The recent news of author Guy Gavriel Kay being appointed to the Order of Canada (that country’s second highest civilian honor) made me revisit his canon of works – a very pleasant effort. It was a shock, then, for me to realize that while I’ve spoken highly of certain of his novels before, I have never actually recommended one here at LitStack.
This must be rectified, immediately.
For those of you who are not familiar with Guy Gavriel Kay, I would heartily recommend that you start with his amazing fantasy novel “The Last Light of the Sun”. Wait! Before those of you who aren’t really enamored with the fantasy genre reach for your mouse, know that while this book may not be strictly based in our world and it may not meet the criteria for historical fiction, it will take you into the realm of the Viking invasions into Saxon England more solidly that any other media I’ve seen to date (and yes, that includes a certain television series on the History Channel).
Bern Thorkellson is a young Erling man who wishes – who must – prove himself as a warrior. Despite already bearing the weight of the sins of his father, he gains admittance to Jormsvik, a fortress for elite Erling mercenaries, and soon is attached to a raiding party heading from Vinmark to Anglcyn.
Anglcyn is ruled by Aeldred, who in his youth saved the kingdom from Erling conquest and now is committed to uniting his people and building a strong defense not based solely on arms, but also using scholarship, ingenuity, and cooperation amongst neighbors.
One of those neighboring kingdoms is Cyngael. The novel finds two Cyngaelian princes, Alun ap Owyn and his brother Dai, harbored in the house Brynn ap Hywll, legendary warrior and leader of another Cyngael province. A sudden attack by an Erling raiding party kills Dai, and his spirit is taken by a curious sprite to the fairy queen. Alun, attempting to reach his brother, skirts the edges of the fairy world while still driven by the need to revenge Dai’s murder in this world.
Woven into these scenarios are an incredibly strong story of the love between a father and son, an author’s amazing ability to reflect different perspectives within a violent clash of cultures, and a touching reflection on the desire for/sorrow for the passing of an age. Fantasy enthusiasts, historians and historical fiction aficionados, Anglophiles, devotes of Ragnar Lothbrok, or anyone looking for a captivating, beautifully written, thoroughly engaging read, pick up a copy of “The Last Light of the Sun”. You’ll never look at Vikings the same again.