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Creator / Guy Gavriel Kay

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Guy Gavriel Kay CM (born November 7, 1954) is an award-winning Canadian fantasy author. His works are known for hewing close to medieval European history, and for having very little magic.

As a young man, he worked with Christopher Tolkien preparing J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion for publication.


Tropes common to his works include:

  • Alien Sky: Of the multiple moons variety.
  • Author Appeal: Masquerade carnivals with anonymous sex. At least two of his books feature extensive bondage scenes. Kay is also fond of deep musings on the nature and philosophy of sex workers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: His books frequently feature happy endings for the protagonists but somber implications for the world at large. Under Heaven and Lord of Emperors are examples of Kay novels that evoke an overwhelming sense of loss in the background.
  • Canon Welding: Elements from The Fionavar Tapestry show up in other books occasionally. Every book where the Jaddite, Kindath and Asharite religions appear is also set in the same world.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Thinly veiled stand-ins for real world religions appear in most of his novels.
  • Decadent Court: A recurring theme in his novels. Several plots are kick-started by palace intrigue.
  • Disease by Any Other Name: Diabetes shows up in Under Heaven, under the name "the sugar sickness."
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: In some novels, Kay sticks so closely to the source material that individual characters can be matched one for one with historical figures from the original cultures. He has said that he uses fantasy to write about historical eras with the freedom to change the events as he desires.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: With the exception of Ysabel and Tigana. The former is closer White-and-Grey Morality and latter is The Good, the Bad, and the Evil.
  • Historical Fantasy: Kay's basic modus operandi is to take a not-too-well-known historical event, change all the names (but keep the original cultural flavourings intact—the country may be called Kitai, but everyone still speaks Chinese and have Mandarin names), add a dash of magic, and construct the character's arcs around it. Namely:
    • Tigana: The unification of Italy.
    • A Song For Arbonne: The Albigensian Crusade .
    • The Lions of Al-Rassan: The Spanish Reconquista.
    • The Sarantine Mosaic: The reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and the aftermath of the Nika Riots.
    • The Last Light of the Sun: The Viking incursion during the reign of Alfred the Great.
    • Under Heaven: The An Lushan Rebellion during the Tang Dynasty.
    • River of Stars: The Jin-Song War and the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty.
    • Children of Earth and Sky: The aftermath of the Fall of Constantinople and the intrigues between Venice and other Adriatic maritime states.
    • A Brightness Long Ago: The feud between mercenary captains Federico da Montefeltro and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta in Renaissance Italy.
    • All the Seas of the World: Christian-Muslim conflicts in the Renaissance-era Mediterranean.
  • Love Triangle: Though generally unobtrusive, Kay protagonists often have multiple love interests. In The Sarantine Mosaic, Crispin meets no fewer than five candidates for his Second Love.
  • Low Fantasy: While magic is always present to one degree or another in his novels, it usually remains in the background, and plays a small role in the outcome of the events depicted. That said, this is not universal. The Fionavar Tapestry, which is High Fantasy, is an exception to this rule, while Tigana is something of a transitional book that sits on the edge between High and Low Fantasy.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Many of Kay's protagonists are artists or creative sorts:
    • A Song For Arbonne: Bertrand, Liseau and the other minstrels.
    • Tigana: Devin, Catriana, and Alisanne start out as a musical troupe.
    • The Sarantine Mosaic: Caius Crispus is a gifted mosaicist.
    • Under Heaven: Shen Tai is no artist, but he befriends Sima Zian, the most celebrated poet of his day (inspired by the real-life Li Bai).
    • River of Stars: Lin Shan is a rare female poet, based on Li Qingzhao.
    • Children of Earth and Sky: The portrait artist Pero Villani, based on Gentile Bellini, the first Venetian painter to travel to the Ottoman court.
  • Shown Their Work: Each time he borrows from a particular culture, Kay works in some element of its artistic traditions. Standouts include the poems from Under Heaven, the troubador songs from A Song For Arbonne, and the descriptions of mosaics from The Sarantine Mosaic.
  • The 'Verse: Unusually, Kay's body of work has two nested 'verses. The larger universe is centered around Fionavar, the Prime World from which all other worlds derive their myths and legends. One of the worlds stemming from Fionavar — the world where Holy Jad is worshipped — is the setting of several loosely related novels.
  • True Companions
  • Two Lines, No Waiting