A Song for Arbonne was my first Guy Gavriel Kay book some years ago and it was great to experience it again, this time in audio format. It is an intricately written tale that lies somewhere between historical fiction and fantasy. I always feel that GGK’s stories could have happened, yet knowing that this particular tale is not captured in any historical account. That let’s me hold it close and believe that it is all mine – that I am the singular person that takes each word to heart, thereby breathing life into the tale.
In A Song for Arbonne, the troubadour world is explored, encompassing the importance of song – both for entertainment and culture, but also it’s place in history-shaping events. Woman-ruled Arbonne, worshipers of the Goddess Rhian, host the Court of Love where poets and troubadours abound. Blase, from the Men-ruled, God-fearing neighboring country, finds himself quite out of place. The men wear bright colors, spout poetry, and woo the women. The women are sexually-assertive, involved in politics, and are quite capable of shaping their own lives.
Blase serves the Lord Bertrand, who has a decades-old feud with another Arbonne high lord that may tear the country apart. But Blase has his own secret, one that must eventually come out. It was pretty dicey right up to the last half-hour of the book whether or not Blase’s defiance of his father would ruin Arbonne and his home country as well.
As always, GGK wraps together intrigue, beauty, deep sorrow, tough personal choices, humor, and violence. I am glad I was able to find his works as audiobooks on Audible.com. A Song for Arbonne was read by Euan Morton, who pulled off the delicate songs along with the baudy, over-the-top stuff too.
PS – I figure I mis-spelled a character name or place name in this review – since I listened to the book instead of read it this time through. Feel free to point and snicker.