Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 140: The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

by | Apr 28, 2024 | 2024 Book Reviews, Book Reviews, Guy Gavriel Kay, Marion's Favorite Books, Marion's Favorites, Marion's Reading Life Blog, Wisdom From Kammbia Column | 0 comments

A significant sign that you are truly invested in a book is when you prioritize reading amidst your busy work week and other commitments, consistently devouring 10 pages here, 15 pages there, and 20-30 pages whenever you can. A novel that entices and captivates your imagination is a clear sign that most readers desire to experience as often as possible.

This is the case for The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. I have been vocal online about my belief that Guy Gavriel Kay is one of our very best writers working today. Across seven novels, I have been entranced by his unique style of historical fantasy, which effortlessly draws readers into his medieval worlds that are entirely imagined but feel possible.

The Lions of Al-Rassan takes aim at Moorish Spain from the 7th and 8th century. Kay reimagines this world in his “quarter turn into the fantastic” style. The story intersects tri-culturally with Asharites (Muslims), Jaddites (Christians), and Kindath (Jews) as each group attempts to seize control of the land that is split two regions: Esperana (Northern Spain & Portgual) and Al-Rassan (Southern Spain & Portgual).

Our three main characters, Jehane bet Ishak (a female Kindath physician), Rodrigo Belmonte (famed military commander of Valledo, a Jaddite), and Ammar ibn Khairan (an Asharite assassin, warrior, and advisor) are brought together through unique circumstances as both regions undergo exceptional change. Their interactions establish a world characterized by religious warfare and explore the true meaning of faith, which may come at a great personal cost.

Kay doesn’t provide easy answers in this novel that takes its time getting to the climax of the story. Reading The Lions of Al-Rassan (like most of Kay’s work) demands patience and introspection. Trusting Kay’s guidance, I settled into the story, hoping my readerly instincts wouldn’t be misguided. They were not.

I have written that Children of Earth & Sky is my favorite Guy Gavriel Kay novel of the seven I have read so far. Well, I believe Lions of Al-Rassan is a contender for that title. I can not write highly enough about a novel of imaginative fiction sweeps you away from your everyday life in the best possible way and has something to say about war, love, religion, and multiculturalism simultaneously. The Lions of Al-Rassan will be one of the favorite reads of 2024.  Bravo Guy Gavriel Kay!



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