the Little Red Reviewer

A Song for Arbonne, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Posted on: August 21, 2012

A Song for Arbonne, by Guy Gavriel Kay

published in 1992

where I got it: mah bookshelf











The real story begins when the romance ends.

Once upon a time, a man loved a woman, and she dearly loved him back. They met for a secret tryst to make a child.  Of course, her husband found out about her affair with her lover, and when the child was born, her angry husband tore the child from her arms. A few hours later, she was dead. Neither her lover nor her husband ever recovered.

Twenty three years later, our story, and the song for Arbonne, can begin.

Blaise has recently come to the southern country of Arbonne. Worse than being an ignorant northerner and a savage mercenary, Blaise hasn’t a clue about or an appreciation of music and poetry, the foundation of society in Arbonne. In Guy Gavriel Kay’s fictional France, Arbonne is country where troubadours and poets are valued beyond gold, where a young duchess rules a Court of Love, and where political marriages are solved with very, very discreet evening visitors.  In the country of Arbonne, music, love and the appreciation of beauty are everything.

Coming from a male dominated society where a man’s prowess is proved on the battlefield, Blaise spends his first few months in Arbonne recovering from culture shock.  Hired by a famous troubadour, Bertran de Talair, Blaise is soon caught up in webs upon webs of intrigue, fights started a generation ago, and a ruling family carrying a heavy burden. Even worse, it’s not long before Blaise’s identity is exposed: he’s the youngest son of a ruling priest of the war hungry northern country of Gorhaut.

In the year that he spends in Arbonne, Blaise will have to learn that this a land of subtlety and intrigue, and what one says is just as important as  what one stays silent on, and how one chooses to stay silent. He could be the best thing to happen to Arbonne, or he could destroy the country from the inside. Blaise’s story is only one facet of the complex story, and the more I tell you of the plot, the less of it you will experience through your own eyes, and that would be a crime.

While two countries are clashing and attempting to destroy each other on the battlefield, two men have been attempting to destroy each other for the last twenty years. Even if one can never forget, is it possible to forgive? Is it possible to accept? You’ll have to forgive my melodramatic tone, it’s not my fault,  the melodrama of the story must be rubbing off on me.  A Song for Arbonne isn’t a light or easy read. It’s deep and dense, and intensely passionate, populated by mature characters with pasts that consume them. You can read a little more of my emotional response here.

One of Guy Gavriel Kay’s masterpieces, A Song of Arbonne is a stunningly heartbreaking story wrapped in some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever come across. You can open this book to nearly any page to find out why Guy Gavriel Kay has the following he does.  If you’re not convinced to read this book by now, there isn’t much more I can say.  But really. If you’ve an appreciation for finely wrought prose, subtle melodrama, and one of the most moving endings ever written in fantasy, this is the book for you.

8 Responses to "A Song for Arbonne, by Guy Gavriel Kay"

I’d long been a huge fan of his first trilogy, ‘fionavar’…..but was unprepared for how incredible Arbonne was….to this day, I consider Arbonne first among equals with his other stories ‘Tiganna’, and ‘Lions of Al Rassan’…..Arbonne is quite simply, perfect.


my favorite author period. Fionovar, tigana, and song are my favorites. Can’t wait for River of Starts to come out….


not starts, stars. Sorry


I think I said this already on your blog, but I really must reread this. And Lions of Al-Rasan. Love those books, he is such a great writer.


I’ve been slowly working my way through GGK’s books since I read and was blown away by THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN (probably one of my fave books of all time) and funnily enough I’m currently reading A SONG FOR ARBONNE too…how’s that for a crazy coincidence? LOL

I have TIGANA on deck next.


obviously because great minds think alike! 😉 you’ll have to let me know what you think about the ending of SONG FOR ARBONNE. I didn’t want to say anything about it in the review, you’ll understand why when you get there.

And I’ve got UNDER HEAVEN working it’s way to the top of my TBR list.


Another great review on one of my favorite books of all time. It is so hard to say which GGK novel is my favorite…. The audio version was done great, complete with singing (not just the narrator reading aloud the lyrics).


there’s actual singing in the audio? that’s awesome!!!


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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