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The Summer Tree

Book Notes

I bought and read this book the first time when I was still in high school. I was working at the bookstore (gosh, that was the perfect job for me), when a woman came in and ordered the three books in this series in hardback form. Who buys books in hardback when they are available in paperback? The woman was, in retrospect, the epitome of a middle-aged science fiction fantasy reader, including the round and smiling parts.

When I placed her order, I ordered a second set of hardbound books for myself. I would argue one of my best book buying decisions ever.

This early Kay work has the perfect writing style, where he shows the reader instead of telling the reader. Some of his later works have lost this magic, though his last book recaptures some of that magic.

The last time I started to reread this book was on the road trip with Chris, so it's been a while. Reading it this time, however, was like slipping into a warm bath of comfort, like the act of coming home. I had not realized how much this book, and the series, shaped aspects of my life, always in subtle ways.

I strongly recommend this book and this series. I've loaned my copies out, always making sure to get them back. This series in one of my top three books of all time.

“No, he’s not all right. But I seem to be the only one who questions it. I think I’m becoming a pain in the ass to him. I hate it.”

“Sometimes,” his father said, filling the glass cups in their Russian - style metal holders, “a friend has to be that.”
Page 27

“Kevin,” he said, “you will have to learn — and for you it will be hard — that sometimes you can’t do anything. Sometimes you simply can’t.”
Page 28

And Paul Schafer, who believed one should be able to endure anything, and who believed this of himself most of all, listened as long as he could, and failed again.
Page 29

It seemed that there were still things one could not do. So one did everything else as well as one possibly could and found new things to try, to will oneself to master, and always one realized, at the kernel and heart of things, that the ends of the earth would not be far enough away.
Page 30

“No, I play carefully. All the beauty was on your side, but sometimes plodding caution will wear down brilliance."
Page 70

“It is power that teaches patience; holding power, I mean. And you learn the price it exacts — which is something I never knew when I was your age and thought a sword and quick wits could deal with anything. I never knew the price you pay for power.”
Page 70

“I don’t think that wanting to live can be a failing.” The words rasped from too long a silence; a difficult emotion was waking within him.
Page 79

After a moment, Kevin Laine, who was neither a petty man nor a stupid one, smiled to himself.
Page 89

Kevin had seen, and caught his breath to see, the look in her dark eyes when Paul would enter a room, and he had watched, too, the hesitant unfolding of trust and need in his proud friend.
Page 91

Watching him, Kevin felt it then, the intoxicating lure of this man who was leading them.
Page 94

We salvage what we can, what truly matters to us, even at the gates of despair.
Page 169

The knowledge of approaching death can come in many shapes, descending as a blessing or rearing up as an apparition of terror. It may sever like the sweep of a blade, or call as a perfect lover calls.
Page 178

There are kinds of action, for good or ill, that lie so far outside the boundaries of normal behavior that they force us, in acknowledging that they have occurred, to restructure our own understanding of reality. We have to make room for them.
Page 203

She thought of Raederth then, and wondered if it was folly to sorrow for a man so long dead. But it wasn’t, she knew, she now knew; for the dead are still in time, they are travelling, they are not lost. Ysanne was lost.
Page 217

To see him with a sword in his hand was almost heartbreaking. It was a dance. It was more. Some men, it seemed, were born to do a thing; it was true.
Page 219

But Dana was with him now, the Goddess, taking him there to truth. And in a crescendo, a heart - searing blaze of final dispensation, he saw that he had missed the gap, and only just, oh, only just, not because of any hesitation shaped by lack of desire, by death or murder wish, but because, in the end, he was human.

Oh, lady, he was. Only, only human, and he missed because of hurt, grief, shock, and rain. Because of these, which could be forgiven.

