Today’s Friday blogging theme is:
Share a book you can read again and again without getting bored.
Well, I have to admit I’m a big re-reader of novels. Often I wish I wasn’t, because just think of all the marvellous books out there I never seem to have time to read. But the simple fact is sometimes (if I’m having a bad day, for example) I return to a book I know I’ll love, rather than risk dissatisfaction with something untested.
Today I’m highlighting one of my all time favourite fantasy novels, The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve mentioned it a few times before on this blog, but it’s so fabulous I’m plugging it again. I’ve read it about four times in the past 20 years (nearly) since it came out. And every time I love it.
If you take the novel at face-value, it’s the story of two powerful men from different and opposing backgrounds, each of whom falls out with his respective leader and is exiled to the same remote city where they form an unlikely friendship and mutual respect. The other main characters are a female physician from an outlawed culture, and a young soldier whose personal journey shows how one’s perspective and allegiance can change through experience.
The official book blurb (from Amazon) reads:
Over the centuries, the once stern rulers of Al-Rassan have been seduced by sensuous pleasures. Now King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, adding city after city to his realm, aided by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan–poet, diplomat, soldier–until a summer day of savage brutality changes their relationship forever. Meanwhile, in the north, the Jaddite’s most celebrated–and feared–military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, and Ammar meet. Sharing the interwoven fate of both men is Jehane, the beautiful, accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond….
In a magnificent setting, hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply moving story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake–or destroy–a world.
I love this book for its marvellous characters, thought-provoking drama, and poignant love triangle.
Every time I read it, I get something new out of it. Spending time with these amazing characters in this richly evocative world is a truly immersive and inspiring experience.
It doesn’t take much insight to realise there’s a whole lot simmering beneath the surface of this novel. The fantastical world is an alternate version of medieval Moorish Spain, which experienced a Golden Age of tolerance, art and philosophy, where people of different cultures and religions lived side-by-side in harmony… until it all started to crumble.
Set against a backdrop of the fall of Granada — the last Moorish stronghold in Spain — and the legend of El Cid (who was historically much earlier, but this IS a fantasy novel), The Lions of Al-Rassan explores themes of how religion can underpin prejudices, alliances and conflict.
“Lions is mainly about how organised religion takes away the freedom and breathing space of individuals… I wanted to see what would happen to people’s preconceptions and prejudices about cultures: Christian, Moslem, Jewish, if the names were changed and if the religious beliefs were rendered virtually banal: one religion worships the Sun, another worships the Moon, and another worships the stars. And out of that relatively banal conflict of ideologies, you have crushingly brutal military and psychological conflict.”
I get so much more out of the novel, knowing this.
Moreover, this novel was the number one reason I tailored my last European holiday around visiting the Alhambra in Granada, which provided much of the inspiration for The Lions of Al-Rassan. Here’s one of my favourite photos from that visit.
For further information, reviews and discussion about this remarkable book, visit the dedicated page (with links) on Kay’s web site.
Other participants in today’s WANAFriday blogfest are:
- Margaret Miller shares On the Beach by Nevil Shute
- Rabia Gale shares three of her favourite re-reads, including Howl’s Moving Castle
- Linda Adams observes a common thread to her favourite re-reads
- Cora Ramos muses about synchonicity and plugs The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
- Kim Griffin tells us why she re-reads The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins over and over again
- Janice Heck shares her love of Tuscany in Mind: An Anthology edited by Alice Leccese Powers
- Tami Clayton reveals her top four re-reads
- Seth Swanson shares three of his favourite action SFF adventures
We’ll be tweeting to #wanafriday and tagging blog posts wanafriday as well. If you care to play too, please post your link in the comments and I’ll update the post. Or just join in!
Or, if not, please do share your favourite re-reading books in the comments. I’d love to hear about them.