him become more accepted by his people. That really got me. It might be because I immediately loved Torc and just want the best for him, but I also definitely feel like Torc and Dave should just kiss. What is a better start to a relationship than bringing down a terrible beast together? Nothing!

Dave’s time with the Dalrei gives us a great deal of insight into a previously unseen culture within Fionavar, so it’s time for a world-building check in! Anything standing out?

After so much vagueness – thanks Loren – it’s been so nice to be immersed into a new culture for a longer period of time. Brennin and Cathal are still very blurry to me in terms of the setting, politics, history, etc but the Dalrei are so alive and so steeped in their traditions and way of living that it just jumps off the page. Seeing them makes me want to explore more of the map, which I’m sure we will do at some point… I feel like when I wrote this question I had many things I wanted to talk about, but sadly they all seem to have disappeared from my brain. It has been a long week! Basic answer: it’s a cool world and I wanna see more. Thank you.

4 thoughts on “The Summer Tree Read-Along Week Three”

  1. The whole question of ‘what happens when people die’ will get spelled out a bit more in future (book 2?) if I remember right. I don’t think it’s reincarnation like Wheel of Time – more that the Weaver gathers his children to him after death (which is pretty Tolkienesque; as is the distinction of what happens to humans vs lios).

    I said over on Annemieke’s blog that I suspect Paul would be easy to fall in love with and difficult to live with, and I stand by that. I don’t think it excuses Rachel’s actions – he goes away for a month to give her space to prepare for her recital and she promptly has an affair (seems at odds with how in love she seemed to be but at least it was with another person she already had a very close relationship with so I guess one thing led to another); although I’m not really clear if the affair started during that month or earlier. About the best you can say is that having made up her mind she doesn’t prolong the cheating; and I can understand her choosing the person she feels is more present / less defensive with her.

    In the end, this is all about be mirroring Galadan’s reaction to Lisen rejecting him with Paul’s reaction to Rachel betraying him; and I’m still going to stay mildly irritated that she gets fridged 😉

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