|Submitted by Francois Vincent|
(Apr 03, 2000)
A Song For Arbonne is Guy Gavriel Kay's "France" book. That is, the setting is based on southern France and the vineyards, the land, the dress and names all sing with resonance. Like Tigana (Italy) or Lions of al-Rassan (Spain), the author shows that he researched this extensively and communicates it clearly and with an infectious enthusiasm.
However, this is no mere historical jaunt. Mr. Kay keeps to his spare "traditional fantasy" treatment and creates drama and action through character interaction with a smattering of swordplay/archery/horsey business to give a boost to the adrenalin.
The author knows how to use a hint and a clue to keep the reader wondering what secrets the characters hold (and they all have at least one) and the relationships are so well done that you can understand the dialogue as more than mere chatter and read between the lines to feel the emotions coming through.
The themes of legacy and history again are present in this book. The past actions and the history of these characters are so key that they completely dominate the present. The author seems to posit that the past and present are so intertwined that the future is also tangled into the mix. An idea that has been neglected in many of these world-building novels.
The use of troubadors seems so natural in this world that they add another layer to the story that isn't even necessary to make this a good book but they are the emotional barometers for the story that add so very much to the tale.
The author's continued use of dribbling key plot twists drop by drop keeps the suspense running high through the story though it can be frustrating to the impatient. It is well done though after a while the reader begins to expect it.
Overall, this well-written book is another reason to like Guy Gavriel Kay very well and he is indeed on his way to being one my favourite authors of any genre.