The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars evokes a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands--where empires and faiths collide.
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist travelling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request--and possibly to do more--and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor's wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he's been born to live. And further east, a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif--to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.
As these lives entwine, their fates--and those of many others--will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world...
World Fantasy Award winner Kay (River of Stars) returns to the alternate Renaissance-era Europe of A Song for Arbonne in this engrossing fantasy of plotting nations, colliding religions, and shifting alliances. The stage is enormous. The wealthy city-state Seressa relies on spies to watch neighboring allies and enemies. The ruler of Seressa longs to destroy the Senjani pirates who interfere with trade. But the Senjani serve Rodolfo of Obravic, Holy Emperor of the god Jad, who's fighting the Asharites in the east, where the ambitious Grand Khalif also bears watching. Three Seressan agents are mustered: ambassador Orso Faleri, embedded in Rodolfo's court; Leonora Valeri, a noble's disowned daughter posing as a doctor's wife bound for Dubrava, a nation that pays tribute to the Khalif; and young artist Pero Villani, ordered to observe the Khalif's court while painting his portrait. Add vengeful Senjan warrior Danica Gradek, irreverent Dubrava merchant Marin Djivo, and the Khalif's plot to take a strategically located border fortress, and Kay has enough schemes for a 10-book series. He wields plots and all-too-human characters brilliantly, in a world where nothing is as valuable as information. This big, powerful fantasy offers an intricately detailed setting, marvelously believable characters, and an international stew of cultural and religious conflict writ larger than large.
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I love his turn of phrase, intelligent characters, and rich cultural backdrop. Sometimes, the cast of characters seem a bit too many to keep track of, but it’s well worth the effort.