A Song for Arbonne


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Now, Blaise is a mercenary. He never expected to work for the lords of Arbonne, the warm, fertile lands south of Gorhaut, whose people praise the love of women—they even worship a goddess, instead of the god.

A Song for Arbonne: Reverberates with the slow, sweet music of humanity

They are a soft people, or so he thought. But for all their nonsense about love, their troubadours and songs, they will fight for their country, when invasion comes from the north. For the Northern mercenary called Blaise, it began with the death of a king and betrayal in the form of a peace treaty.

Wandering in self-imposed exile, he would journey to the Kingdom of Arbonne, where the Court of Love made warriors bow to troubadours, and a well-sung ballad was valued as highly as a skillfully swung sword. But Arbonne was a troubled realm, torn by an ancient feud between its two most powerful dukes and coveted as a prize by the land in which Blaise himself had grown to manhood. Guy Gavriel Kay is the international bestselling author of many novels and a book of poetry.

More about Guy Gavriel Kay. A thoughtful, literate adventure filled with rich details and vivid characters, high drama and graceful prose. Epic Fantasy Romance Category: The clash comes and goes without any reflection of what had caused it and the religious element doesn't really fit or reverberate properly. This is to some extent caused by the major weakness of the novel, i.

Villains here are pathetic evil creatures. We have two of them, the king of Gorhaut is a monster of rare quality, while the High Elder, the religious leader, is just evil period. You will not find back stories, nuances or details that would invite the reader to understand if not endure their rationale. There is just everything you can imagine inserted into this character to ensure that the readers hate him without compunction.

And Kay I know is able to write complex black characters to fall in love with! Finally, I had some qualms with the main love story of the book lying at the foundation of the unfolding drama. We even pity the poor girl and her fate. But this is proven to be false! Firstly, Aelis what a horrible, spoiled brat that was! She ruined lives of two men, her own parents, and her cousin, and endangered the very existence of her country on a whim - not to mention the fact that she deprived her daughter of a father!

Her second victim was her lover, Bertrand, who carried the torch of her love for twenty-some years, even though the feeling continues against himself. This is the reason why he beds all the women he can; to find if not a replacement, then somebody who can make him forget, if only for one night. Undoubtedly Bertand is also a victim of this tragic love, just like his dead paramour. He is also a victim because Aelis locked him within a world of hatred for her husband Urte. Urte and Bertand become like king and yang, unable to live lives independently of each other: Only in the last chapter is it revealed that the portrait of a crude, unfeeling husband Aelis painted has been false.

Urte loved all these years, but because he himself was more Gorhautian in demeanour and habits than Arbonnais nobody realised this was the case. He loved but was not loved in return. And Aelis attributed him only the hatred she felt. The whole thing is shrugged over. As if the package of love is more important than the very thing. This is also a shortcut not worthy of the author I know and admire.

In the end, I found the book simplistic. Several shortcuts and yet the finale is not neat; too many flapping loose ends. I am not sure if Kay himself knew where the story would go because we didn't have his usual foreshadowing indicating mastery of every detail in the design. Promising beginning, and pathetic ending. Some fun in between. No swoon though, so don't start your journey with Kay here. You might wish to try Tigana first or the Sarantine Mosaic duology set in Byzantium-like world: Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors. View all 12 comments. Feb 14, Kelly rated it really liked it Shelves: Insert rant about the many reasons why I really like a lot of Kay's early work here.

View all 14 comments. May 27, Ivan rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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. 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 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.

Then he releases all of those characters into this newly crafted world, and let them roam the fields and populate the emptiness, and so they establish societies, they find their roles, create their destinies, search for love and happiness, struggle with the consequences, and live their lives. And then he invites you to go through this journey, this rich experience he created, and when you do, you struggle with the various characters and feel for them, you taste the wind that blows through their homes and shapes their lives, you smell the firewoods that enliven their hearths, you hear the music they dance to and the poetry they extract from their hearts, and you realize that this is something rare and ingenious and beautiful.

View all 7 comments. Well I hate to do this but listening to this audio book is just putting me to sleep. View all 11 comments. Feb 04, Jon added it Recommended to Jon by: View all 13 comments. 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 My fourth book by GGK and once again I liked the the world, story and the characters created by him. It is a total contrast to the land of Gorhaut which has a patriarchal society. It is his hatred that bring these two nations on the cusp of the war and whole story revolve around this impending war.

Kay is famous for using historical places. He used southeastern France for this one. The world that he has portrayed in this book is beautiful, unforgettable and very resonant. Characters are very good and their narrative describe the different events of past for us. A man whose hatred inspired him to end a country because they worship a Goddess and respect women did not settled well with me. My most favorite character in this book was Rosala. She was an extremely intelligent and clever woman. Her courage when she faced the most feared man in country was truly awesome.

Not GGK's best work but still an admirable read. View all 18 comments. Two countries, two deities. Southerly, warm, goddess-worshipping, and filled with songs of love. Northern, harsh, god-worshipping, and ruled by a cruel and twisted king. 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 Two countries, two deities. Each has internal rivalries that threaten their unity when they need it most. How do you sum up a Guy Gavriel Kay novel?

This was a combination of tough and comforting for me, as it has a heavy focus on loss and grief, and I am currently mourning for a friend who died six weeks ago. This is partly why the few reviews I've managed to write lately are so short and unspirited: I'd put the balance of this story more on "comforting" at this time; I'm glad this book called to me now. So far GGK is three for three with me. 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. A tale of men and women.

