This is my third read of A Song for Arbonne, and this third time, despite knowing what will happen, it hits me just as hard as it did the first time – maybe even more. Despite this I didn’t have it in queue for a reread – there are so many other books to read, out there – hadn’t it been for it being chosen as the next group read at the Green Dragon, the Librarything pub.
As usual with Kay a number intertwined themes are present throughout the book – most prominently themes of loyalty and trust, and of the destructive powers of a monocultural society. The backdrop is a early medieval type of world, with feudal nations or nation states, each small enough to be travelled on horse in a couple of days, and in a precarious balance of powers. We follow Blaise, who first seems to be a mercenary just like any other – the younger son of some noble family, not in line of inheritance and thus not particularly needed – as he after long travels ends up in legendary Arbonne. Coming from the patriarchal Gorhaut he is prejudiced against “women-ruled” Arbonne but as he comes to know both the men and women ruling the river valley he slowly beings to understand and appreciate, if not love, a culture that could not had thrived elsewhere. Had it not been for his background, slowly revealed throughout the tale, this could had been enough. But he soon finds himself embroiled in the kind of politics that define both nations, cultures, and their vessels – the people ruling.
Kay paints an elaborate and believable world were people’s powers and strengths have their limits, in a feudal society were the produce of the land is what ultimately sustains the economy, were even the powerful has draughty windows and cold stone floor, and were death is as omnipresent as life.
Personally I don’t much like the ending. It is a sad one, in more ways than one, even if the characters themselves seems to accept it as a good one. Still, a very good read, and a rewarding one.