The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy of books by Guy Gavriel Kay: The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire
and The Darkest Road
. It draws on a lot of different mythology, and I think it was probably influenced by a great deal of other fantasy writing, but it also creates something new and beautiful. I was sent the first book by a friend who warned me that my first reaction would be to scream "Lord of the Rings self-inserts!", which was entirely true, but he also told me that if I stuck with it, I would adore it -- also true.
I don't think there's a series of books that have ever made me cry as often as these. The characters all became very dear to me the first time, and more so in each subsequent reading. All of them have their flaws, but all of them change and grow. All of them have their pain to deal with, too. The books are very emotionally intense. Here is a little extract from early in the first book, one of my favourite parts:
"You idiot!" Paul shouted, his chest heaving. "You scared the hell out of me!"
Kevin blinked, then the too, too much boiled over. "You shut up! I scared you? What do you think you've been doing to me since Rachel died?"
Paul, utterly unprepared, was shocked silent. Trembling with emotion and adrenaline afterburn, Kevin spoke again, his voice raw. "I mean it, Paul. When I was waiting at the bottom, I didn't think you were going to make it down. And, Paul, I wasn't sure you cared."
Their heads were close together, for the words to be heard. Schafer's pupils were enormous. In the reflected moonlight his face was so white as to be almost inhuman.
"That isn't quite true," he said, finally.
"But it isn't far wrong. Not far enough. Oh, Paul, you have to bend a little. If you can't talk, can't you cry at least? She deserves your tears. Can't you cry for her?"
At that, Paul Schafer laughed. The sound chilled Kevin to the core, there was such wildness in it. "I can't," Paul said. "That's the whole problem, Kev. I really, really can't."
"Then you're going to break," Kevin rasped.
"I might," Schafer replied, scarcely audible. "I'm trying hard not to, believe me. Kev, I know you care. It matters to me, very much. If... if I do decide to go, I'll... say goodbye. I promise you'll know."
That is the sound of my heart breaking all over again!
It's epic fantasy, with lots of very Tolkien-ish aspects -- this is true. It's undoubtedly somewhat derivative. But the writing is beautiful and the characters are wonderful and everything is so very hard won -- no slinging magic around painlessly here.
There's so much in the way of potential ships. Even most of the canon ships are not properly explored. So much in the way of friendships to be explored, too.
I, obviously, think it's wonderful. Most of Guy Gavriel Kay's writing is.
(I actually have two Fionavar Tapestry fic claims in this comm!)