The Fionavar Tapestry Book III: The Darkest Road

In The Darkest Road, Kim makes the acquaintance of a survivor of Eridu, a land that has been annihilated by a poison rain caused by cauldron of Kath Meigol. She then quests to liberate the Paraiko, a primeval race of giants, from suffocation in their caves at the hands of svart alfar. Although pacifists, Kim convinces even the Paraiko play their part in the war to come.

And war is coming. Aileron the High King marches his army north to join the Dalrei and lios alfar, while Shalhassan of Cathal holds the rear guard. The dwarves, who betrayed Fionavar in helping to release Rakoth from his thousand-year bondage, must also be dealt with. Matt Sören, once source to Loren Silvercloak, must also fulfill his destiny to become king, replacing the corrupt King Kaen, and bring the army of the dwarves back to the forces of Light.

In the background, there are two ancient love triangles. When Arthur brings back Lancelot du Lac from his sleep in Caer Sedat, Jennifer, who is Guinevere, must deal with the two men whom she has loved. Also, the pain of the suicide of Lisen, a deiena who loved the first mage Amairgen Whitebranch, resurfaces after a thousand years. When Amairgen was lost at sea in a storm, Lisen threw herself from a tower and into the sea, causing the grief of Galadan, who loved her, but turning him bitter and nihilistic over the years, as he served as Rakoth’s lieutenant.

And in the midst of all the passion, grief, and sacrifice, Darien must decide finally on his allegiance. As a free radical who Rakoth did not wish to conceive, Darien has the chance to choose whether to save or destroy the world. He walks a lonely, dark road to the ziggurat of Starkadh, Rakoth’s dark fortress at the base of Mount Rangat, where he will have a final encounter.

Kay evades your expectations in this final book, and even when something is about to go so perfectly right for the protagonists, there is usually some tragedy or unanticipated twist that ruins it, and then you have to keep reading. There is a final physical clash of armies, but the emphasis is far more on how the destinies of the different characters are being fulfilled, one after an other on that battlefield—and how some destinies are reversed.

There are layers and layers to The Darkest Road, and the ending took me a little by surprise. I had a few spoilers about the plot before I began to read it, but the spoilers amounted to nothing, since the novel kept my interest despite them.

In conclusion, The Fionavar Tapestry is an excellent work to be rediscovered, and it restored my faith in the epic fantasy, which had been smashed while reading the formulaic doggerel of certain other fantasy novelists. There arrives a point where fantasy stops being fantasy, in the most important sense of the word, even if there are dragons and dwarves and elves in it. The Fionavar Tapestry, however, is a brightly woven epic fantasy, which renews not only the genre from me, but actually does, in a way, reshape my perception of the world.

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