Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song For Arbonne

A few years ago the cable guy was here, saw I had a lot of books, and said I must like to read. He recommended, very highly, Kay's Fionavar Tapestry. He had said he'd identified with the one of young people in it, I don't remember which one, and it was a special book for him. I take my book recommendations from nearly anywhere and his was very enthusiastic, and I know that sensation he describes. I got a copy and read it.

None of the characters was me. I enjoyed it, kept in the back of my mind that Kay was somebody I might read more of, but didn't do anything about it. Then six months ago, Kay's agent's firm was moving office--I live near there--and they had a bunch of books for free on a table out front. Though I should be one to pass up free books, I'm not, and I came back, among other things, with two of Kay's novels. One of them was A Song For Arbonne.

It's a high fantasy novel set in a medieval, but pagan, Provence. The kingdom of Arbonne is devoted to both a goddess Rian and a god Corannos, but their geopolitical rival to the north, Gorhaut, sees only Corannos in their pantheon, and their current leaders celebrate a particularly savage and intolerant vision of the god. Arbonne's southern ways and their tradition of love and song, their troubadours, are an abomination to Gorhaut.

There are a number of well-delineated characters; there's a subtle intertwining of the personal and the political in the story of these two (and other) nations; its pacing is superb. I was a little unhappy with the psychology of the most important family of the north, two brothers and their father. It seemed heavy-handed. And at the end, though as a reader I generally like this, the effort to bring all the characters back on stage for a last bow was a little too obvious. But on the whole, I charged right through this, in the best way.

Very enjoyable. The other Kay I picked up for free has moved much higher in my TBR list...

Read for the My Reader's Block Mount TBR Challenge.

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