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A Song For Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

Review by Louis

Guy Gavriel Kay is a brilliant author. That's all there is to it. He's one of the best there is, in Fantasy at least, and I have no doubt in my mind about that. Sadly, for me, he has only released 8 novels that I know of and A Song for Arbonne was the last of them for me to read.

As with all his books really, this one starts off pretty slowly. I had either started it before or had it out from the library and been about to start it but didn't. This time though, I won the book in an online competition, and I had read more of his stuff so I had a little more of an idea of the benefits from bearing with it. Really, I wish I could remember enough of the details of what I was thinking as I was reading it to get into spoilers and proper discussion of it, but it was too long ago now.

Having said that, I do need to go on a bit longer. The characters, as always, are one of Kay's real strengths. The people he portrays, both male and female, are very real and enjoy a range of complex thoughts and feelings. The protagonists here are intelligent, clever, witty and at times very cynical. He illustrates all sorts of relationships between the players very well and he makes a lot of what they're going through easy to empathise with in parts. He never goes the easy simple road in his work, which is an extremely laudable thing in my eyes. I love that he never gives you what you might expect from another author.

The plot is interesting, and although I don't think there were any really major shocks (but a few minor ones) it's not easily predictable either. He never really makes life easy for himself particularly. Some things happen in the book exactly as you're expecting them to all along, but it feels right, like a sense of fulfilment of the way it should be, rather than a formulated trick so the author doesn't have to bother himself to come up with something better.

I also really like his overall writing style. If you've ever read any of his work you'll probably know what I mean. GGK writes the way I would love to be able to if I was a writer. He has a few flaws, like the overly slow beginnings (although I'd see that more as a feature of his writing that it just takes time to adjust to rather than necessarily a flaw) but overall his technique is excellent. Descriptions are good, action is portrayed quite well, dialogue is always top class, and so on. I could probably keep heaping praise but I think I should quit now. *l*

A Song For Arbonne doesn't match the peaks of Tigana or his best, Lions of Al-Rassan, but in parts it does come very close. It's an excellent stand alone book by a great author and well worth reading by anyone.


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