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A Song for Arbonne

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,940 Ratings  ·  423 Reviews
Based on the troubadour culture that rose in Provence during the High Middle Ages, this panoramic, absorbing novel beautifully creates an alternate version of the medieval world.

The matriarchal, cultured land of Arbonne is rent by a feud between its two most powerful dukes, the noble troubador Bertran de Talair and Urte de Miraval, over long-dead Aelis, lover of one, wife
Paperback, 512 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Roc (first published January 1st 1992)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 22, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I am in awe. This might be the best book I've read this year. It might be one of the best books I've ever read.

If you like epics, this is for you. Romance, intrigue, artistic expression, mystery, combat scenes, sex, violence, passion, compassion, bitter revenge, redemption. It's all here.

This book was what makes fantasy great. It is what makes historical fiction great. A perfect blend of the two, with very human elements there to give life to the characters. The reader is constantly on the edge
Insert rant about the many reasons why I really like a lot of Kay's early work here.
Jul 17, 2016 Abdulrahman rated it it was amazing
Guy Gavriel Kay molds characters from ideas and a splash of his imagination, shapes them with delicate letters and beautiful words, and then he breathes life into them with his pen. And they become real, almost. Then he creates a world, based on our own, a world so beautiful yet so cruel, rare but typical, charming from afar but revolting at a closer inspection. Then he releases all of those characters into this newly crafted world, and let them roam the fields and populate the emptiness, and so ...more
May 04, 2016 Alissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
Pure poetry. A tale of undiluted love on both an epic and a personal scale. A tale of pride, regret and music. Of courtly love and the hard game of nations. Of family, hatred, war and betrayal. Of ambition and endless longing. Of the timeless seasons of one’s own homeland. A tale of men and women.

Kay works his magic with emphatic brilliance and exquisite execution, regaling us with a thought-provoking story of beauty and suspense.

There were ripples to events, and they went a long way sometimes a
Apr 04, 2013 Jon added it
Recommended to Jon by: Jeanne Collins
Nov 08, 2014 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I can understand people who don't like Guy Gavriel Kay's work. I think I've said it before, but there are definite quirks of style, ways he plots and deals with characters, that can drive even me mad in the wrong mood -- which is why I first picked this up to reread in April, and now it's November when I've finally finished. I do love most of Kay's work when I'm in the right mood, though, and A Song for Arbonne is additionally up my street because of the Court of Love, the troubadours, all the s ...more
Mar 21, 2010 Eric rated it it was ok
This book is like a nice painting splattered with mud. It's a great story - intrigue, war, love, mystery, politics, tension, regret, impending doom, death, surprises, clear good guys, clear bad guys, and some you aren't sure about. And the setting is nice if you like traditional fantasy of the medieval/Renaissance style - more swords and nobles than magic and monsters. I enjoyed it. But the author threw up a lot of unnecessary chaff between me and my enjoyment of the story. It wasn't enough to r ...more
Kat  Hooper
Mar 22, 2010 Kat Hooper rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Blaise, a sellsword from Gorhaut (a violent and chauvinistic northern country), has moved to the warmer country of Arbonne. Blaise doesn’t have much appreciation or tolerance for Arbonne’s womanly culture which is highly influenced by the Court of Love. He also doesn’t have much hope that Arbonne – which values singers over soldiers, and troubadours over troops – will put up much of a fight if Gorhaut decides to try to eradicate Arbonne’s goddess worship.
Dec 11, 2010 Catie rated it really liked it
This was my first Guy Gavriel Kay, and I was not disappointed. I would recommend this book for any fans of emotional, historical epics. There's really not too much fantasy here, besides that the story takes place in a fictional world with two moons. This story centers around Gorhaut, a God-worshipping, male dominated nation that recently went through an upheaval in leadership, and Arbonne, it's neighbor. Arbonne is a Goddess worshipping nation in which troubadours are greatly admired and women h ...more
Reggie Kray
Aug 13, 2016 Reggie Kray rated it it was amazing
Superb in all aspects. A literary gem!
My fourth book by GGK and once again I liked the the world, story and the characters created by him. This is a beautiful story of love, loyalty, honor, family, courage, sacrifice, betrayal and survival.