A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

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 Pure poetry. There were ripples to events, and they went a long way sometimes across the dark pools of time and the world. View all 3 comments. May 26, 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.

But the author threw up a lot of unnecessary chaff between me and my enjoyment of the story. It wasn't enough to r This book is like a nice painting splattered with mud. It wasn't enough to ruin it, but was enough to detract and annoy. The most notable interference comes from regular injections of overly florid language.

He tries so hard to say something grand or majestic sometimes and it just comes out so cheezy and overdone that it makes you groan. Luckily most of the writing is just fine, good even. But every twenty pages or so a real turkey of a sentence comes out of nowhere to smack you like a log of bologna. It had left without her knowing, like a bird in winter, flying north to a hopelessly wrong destination where no haven or warmth or welcome could even be imagined. I'm glad he didn't describe her brushing her teeth.

So you get "Galbert scowls and walks out of the room" instead of "Galbert scowled and walked out of the room.

Touchstones

One thing that bothered me that might not bother others is the songs. I don't know what I was thinking - the word "song" is right there in the title. I guess I thought it was a metaphor or something. I've disliked songs in books ever since The Hobbit: Luckily there aren't more than a few songs in this book, but they're real stinkers, and we're supposed to get all wistful about them. One of them mentions "choice meats".

Anyway, hooray for battles, family rivalries, court intrigue, etc. Boo for peacocky flourishes and meat songs. 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 I can understand people who don't like Guy Gavriel Kay's work. 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 stuff that's part of the Arthurian legends as well once they hit France.

I don't think, though, that I fell for this book quite as much as I have for some of the others. There's some good stuff here, but some promising background characters didn't really come to full bloom for me -- Valery, Rudel, even Hirnan -- and despite the women-centric society, we didn't have female characters as striking as Catriana or as pivotal as Kim.

Rosala was probably the female character I was most interested in, but she comes somewhat late into her own, and I felt as though I should be more aware of the other female characters. They shadowed the story, they were behind it, and yet they weren't the visible drivers. Not quite the story Kay was aiming to tell, I think. Still, all of that sounds harsh, when I really do enjoy this book. When Kay gives you a scene, a character, a moment, he expects you to remember. He will use it.

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One character's chance word reveals another's secret, one introspective passage becomes suddenly important. It's a rich world he creates, and some parts of it dance with life -- and ache with sadness. It's just, it does pale when held up against some of his other books. Even the flaws of The Summer Tree and the other two books of that trilogy are brilliant. I was a little surprised to like this book possibly less this time than last, which may be some combination of mood and timing; normally I like Kay's work better with each reread.

Regardless, there's always something to treasure in Kay's work. Nov 23, Kat Hooper rated it really liked it Shelves: Blaise, a sellsword from Gorhaut a violent and chauvinistic northern country , has moved to the warmer country of Arbonne. But what is Blaise doing in Arbonne anyway? Is he hiding, or is he spying? Blaise thinks all of this is incredibly ridiculous and he has little confidence in the men he commands.

How can they be manly when they live in this gentle culture? I guess I liked Blaise because I was thinking the same thing — these guys are a bunch of wusses and this courtly society is shallow and immoral. But Blaise and I learned that when their lives and lifestyle are threatened, the passionate people of Arbonne respond. It was nearly over-the-top in A Song for Arbonne, but I liked Blaise so much that it worked for me when we were in his head. On the opposite end is the light hair of the disinterested women, without personal ambition or perversity: Cygne de Barbentain, whose age and social position distances her from the games of seduction; Lisseut, the troubadour, who travels both country and sexuality with the sensual and unique view of an artist; finally, Rosala, who is fleeing the shadow for the light, death for life.

We could even go further to see the white owl of brown-haired Beatrice as a symbolic image of the ties between religion and power. The owl, symbol of the divine, is white, colour of innocence and purity — Rian is the goddess of Love, of Light, of generosity — and she opposes dark Corannos, the warrior god of Gorhaut. Yet her priestess partakes in the obscurity of all who come into contact with power. Guy Gavriel Kay endows the world of men with a radical cynicism.

Religion, politics and sex are inseparable and partake in a shared human desire to dominate, control and rule all that lives. Disenchantment once again, in the other sense of the word. In this book, the men of Gorhaut and the women of Arbonne only differ in their goals, and not in the means employed to achieve them. The shadows are inextricably linked to the light and the light to the shadows. Even the High Priestess of Love, Beatrice, does not hesitate to manipulate opinion or to use religion as a pressure tactic as long as it serves her designs.

Even the biggest jerk in the novel, the High Priest of Corannos, in whom we find, a priori, nothing but cruelty and delusions of grandeur, reveals himself as strangely human in the end. A difference of degree and not nature, which explains the opportunities for all of the twists and turns. Yet again, Guy Gavriel Kay distances himself from classical fantasy where the roles are too often simply handed out in advance with characters who are either good or bad by nature, independent of the education, experience, and culture which they might have had.

In all aspects, a richness of historical research, a discarding of the High Fantasy cliches in preference of a more cynical view of the world, inextricably linking sex, religion and politics, A Song for Arbonne is a must-read book. Guy Gavriel Kay is decidedly a sure thing in contemporary literature whose readership should extend well beyond the traditional fans of fantasy.

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