Guy Gavriel Kay (born November 7, 1954) is a multiple award-wining Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realm that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categorization when possible.
Kay has written over 10 novels and numerous shorter works. His works have been translated into 22 languages, and have sold over two million copies.
Kay was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, both in Canada. His background is Jewish.
When Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien's unpublished work, he chose Kay, then a student at the University of Manitoba, whose parents were friends of Baillie Tolkien's parents. Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in the editing of The Silmarillion. There he learnt a lot about writing and editing, and later admitted of Tolkien's influence, "to be successful in fantasy, you have to take the measure of Tolkien ... work with his strengths and away from his weaknesses".
He returned to Canada in 1976 to finish a law degree at the University of Toronto, and became interested in fiction writing.
Kay became Principal Writer and Associate Producer for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio series, The Scales of Justice.
In 1984, Kay's first fantasy work, The Summer Tree, the first volume of the trilogy The Fionavar Tapestry, was published.
Most of Kay's subsequent works have a link to the realm of Fionavar, even if it is only a single reference to "... the first of all worlds...".
The Fionavar Tapestry, concerning five people from our Earth in a parallel world, "the first of all worlds," in three parts:
The Summer Tree (1984)
The Wandering Fire (1986), winner of the 1987 Aurora Award.
The Darkest Road (1986)
Tigana (1990), winner of the 1991 Aurora Award. Relating to a sorcerer-oppressed realm in a medieval Italy analogue.
A Song for Arbonne (1992). A modification of the Albigensian Crusade in a medieval Provence analogue.
The Lions of Al-Rassan, (1995). The story of two military strategists (one an El Cid analogue) in a medieval Spain analogue.
The Sarantine Mosaic, a mosaicist under emperor Valerius II (a Justinian I analogue) in Sarantium (a Constantinople analogue), in two parts:
Sailing to Sarantium (1998)
Lord of Emperors (2000)
Beyond This Dark House (2003). A collection of poetry.
The Last Light of the Sun (2004). A story based on the Erling (Viking analogue culture) invasions of Anglcyn (which is an analogue of Saxon-England) and Cyngael (a medieval Wales analogue) during the rule of Aeldred (an analogue of Alfred the Great).
Ysabel (2007). A modern urban fantasy set in Provence, centering around a teenage boy and his encounters with characters from the distant past. Explicitly if lightly linked to The Fionavar Tapestry.
Under Heaven (April 27, 2010). A story based on the 8th century Tang Dynasty and the events leading up to the An Shi Rebellion.