The Fionavar Tapestry Series by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Fionavar Tapestry is a portal fantasy trilogy published between 1984 and 1986. The story follows five young Canadians—Kimberly (Kim) Ford, Jennifer Lowell, Dave Martyniuk, Paul Schafer, and Kevin Laine— who are drawn into Fionavar, the first of all worlds, by Loren Silvercloak and must discover their destiny.

Attention, brave readers: Hidden within these words lie mystical affiliation links. Should you venture to follow their path and make a purchase, a magical commission may find its way to my coffers.

The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy in Order

The Fionavar Tapestry was the first work from Guy Gavriel Kay and consists of the three following books:

The Summer Tree (1984)
The Wandering Fire (1986)
The Darkest Road (1986)

Many years later, the Canadian author published Ysabel, a stand-alone sequel. A few characters from the Fionavar Tapestry appears in the story set 25 years after the conclusion. For this reason, the book can be understood without having read the trilogy.

Ysabel (2007)

After completing The Fionavar trilogy, Guy Gavriel Kay went on to write two stand-alone books, including one of his most celebrated works today, Tigana. Those two books are independent stories, though they are sometimes considered set in the same universe as there are minor allusions. It has no impact whatsoever on the stories.

Tigana (1990)
A Song for Arbonne (1992)

The following descriptions are borrowed from the publisher Ace Books.

The Summer Tree – It begins with a chance meeting that introduces the five to a man who will change their lives: a mage who brings them to the first of all worlds, Fionavar.

In this land of gods and myth, each of them is forced to discover what they are and what they are willing to do, as Fionavar stands on the brink of a terrifying war against a dark, vengeful god…

The Wandering Fire – After a thousand years of imprisonment the Unraveller has broken free and frozen Fionavar in the ice of eternal winter. His terrible vengeance has begun to take its toll on mortals and demi-gods, mages and priestesses, dwarves and the Children of Light. 

The five brought from Earth across the tapestry of worlds must act to wake the allies Fionavar desperately needs. But no one can know if these figures out of legend have power enough to shatter the icy grip of death upon the land—or if they even want to…

The Darkest Road – As the Unraveller’s armies assemble, those resisting him must call upon the most ancient of powers, knowing that if this realm of gods and magic is conquered by evil, the ripples of destruction will be felt across all worlds. 

But despite the sacrifices made and courage shown, all may be undone because of one child’s choice. For that one has been born of both Darkness and Light, and he alone must walk the darkest road as the fate of worlds hangs in the balance…

Writing the Fionavar Tapestry

In an old interview with Alison Flood from the Guardian, author Guy Gavriel Kay revisited why he wrote the Fionavar Tapestry and his connections with the world of J.R.R. Tolkien.

He first admitted that it was “a 26-year-old’s arrogance” that inspired him.  He expressed dismay at the abundance of fantasy literature emerging in the 1980s and that many works seemed to directly draw inspiration from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” without delving into the same deep roots, myths, legends, and origins that had inspired Tolkien himself. So explains:

“For me, part of what was going on – well, this is the arrogant part – was wanting to say that the roots of the fantastic go behind where everyone seems to be starting and stopping, which is one quite brilliant work written in the 1940s and 50s,” 

Kay was only 26 at the time, but had an amazing professional experience already, as he had worked in Oxford between 1974 and 1975, with Christopher Tolkien in compiling “The Silmarillion,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s comprehensive history of Middle-earth.

Kay didn’t start writing his book directly after that. He first returned to Canada and took a law degree. But he never practiced as a lawyer. Not long after, he found himself thinking more and more about myth and legend and folklore. “I had been obsessed with the Arthurian legends all my life, and I knew that that would work its way into any trilogy I wrote”, he explained. Combining with his determination to show that fantasy was more than Tolkien, Kay said:

“I wanted to show you could go behind that to the origins, and work in new ways with similar material. That was part of the self-conscious element of why I was doing Fionavar […]. And I felt empowered to do that because of my connection, with working for the Tolkien estate. I felt validation, some authenticity to my making statements like that.”

For more portal fantasy, dive into the Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber or The Pendulum Trilogy by Will Elliott.