First I must confess I was not impressed in first five chapters but after that I was unable to put it down. It took me a little time to understand the plot. Arbonne a land famous for its troubadours which is ruled by a woman and worship a goddess. Their passion for their country is remarkable. It
Oct 19, 2014 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of high romance / high fantasy / historical fiction
A Song For Arbonne is a lyrical portrayal of one tumultuous year in Arbonne, as its peace-loving people — aristocracy, mercenaries, troubadours, priests and priestesses — deal with the threat of invasion from their war-hungry neighbors to the north.

Much to my astonishment, some folks don’t enjoy the works of Guy Kay as much as I do. That said, the overall ratings for A Song For Arbonne is well above four, which puts it in pretty rarified territory. Even the negative reviews of Kay usually agree
May 30, 2014 StoryTellerShannon rated it did not like it
Lyrical prose; developed characters; but not enough happening! Not enough wonder or plot; it's more like a Historical epic; I never liked any of his characters and he meanders too much on the prose for my tastes; a lot of people love him though; if you loved LOTR then you may very well like this one . . . while I can appreciate his style, he isn't for me; if his pacing was faster, there would have been promise.
Sep 15, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This is a generous five stars, to be honest. It is based on the prose and the characters and the worldbuilding. The plot itself isn't much, and should bring the book to four stars, but I can't bring myself to do so, because the writing was so beautifully crafted. I love GGK's rhythm and word choice, and his ability to evoke a feeling with just a sentence. Stunning.
Nicholas Kotar
Mar 17, 2015 Nicholas Kotar rated it really liked it
How I found this book is a story in itself. A few years ago I was living in what basically amounted to a "boarding university" (not merely a dorm, but all the restrictions you'd expect at a closed campus boarding school somewhere in North England) The guy living next door, who impressed me before only with the incredible number of days he could go without showering, unexpectedly impressed me with his reading materials. In a burst of gratitude that I helped him figure out how to play something on ...more
May 11, 2016 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enchanting, highly recommended historical fantasy that pulled me into the world of Provence, land of 'courts of love' and of troubadours, and other kingdoms or dukedoms of medieval France, with Kay using each civilization as a basis for his fantasy concept of these places. The story begins and ends with excerpts from the written 'vidans' or lives of two of Arbonne's most famous troubadours: "the first and perhaps most famous", Anselme of Cauvas and ending with that of Lisseut of Vezét, the la ...more
Jan 03, 2014 Teeuhh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites


Just over halfway into this book, I already knew it was going to be one of my favorites, for a number of reasons:

1. I really enjoyed the characters. There were just so many of them, all of which were so different, and almost all of which I loved. Though majority of the main female characters were described as extremely beautiful, which is definitely something we could've done without, we had a lot of strong female characters, which was pretty great.

2. This book was kind of dramatic, possibly eve
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
A Song for Arbonne is a lovely book, and Kay is on his way to becoming one of my favorite fantasy authors.

The book focuses on the conflict between Arbonne (inspired by Provence, with a troubadour culture and a goddess and women in some powerful positions) and northern Gorhaut (a warrior-based culture that brutally oppresses its women). I was a little concerned by what the bookjacket built up as a war of the sexes, but in reality the focus is on the conflict between two very different cultures.
Mar 15, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Song for Arbonne. “Damn glad to meet you, Mr Kay. We seem to have been traveling separate avenues until now. Do you mind if I tag along for awhile?” I am giving this one a 4-Star slap on the back, admiring some fine wordsmithing and in the expectation that I will enjoy other books by GGK. I was on the verge of putting this one on my “never-finished” shelf as I plodded through the first two chapters. Set in a thinly-disguised alternate earth version of medieval France, I thought the introductor ...more
This was my first exposure to Kay's work, and I've to say that I've already fallen in love with his writing.

