The first two chapters of this book were a little jarring--they seemingly had nothing whatsoever to do with each other. In fact, after the first one, I almost thought this was a collection of stories. The other thing I found irritating was the use of the term "blood-eagle". It is talked of as a horrible way to die, but it is well into the book (page 165) before it is actually explained, and that in passing. A full description doesn't come until two chapters later (page 215). (If you're wondering, suffice it to say that it is a particularly nasty and brutal way to die, right up there with some of the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition.) Despite those two quibbles, I was drawn in and even found it hard to put the book down at points.
Kay draws on Viking, Welsh, and Anglo-Saxon lore to create a complexly-woven story. The setting is not, however, strictly European. Rather, it's based on Europe's geographical features, with Kay's own touches (such as two moons) and place names. The belief systems are also Kay's inventions, and tie directly into the title (it refers to what one of the characters says of the Cyngael lands, inspired by Wales).
One of the more charming, and interesting, things Kay does with the story is tell, briefly, the future history of some of the tangential characters, characters that would be a level above extras if this was a movie. I found these little vignettes interesting, a study in how events create ripples throughout people's lives--one of the themes of the book. This theme is borne out through the book to the very end, when the story comes full circle back almost to where it started.
Kay is our modern day Tolkein.
I freakin' give up on this one. There are too many other books that I want to read for me to waste any more time on this one. Following the plot and the characters is like some sort of twisted puzzle or whodunnit mystery. As a result, after 232 pages, i couldn't care less about any of the characters nor about how this convoluted story will end. The first book that i read by this author was "Under Heaven" and it was excellent in every way that this book is found wanting. It was excellent! Unfortunately, other books i've read by Kay are not as compelling. This is the third i've read and I'm done with him.
Additionally, as a result of this book, i've implemented an overdue personal policy of NOT finishing a book unless it has won me in the first 25%. If i am not completely into the story by 1/4 of the way through, I'll spend the remaining 75% on another book that I want to read. Life is to freaking short.
GGK's books are always moving, and this is no exception