I’m so glad I carried on reading The Fionavar Tapestry with The Wandering Fire. As I said in my little gushing post a couple of days ago, these books are still pure magic for me. Part of it is the stories themselves and another aspect is the way their interact with my own reading history and where I was in my life when I first found them.
I acknowledge that to a certain degree, the books are a fairly simple tale of young people from our world being called into another world to save it and everyone turns out to be special in some way. That’s a trope that’s considered fairly old hat these days and even looked down on to some degree. Back in the 1980s, it was still new and this was a very good example of it.
If the folklore that pervades a lot of speculative fiction these days relates to vampires and werewolves and zombies, back them in was Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend. I loved them both. (I still do and will always check out books with that kind of inspiration even if I will be more discriminating these days about what I’ll actually choose to read.)
This is the book that introduces Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot into the narrative (although we had met one of them already and didn’t know it) and it works beautifully for me. Like everything in the story, it is bright and full of pain both as fate and combined history play out towards tragedy all over again.
It is, as Kay calls it, Saddest story of all the long tales told, and yet there is something beautiful in that sadness and it adds a great richness to the tale. And not only in the Arthurian part of the story; Fionavar, first of all the worlds, stands to fall to the Dark and so many will have their parts to play before the end of the story, often also bright and painful.
Bittersweet. There’s a bitter sweetness in much of what happens and the reader has to have faith in the author to maintain the balance between the two and let the reader and the characters have some joy, some redemption to counter the pain.
I’ve read the next book (and I’m looking forward to reading it again). I know I can indeed have that faith. That the balance Kay choses as characters come to their fates works for me and give me a set of books I love.
I’ve already said I’ve been afraid to reread the trilogy for fear it would stand up across over 20 years, but it has for me. I think I may often be reading it again in the future now that I know I’m safe from that kind of disappointment.