And were, he understood. Truly, truly were. Deny not your own mortality. The voice was within him like a wind, one of her voices, only one, he knew, and in the sound was love, he was loved. You failed because humans fail. It is a gift as much as anything else.
Page 231

He would have comforted his younger son, but knew it was wiser to leave the boy alone. It was not a bad thing to learn what hurt meant, and mastering it alone helped engender self-respect.
Page 246

What Dave felt then was so rare and unexpected, it took him a moment to recognize it.
Page 253

The Sight comes when the light goes, the Dalrei said. It was not Law, but had the same force, it seemed to Ivor at times.
Page 256

Which led to another thought: did all fathers feel this way when their sons became men? Men of achievement, of names that eclipsed the father’s? Was there always the sting of envy to temper the burst of pride?
Page 268

Through it all, drinking round for round with them, Levon seemed almost unaffected by what he had done. Looking for it, Dave could find no arrogance, no hidden sense of superiority in Ivor’s older son. It had to be there, he thought, suspicious, as he always was. But looking one more time at Levon as he walked between him and Ivor to the feast — he was guest of honor, it seemed — Dave found himself reluctantly changing his mind. Is a horse arrogant or superior? He didn’t think so. Proud, yes; there was great pride in the bay stallion that had stood so still with Levon that morning, but it wasn’t a pride that diminished anything or anyone else. It was simply part of what the stallion was.
Page 269

How could he be angry, though, after this? It was always so hard, Ivor found, to stay angry with Liane. Leith was better at it. Mothers and daughters; there was less indulgence there.
Page 276

Overtired, he soon amended, for once inside the blanket he found that sleep eluded him. Instead he lay awake under the wide sky, his mind circling restlessly back over the day.
Page 290

I so understand this.

“Pendaran is deadly to those who enter it. No one does. But the Wood is angry, not evil, and unless we trespass, the powers within it will not be stirred by our riding here."
Page 294

There was no expression on Levon’s face, his profile seemed chiseled from stone as he gazed at the towering fire above Rangat. But in that very calm, that impassive acceptance, Dave found a steadfastness of his own. Without moving a muscle, Levon seemed to be growing, to be willing himself to grow large enough to match, to overmatch the terror in the sky and on the wind.
Page 300

Your hour knows your name, Dave Martyniuk thought, and then, in that moment of apocalypse, had another thought: I love these people. The realization hit him, for Dave was what he was, almost as hard as the Mountain had.
Page 301

No one spoke. Levon’s face, Dave saw, was like stone again, but not as before. This he recognized: not the steadfastness of resolution, but a rigid control locking the muscles, the heart, against the pain inside. You held it in, Dave thought, had always thought. It didn’t belong to anyone else.
Page 305

"Levon, you said before, this place isn’t evil.”

“It doesn’t have to be, to kill us,” said Torc.
Page 306

“And Davor,” Levon went on, in a different voice, “you wove something very bright back there. I don’t think any man in the tribe could have forced that opening. Whatever happens after, you saved our lives then.”

“I just swung the thing,” Dave muttered.

At which Torc, astonishingly, laughed aloud. For a moment the listening trees were stilled. No mortal had laughed in Pendaran for a millennium. “You are,” said Torc dan Sorcha, “as bad as me, as bad as him. Not one of us can deal with praise. Is your face red right now, my friend?”

Of course it was, for God’s sake. “What do you think?” he mumbled. Then, feeling the ridiculousness of it, hearing Levon’s snort of amusement, Dave felt something let go inside, tension, fear, grief, all of them, and he laughed with his friends in the Wood where no man went.
Page 306

He nodded, seeing once more, discovering it anew, how beautiful she was. “Why did you marry me?” he asked impulsively.

She shrugged. “You asked.”


“I lied,” Leith said quietly. “I married you because no other man I know or can imagine could have made my heart leap so when he asked.”

He turned from the moon to her. “The sun rises in your eyes,” he said. The formal proposal. “It always, always has, my love.”
Page 318

There was no peace, no serenity anywhere. She carried none, had none to grant, she wore the Warstone on her hand. She would drag the dead from their rest, and the undead to their doom. What was she that this should be so?
Page 341

“No,” said Diarmuid. And it appeared that there was nothing inevitable after all.
Page 359

What did it matter why? It didn’t, clearly, except that at the end we only have ourselves anyway, wherever it comes down. So Jennifer rose from the mattress on the floor, her hair tangled, filthy, the odor of Avaia on her torn clothes, her face stained, body bruised and cut, and she mastered the tremor in her voice and said to him, “You will have nothing of me that you do not take.”
Page 368

You send your mind away, she remembered reading once; when you’re tortured, when you’re raped, you send your mind after a while into another place, far from where pain is. You send it as far as you can. To love, the memory of it, a spar for clinging to.
Page 369

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