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A Song for Arbonne

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  13,046 ratings  ·  675 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, 509 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Ace Books (first published 1992)
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May 28, 2009 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
Mayim de Vries
Artisans, it seems, are very important for Kay. Tigana had musicians, Sarantine duology a mosaicist as the main protagonist, in Arbonne, fashioned after the medieval Provence and Occitania, troubadours are in the middle of things (along with joglars and trobairitz, that is female performers). With them, the ideals of court love, gallantry, poetry, tournaments, knights and dames and all the associated drama constitutes a backbone of this novel.

To give you a proper context: Dante Alighieri saw th
*** 4.75 ***

A Buddy Read with the Fantasy Buddy Reads Group, because we love G. G. Kay!

Have you ever read a book and felt completely inadequate to write a review for it? Not that the book was that overwhelming in scope or plot lines, nor because it tackled some deep philosophical issues whose gravity would be impossible to put in several paragraphs. The ineptitude I find myself in, is because this is the forth book written by Kay I have read in the last couple of months and with each volume I be
Insert rant about the many reasons why I really like a lot of Kay's early work here. ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
4.6 stars

This is as well written as any Kay's book. Reason it isn't getting full 5 stars is because I didn't like characters as much as I did in Sarantine mosaic or Tigana.
Oct 20, 2014 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
Sebastien Castell
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I first read this more than a decade ago in print and more recently revisited the story in its audiobook form. My experience of the book was skewed because the only time I typically listen to audiobooks is when cleaning the floors of our house, which meant I listened to a 20-hour audiobook over the course of about 12 weeks. This no doubt accounts for why I found it hard sometimes to follow the wide array of characters, especially the women who sometimes seemed near interchangeable in terms of th ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am so, so incredibly torn about this one. It's a Guy Gavriel Kay historical fantasy novel, so of course it's a beautiful masterpiece. But it's a Guy Gavriel Kay historical fantasy novel, so of course it will inevitably be compared to Tigana. It simply does not provide the sublimely perfect satisfaction of that other epic, and the ending here seemed actually rather uninspired. Neither does it quite measure up to the Sarantium duology in my mind.

It's obviously a fantastic work, but I need time t
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Jun 01, 2018 marked it as to-read
Well I hate to do this but listening to this audio book is just putting me to sleep. I’m really enjoying the book & this narrator is great (especially his singing voice) but it’s such a sweet voice that it lulls me right into a doze. I don’t want to keep reading if I’m only catching 50% of the story so I’ll definitely put this on my Physical TBR list & revisit it in the future! 💛
Em Lost In Books
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
May 26, 2009 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
Two countries, two deities.

Arbonne: Southerly, warm, goddess-worshipping, and filled with songs of love.

Gorhaut: Northern, harsh, god-worshipping, and ruled by a cruel and twisted king.

They couldn’t seem more different.

Blaise de Garsenc has a foot in both lands: A younger-son noble of Gorhaut, he has come to Arbonne to work as a mercenary coran. As the two countries come closer to war with one another, he begins to recognize a disturbing parallel between them. Each has internal rivalries tha
Apr 06, 2013 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
Kat  Hooper
Nov 23, 2009 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.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
A reimagining of the Crusades against music-loving, female-dominated Provence
This is another of Guy Gavriel Kay's historical reimaginings of dramatic and tumultuous historical periods in European history, in this case the Albigensian Crusade of Pope Innocent III against the Cathar heretics of Languedoc (in southern France), with the troubadours and Court of Love and elevated status of women, all anathema to the Catholic Church of the times. GKK goes to great lengths to depict this world in lush
Ivana Books Are Magic
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Song for Arbonne was my second novel by Guy Gavrial Kay (the first one was Tigana). It is a novel I liked much better on the second reading. The first time I read it, I was in my early twenties and the book didn't resonate with me. The second time I read, I was a bit older and less moralistically inclined, so I liked it much better. There are some definite writing flaws in this one, such as cardboard villains and writing cliches but I'll get to that later. The reason why I didn't like it the f ...more
Dec 01, 2013 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
Oct 11, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I write this review as an aggrieved reader. What I thought this book would be like and what it actually is are so different that I begin to wonder if I am really reading the same author who wrote Tigana.

Many or most of you will perhaps disagree with me or my issues with the book, and might complain that a book should not be compared to another book and must be read for what it is, rather than what it should have been. Generally I would agree. However, seeing that GGK Sacrifices so many things in
Dec 04, 2010 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
A man I once loved introduced me to Guy Gavriel Kay just over twenty years ago. He started me off with his favourite, A Song for Arbonne, and it was enough to drag me into Kay's writing forever.

Over the years, I have returned again and again to The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana, rereading these two favourites multiple times, but I have never really felt drawn back to the pages of J---'s favourite. A month ago, though, he came up in conversation right when I needed a new book to listen to, and wh
Nicholas Kotar
Mar 17, 2015 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
Nov 18, 2011 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. ...more
Sep 04, 2014 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. ...more
Ned Lud
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Superb in all aspects. A literary gem!
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Buddy Read with the Kay Squad at FBR.
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
My 4th Kay book this year, I just cannot stop reading him.

A Song for Arbonne is set in a Provencal atmosphere, so similar to 12th century France you can smell the fields of flowers and hear the soft playing of music as you read. So beautiful, yet brutal, as those times were known. There lies the problem of not being able to give this one 5 stars. The world was so built out, and as I said beautiful, there was no room for me to love, really love or truly hate (except that nasty Galbert de Garsenc)
Jan 12, 2014 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
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddy-read, fantasy
”Until the sun dies and the moons fall, Gorhaut and Arbonne shall not lie easily beside each other.”

This is my third book by Guy Gavriel Kay and, while all have been excellent, this one is my favorite so far. I give that qualifier because there are more Kay books to read and with every story he manages to enthrall me all over again. In each book he has managed to make his fictionalized lands seem real and familiar by evoking the memories of our world’s own past. Tigana conjures visions of mediev
Florian Armas
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Born from the history of troubadour culture evolving in large areas covering the south of France, (Aquitaine, Provence, Occitanie), the country of the langue d’oc, north of Italy (Occitan Valley, Piedmont) and north of Spain (V’al D’Aran), A Song for Arbonne is a pseudo-historical fantasy set in a fictional yet easily recognizable medieval Western Europe. There is also a Germanic substrate, with names like trovaritz singers (troubadours), Aulensburg and Götzland.

The novel is slow, but it flows i
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Guy Gavriel Kay has the kind of prose that makes me want to bury myself and cry because I'll never be able to write like him. A Song for Arbonne has everything: romance, troubadours, intrigue, war, passion, revenge. It's an epic story.

Guy Gavriel Kay writes something I wouldn't call fantasy but more alternative history. He takes a place (here it's the lovely Provence) then does his research and sets a story in an alternative version of it. Beautiful plot, great characters and a lot of heartbrea
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Play Book Tag: A Song For Arbonne-4 stars (POLLS) 3 13 Oct 19, 2020 10:55AM  
Fantasy Buddy Reads: A Song for Arbonne [October 2017] 231 77 Oct 23, 2017 01:43PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. "Song for Arbonne" by Guy Gavriel Kay 1 8 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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