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A Song for Arbonne (1992)

by Guy Gavriel Kay

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2,499454,577 (4.11)2 / 203
Facing conquest by the neighboring Gorhaut--ruled by a dour, crusading, misogynistic lord--the men and women of Arbonne find that their fates lie in the hands of a rough-hewn mercenary captain.

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English (44)  Dutch (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
My 4th Kay book this year, I just cannot stop reading him.

[b:A Song for Arbonne|104085|A Song for Arbonne|Guy Gavriel Kay|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1309212350l/104085._SY75_.jpg|2498881] is set in a Provencal atmosphere, so similar to 12th century France you can smell the fields of flowers and hear the soft playing of music as you read. So beautiful, yet brutal, as those times were known. There lies the problem of not being able to give this one 5 stars. The world was so built out, and as I said beautiful, there was no room for me to love, really love or truly hate (except that nasty Galbert de Garsenc) any of the characters. *sigh*. I wanted to embrace Bertran de Talair, the kind of man I always fell for in my youth. I wanted to take Blaise by the hand and lead him to his destiny. I just got too lost in the beauty of the land to bother with anything else.

Onward I go. I know I said I would read all of his books in publication order, however, It was not even 2 years ago that I read [b:The Lions of Al-Rassan|104101|The Lions of Al-Rassan|Guy Gavriel Kay|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1348007861l/104101._SY75_.jpg|955081], and so I am by-passing it and moving on to the next in line -[b:Sailing to Sarantium|104097|Sailing to Sarantium (The Sarantine Mosaic, #1)|Guy Gavriel Kay|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1328000207l/104097._SX50_.jpg|1336666]. ( )
  JBroda | Sep 24, 2021 |
I need to write this review quickly, because the more I think about A Song for Arbonne, the less I like it. I enjoyed reading it – though less than any of my other Guy Gavriel Kay experiences – and it deserves a positive spin, however belatedly. Arbonne is an interesting world, even if some of it didn't sit well with me. Kay's lyrical prose is something I enjoy, and there is a thick, layered passion to everything he writes that sweeps you along in the moment. The key phrase there is 'in the moment'. Because though Kay is capable of crafting jewels (see Tigana), A Song for Arbonne finishes as just a piece of costume jewellery.

At first, I thought the problems would be overcome; that the extremely slow start to the book (about half its length) was necessary world-building and characterisation for an eventual payoff. But, aside from a brief 100-page span towards the middle/end, the book does not reward perseverance. The world-building fails when it truly matters (i.e., to help make plot pivots believable) and the characterisation became increasingly deformed. The writing, though lyrical, is often melodramatic in pushing the narrative forward, and the plot is so full of holes that the book could almost be seen as a whited sepulchre. I want to mention some of these holes in the paragraph below; consider this a spoiler warning, and those who wish to avoid them should consider merely the length of the paragraph:

[spoilers] I hope, by the end of this 600+ page novel, you remember who the people were in the prologue. Because, at the end, it matters. Or, at least, it does to the characters. Because the readers will have forgotten them, and its over-egged influence on the ending is really stupid. Kay would have us believe that the Miraval/Talair rivalry is incredibly tragic and important, but the big revelation is… that Aelis died naturally in childbirth and the child also died naturally. Oh. But wait! In the finest soap opera tradition, there was a second child, who is… some random side character. And Aelis made Ariane swear an oath not to tell Bertran – the father, whom she supposedly loved – of the existence of this second, living child, for no reason I can see other than to inject some tension into the plot. This is made even more stupid when the Countess of Arbonne, Signe, intervenes to hug her long-lost grand-daughter: she wasn't told either. I guess Beatritz was irrelevant too. If it's hard to remember who's who, and who they're related to, I've not even come to Gorhaut, the invading country. I still don't know what Blaise's claim to the throne was, and his switch from exiled mercenary to noble king-apparent is abrupt, to say the least. I'm confused by the terms of the nonsensical Treaty of Iersen Bridge, and the two main antagonists, Ademar and Galbert, are cartoon villains. I've not even come to the bare-arsed cheek of the deus ex machina arrow in the final battle, or how lamely unnecessary (and dangerous, in the heat of battle) the battle plan between Urté and the Countess was. A third plot arc, concerning Lisseut the troubadour, goes literally nowhere. An overwhelming number of other small things leap out at me the more I think about the book. [end spoilers]

All told, Kay has enough craftsman's skill to lull me into a sweet sleep for the course of his novel, but after finishing it, its errors become cruelly exposed. Kay's books are all of the same character, more or less, and there are some that reward the stamina they require. A Song for Arbonne, unfortunately, does not, and should be low on the list of titles for readers wanting to see if Kay's schtick is to their tastes. He usually is to mine, but here there were too many screws shaken loose after it had moved. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Nov 30, 2019 |
I started this book with some reservations, as I'm more a fan of Kay's later works than his early novels. However, I'm happy to say I was dead wrong.

