readalong, Wyrd And Wonder

The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay: Read-Along Week 4

Our journey has come to an end, for better or for worse, and now we readers of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry have only these thoughts to cling to. It has been a wonderful time over these last few months reading this trilogy with you all, so thank you for being a light in the darkness and to Imyril for organising it all! These final reflections and questions have been put together by Peat of Peat Long’s Blog, so without further ado, let us dive in! The spoilierist spoilers only ahead, you have been warned…

Perhaps the most important characters after the five have been the sons of Ailell and the Dark Rose of Cathal, and their arcs have received a fiery culmination as the sun sets one last time for Diarmuid, leaving the people he loved most deeply and complicatedly behind. Tell me of your reactions, your thoughts, and what you make of these three at the ending.

Kay!!!! How could you!!! That was my reaction to poor Diar’s noble exit from this world, and the only other death that made me tear up (the other was Finn). If I hadn’t been on public transport at the time I may have openly wept! I did not expect this, having strongly disliked him for most of book one, and I do at times find myself remembering some of his early actions in disappointment but the truth is that I have fallen for Diarmuid’s charms just as much as everyone around him, and was so sad to see him go. My heart also felt for Sharra, who we see painfully little of after his death. How did this affect her after the war? Did she fade into a shadow of herself, or did she pour her grief into rebuilding her country? Did she forge bonds with Aileron in their shared grief? I want to know!

I feel quite unsatisfied with the unresolved things between the two brothers, the love that Diarmuid clearly craved from Aileron never really expressed… as for the High King, I am surprised he survived, but knew he would as soon as his brother died. I don’t have too much else to say about him, as he did not have much depth to him as a character, though I wish there had been more to the series so he could have been developed further.

This being the ending, it’s big old battle time, with lots of twists and tragedies and all. Did any of the twists particularly surprise you, or fulfill your expectations? Anything you wish had been done different… even no battle at all?

I am not a big battle person, but it was inevitable from book one, really, and Kay did a good job of keeping it interesting and well-paced. It was perhaps a little too reliant on one side of the other going ‘surprise we have this super weapon/warrior’ and essentially then Uno reverse-carding each other until the end. But I suppose there couldn’t have been another effective way to do it, since it was clear that the Light’s army could never overcome with just human effort. I will say that the dragon was the biggest surprise, and though I am glad it didn’t have the chance to wreak any real damage, I would have liked to see a bit more of it. It seems almost silly to have this huge beast that has been growing for centuries for this very moment, for it to die immediately. And also, the dragon’s arrival was built up through multiple points of view, always cutting away before the first glimpse, so that I was a bit frustrated at the quick end of that conflict.

But I am glad poor Tabor survived, because I was ready to cry for him. I never quite got the appeal of Imraith-Nimphais so, though I was sad for him, I wasn’t that affected by her noble death. It might also be that there were so many noble deaths! Too many! It went from Diar to Imraith-Nimphais to Darien to Finn and it just felt like a trick repeated too often too close together. I think my favourite parts of the battle where the ones in the midst of it all, from Dave’s perspective, and the glimpses from the top of the hill over the entire thing.

It seems perhaps appropriate that The Darkest Road’s ending involves an ending for the child on The Darkest Road, but it’s saddening too. What were your feelings at the end of Darien’s search for acceptance? And if you haven’t mentioned him already, what of the other child on The Darkest Road – what of Finn?

I so hoped Darien could have a life beyond his ultimate choice, to discover love and goodness and choose that goodness very day just like everyone else. To always be a random and potentially dangerous thread, but still find some happiness. But then no one else could have done what he did, and I am glad he had some peace right at the end, and I hope his soul really did find Finn’s as the crossed over into the next life. I suppose his actions vindicate Jennifer’s choice to push Dairen away, and that doesn’t really sit well with me, because despite what she told herself and others, I don’t think she was acting with the best intentions.

She was – understandably – traumatised and put her pain on her child, and then held on to his being of complete randomness in the hopes it would fix her love triangle. I may be being a little harsh on her, but her presence in this third book has just been one of haughtiness and silent but very meaningful (apparently) glances, as if expressing feelings in real outbursts isn’t worthy of such a lady…

At the heart of this story was always the Five, even when reduced to Four. As we say goodbye to them, tell us what you think of who they’ve been, how they’ve grown, and how they end.