In A Song for Arbonne, he created a dazzling and extraordinary tale of mere mortals, whose life were entangled by malevolence, political intrigue and love. From this overtly distinct mix, Kay managed to weave such a convoluted story that acquire a life of its own. This, coupled with the story's multi-layered characters, interesting plot and Kay's very own magnificent prose produced an awe
Blake Charlton
Aug 20, 2010 Blake Charlton rated it really liked it
i have been avoiding ASfA for a while now, mostly because i couldn't conceive of how he might turn a novel based on the courtly love into anything other then...well...courtly mush. i'm happy to report that GGK with his typical brilliants takes the subject, scrutinizes it, and transformed it into a wonderful narrative. i did have a few objections: the plurality of characters sometimes ran out of control and i had to double back to get the names straight, distractingly so; and the "evil male-domin ...more
Oct 21, 2014 sonicbooming rated it it was amazing
Every time I read a novel by Guy Gavriel Kay, I tell myself that this is the best one. He is one of the few writers who has ever moved me to tears because of the beauty of his words. GGK blends history with fantasy and while that might turn many people off, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring his work. GGK picks a particular time, a particular place: moors in Spain, French troubadours, Norse vikings, a Chinese dynasty, etc. He draws on that sense of place and its rich history and th ...more
Sep 17, 2010 Dawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2010
This was my first Kay novel, and I was extremely impressed. I'll definitely be reading more from him, and soon! It was beautifully written, and had an very engaging plot. The characters were very well drawn, and I found myself connecting to all of them. For me that's definitely essential in a book - if I don't care about the characters I won't care about the story. That certainly wasn't an issue here. I can't wait to read more from Kay! Highly recommended.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Another beautiful novel by Guy Gavriel Kay, this time about the world of troubadours, inspired by Provence during the High Middle Ages and by the Albigensian Crusade. As in the last couple of years, a book by Gavriel Kay was the perfect Christmas reading. Everything works perfectly in this novel; even the circular ending that very rarely works as intended. I can’t wait to read his next book - River of Stars.
May 11, 2013 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, audio, historical
4.5 stars. A lovely, lyrical story about the becoming of a king and the eternal battle between the brutal masculine patriarchal and the mysterious, wise matriarchal. I loved it until the end, and then it got a little ... distant?... philosophical?... something. Anyway, very very good. Not as complex a story as Lions of al Rassan, but delicious and lovely.
Sumit Singla
Jul 05, 2014 Sumit Singla rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2014
Historical fiction? Fantasy? Alternative fiction? Just fiction?

It's tough to ascribe a genre to this book, because it is a bit of all these. And why bother trying to force it into a silo at all? I'd have called it historical fiction, but usually those books are easier to write. When you have a ready set of characters and character settings, it is possibly easier to weave a story. So, I'd be doing GGK a huge disservice if I were to label his book as 'historical fiction'.

Not only would I give GGK
S.J.A. Turney
May 01, 2012 S.J.A. Turney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read GGK's fantasy Fionavar Tapestry series at school and had enjoyed it, but it was only many years later I discovered that Kay had written this series of alternative history/historical fantasy novels. The first one I bought and read on a whim was this book.

If I had reviewed it right at the time, when I was heavily into straight fantasy and knew little of the wondrous mix of history and fantasy that is possible, I would still have given it four stars plus.

The characters in the novel stood
Oct 22, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Gorgeous description and gracefully revealed plot points keeps this novel of low magic but high stakes streaking along to a well-resolved conclusion. A host of well-drawn and memorable characters are constantly tangling with each other in new and complicated ways, both funny and heart-breaking. Many of them are impressively complex, from the two lords feuding over the love of a lady twenty years dead to reigning queen of the Court of Love, bound in a political marriage to a man whose role in her ...more
Pauline Ross
I really wanted to give this five stars. In many ways it was a perfect book - a great story of a country fighting for its very survival, some truly compelling and heroic characters, emotional resonance and an ending that was true to all of those elements and entirely fitting. And to start with, yes, I got swept up in it and in Kay’s wonderful writing. But somewhere around the midpoint it got sticky for me. It was just too over-the-top melodramatic in the worst kind of eye-rolling way. I did my b ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: "Song for Arbonne" by Guy Gavriel Kay 1 5 Mar 10, 2012 07:30AM  
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Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categoriz ...more
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“We must be what we are, or we become our enemies. ” 40 likes
“For all his frustrations and his chronic sense of being overburdened. He was proud of that; he’d always felt that it was worth doing a task properly if it was worth doing at all. That was part of his problem, of course; that was why he ended up with so much to do. It was also the source of his own particular pride: he knew--and he was certain they knew that there was no one else who could handle details such as these as well as he.” 2 likes
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