On first starting "The Summer Tree", I thought, "Great. Another Tolkien 'inspired' writer. Wizards, elves, dwarves, a horse culture, wolf-like baddies, goblin-like baddies, and a Big Evil entombed under a mountain: can we say 'derivative'?"
And that's about as far as I got with the bad-mouthing. Because despite this initial similarity (not all that surprising, considering that Kay worked with J.R.R. Tolkien's son on a number of Tolkien's works that came out after his death), this book, the first volume of "The Fionavar Tapestry", promptly sucked me into its world and refused to let go.
The Fionavar Tapestry is both more accessible and darker in its details than Tolkien's tales of Middle-Earth, which often failed to engage my emotions with the dusty histories that frame the "Lord of the Rings" cycle. Kay's background in European mythology provides rich fodder for his creation, with the gods of Fionavar not so far removed from the activities of mere mortals, and prone to stepping in to intercede when circumstances require it, and his depictions of ancient wrongs and sorrows felt as fresh to me as the action involving the modern characters.
I can't even begin to recommend this book highly enough to anyone who loves fantasy. This is some of the best.