First I must express my relief that Dave survived. Well, all four of them really… I didn’t see much hope at one point, especially for the three who became someone different in Fionavar. I think I love Dave (and it seems he’s generally a favourite) because he’s the closest stand-in the reader has. He brushes up against magic and the gods, he fights among the people, but he is still a law student from Toronto and he goes home changed but still himself. I did love his arc, and his time among the Dalrei was always my favourite to read about… I definitely would pick up a spin-off about his adventures with Levon and Torc, blood brothers on the road. And I love that he was the one who most thought of Kevin after his sacrifice, dwelling on the complications of love and relationships, and I really hope he was able to mend something with his family.

He’s also the perfect balance to Kim, and I’m glad they go back together, because she has been so deep in the middle of the powers of Fionavar, and needs something to ground her. I do with Kay had done a bit more development with Kim, though, because the Baelrath being her main source of action made her quite passive, which was hard to read once that power was gone. She’s still a seer and it would have been cool to see that part be bigger once the war stone was silent. As for Paul, I was surprised he was leaving, so it made perfect sense when he did decide to stay, but I did roll my eyes at his “Oh, my love” line to Jaelle. It felt really out of character. I don’t begrudge the scene itself, and could definitely feel that Kay was building something up there, but it just felt jarring to go from these two prickly people dancing around each other to sudden passion with no remains of shyness or hesitation.

And Jen… well I’ve already said a lot about her but I am happy with her ending. I kept thinking Kay would kill off one of her lovers, but I am going to read that fact of them all departing on a ship together as Kay making them a thruple, and I hope they have a lovely time.

And everything else! Thoughts on the Mattery and Loren, thoughts on the Children of Peace, the Wolflord, everything you’ve not commented on, but particularly what you think of the whole series now it’s done; its themes, its style, its relationship to other fantasy works, and anything else of interest

Yes, let’s talk about Galadan! I am so glad my instinct of his redemptive arc was right! It seemed that might not be the case at the start of the battle, but when it happened it was a much needed bit of hope at the end of so much darkness. He reminds me a lot of Loki in the MCU, that dramatic and angry villain that just needs love, but his lashing out is spectacularly disastrous for everyone else. I am glad he was give another chance, and I hope he realises his motives and actions were incredibly stupid and apologises to everyone after some meditation with his forest father.

I would love to see what becomes of both the dwarves and the Paraiko after the war. Do the dwarves ever address the things that led them down the path of serving Rakoth or did Matt just take back power and that was that? What influence did Loren have in the kingdom? I do like the two of them, especially when the roles were reversed at the end of the last book and Matt’s story took priority. Another spin off I would happily read is all the budding mage apprentices doing their gap year in the dwarven kingdom. As for the Paraiko, did they spread out after the war? I know that Ruana was at the celebrations in Brennin, but what about the others? So many questions!

We also see very little of the lios alfar after the battle, and I was sure that Brendel’s path would end with him hearing his song and going across the sea, but I’d also love to see what changes in Fionavar now that the lios have reopened their kingdom. I think all my questions show what an interesting world Kay has created in this series, and I know I’ve been very critical and picky at times, but it’s been wonderful to be inside the world and the story, and I wish we could see more of it. Kay’s prose style was sometimes not great for the faster scenes and the more in-depth character development, but it was perfect for the stunning world-building he created and really gave depth to his mythos and setting. I would happily travel across the Plane, and explore the forests and shores, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magic that permeates Fionavar. So I am sad that we have come to the end, but will always treasure this read-along and the company I had in discovering this staple of fantasy.

3 thoughts on “The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay: Read-Along Week 4”

  1. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the trilogy – I’ve really enjoyed reading it with you, and getting the fresh perspectives! I’m 100% with you in this final week of feeling unexpected sadness for Diar and slightly disgruntled that we don’t see Sharra after; even if I’m not so sure about Galadan’s redemption. That said, I’d totally read a spin off set centuries later (Fionavar subjective time) where some big threat emerges and he’s trying to help but not entirely trusted because of his past antics.

    …also, your point about too many dramatic / sacrificial deaths is spot on. It does get a bit samey, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does get samey, but I have no idea what an effective alternative would be other than just very detailed battle scenes? Or I suppose making the forces of dark less overwhelming in the first place? Unsure!

      I definitely agreed with what you said in your post about mindset when reading, because even though I really liked this book it was also in the middle of some very modern, fast-paced books with complex character development etc and it’s hard to switch mindset so quickly!

      But I had a lot of fun, so thanks for organising it all 😊


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