- A Song for Arbonne © 1992
- Viking: Penguin
- 515 pages
It’s difficult to introduce this book without giving the plot away, so here’s what I can say: A Song for Arbonne is filled with political intrigue, big battles, and heroes-for-hire. Kay’s style has matured quite a bit by this effort, exhibiting the traits that become so characteristic of his current works: in-depth character development, and a breathless mastery of present tense.
The structure of the book is interesting. All the action takes place in four different times: a few days in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This is both a good and a bad thing. On the positive side, the action moves quickly because it isn’t spread out over months. On the negative side, the climax seemed out of place. The build-up you would expect was replaced with the final battle.
Arbonne sets the tone for the rest of Kay’s books. The explicit fantastical elements of his Fionavar trilogy were toned down in Tigana and are mere background elements here. Fortunately, Kay’s storytelling doesn’t rely on fantasy—he’s quite at home in historical fiction.