This novel, like many of Kay's later novels is set in one of his Earth-like kingdoms, in this case Arbonne is an analog of southern France. In sunny, peaceful Arbonne, minstrels and the court of Love and the goddess rule. That does not mean all is happiness and light, as the story revolves around two Dukes of Arbonne who hate each other forever. Into that mix throw a covetous northern kingdom (Denmark?) and the plot is set for personal and political intrigue.
I found I did not want to put this book down. The characters are excellent and the world is interesting, though not fully developed.
There are a couple of questionable plot points in this book, but all in all, excellent. ( )
  Karlstar | Oct 29, 2019 |
This is the sixth book I’ve read by Guy Gavriel Kay and it is once again set in his distinctive parallel world with its single sun and twin moons – white and blue – though the names of the countries and the gods aren’t the same as in his other books. Like the vast majority of his novels, A Song for Arbonne takes place in a context closely mirroring a historical period from our own world: in this case, Southern France in the age of the troubadours. Arbonne is a dreamy country basking in a Mediterranean climate, where the deeds and loves of the great are remembered in song, and where noble women have a say in politics through the Courts of Love and the rituals of courtly love. But all is not well in the south: beyond the northern mountains, the advisers to the king of Gorhaut are agitating for war, and the Arbonnais nobles are weakened by a desperate rift between the dukes of Talair and Miraval, the result of wounded pride. Into this web of rivalries and obligations come Lisseut, a jonglar seeking to make her name, and Blaise, an enigmatic mercenary whose life has been defined by a struggle against his distant, manipulative father...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2011/09/06/a-song-for-arbonne-guy-gavriel-kay/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Oct 7, 2019 |
Guy Gavriel Kay has the kind of prose that makes me want to bury myself and cry because I'll never be able to write like him. A Song for Arbonne has everything: romance, troubadours, intrigue, war, passion, revenge. It's an epic story.

Guy Gavriel Kay writes something I wouldn't call fantasy but more alternative history. He takes a place (here it's the lovely Provence) then does his research and sets a story in an alternative version of it. Beautiful plot, great characters and a lot of heartbreak.

There were a few things I liked less about this book. The antagonists seem to be evil, just to be evil and I couldn't really find a motive. I find a villain who is a villain just so there's a villain a bit unsatisfying. And I wasn't happy with the resolution at the end, but maybe that was just me.

Definitely a must read for all GGK fans. If you haven't read any of his work yet, I suggest you start with The Lions of Al-Rassan. It made me sob into my pillow. ( )
  Vinjii | Mar 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Guy Gavriel Kay n'est pas un auteur de fantasy comme les autres, Depuis la déjà fort remarquée Tapisserie de Fionavar, qui liait aux thèmes classiques de la High Fantasy une interprétation très personnelle du fameux triangle amoureux Arthur / Lancelot / Guenièvre, il s'est signalé par une tendance croissante à substituer aux poncifs du genre des préoccupations d'ordre historique, politique ou stratégique. Certes, la thématique du pouvoir joue toujours un rôle assez considérable dans les romans d'heroic fantasy, comme dans toute la littérature inspirée de l'héroïsme romantique du XIXème siècle. Mais ce romantisme, chez Guy Gavriel Kay, se teinte à la fois d'un intérêt pour l'Histoire et d'un cynisme résolument contemporains, post-modernes. Ainsi, d'un roman à l'autre, son oeuvre semble s'orienter vers une forme nouvelle d'heroic fantasy qui, tout en respectant la structure, les conventions littéraires et même l'ambiance générale du genre, se débarrasse peu à peu de sa naïveté foncière, de sa croyance en l'homme ou de son obsession pour la spiritualité. Une progression tout à fait intéressante dans un genre parfois quelque peu bégayant, où les auteurs se contentent (trop ?) souvent d'appliquer des schémas préconçus — tels que ceux conseillés par David Eddings dans son Codex de Riva. A ce titre, la Chanson d'Arbonne constitue certainement le roman le plus représentatif de Guy Gavriel Kay, puisque c'est là, après la Tapisserie de Fionavar et Tigane, que la transition est la plus manifeste.
added by Ariane65 | editnoosfere, Nathalie LABROUSSE (Feb 15, 2001)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guy Gavriel Kayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Howe, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jermann, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kraft, Kinuko Y.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Odom,MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated with love, to the memory of my father, Dr. Samuel K. Kay, whose skill and compassion as a surgeon were enhanced all his life by a love for language and literature - a love he conveyed to his sons, among so many other gifts.
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On a morning in the springtime of the year, when the snows of the mountains were melting and the rivers swift in their running, Aelis de Miraval watched her husband ride out at dawn to hunt in the forest west of their castle, and shortly after that she took horse herself, travelling north and east along the shores of the lake towards the begetting of her son.
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Facing conquest by the neighboring Gorhaut--ruled by a dour, crusading, misogynistic lord--the men and women of Arbonne find that their fates lie in the hands of a rough-hewn mercenary captain.

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