Fiction: October 2007 Archives

Guy Gavriel Kay: A Song for Arbonne

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So far I have simply loved Kay's alternative history novels. A Song for Arbonne is no exception to the rule: it's an excellent story. Set in beautiful Arbonne, the book's actual historical setting is the medieval France of the troubadours. Arbonne is ruled by women, full of music and courtly love, while the northern Gorhaut is an extremely masculine country bent on war.

One can guess what happens with a setting like that. However, despite that, the story manages to be surprising and full of unexpected twists. The characters are many-faceted and full of life. The plot makes sense and packs in plenty of action, intrigue and romance. Religion plays a big role, as does family.

Kay is a master: A Song for Arbonne is another fine story well told. Even though the book is labeled fantasy, there is very little supernatural in it, so as long as one is interested in medieval themes, even those who dislike most fantasy books will be able to enjoy this one. [ A Song for Arbonne at ] [ A Song for Arbonne at LibraryThing ]

I was reading this book when I heard Doris Lessing had been awarded the Nobel prize in literature. As a science fiction fan I think Lessing was an excellent choice: she's both an interesting author and her bibliography includes science fiction - including some elements in this book.

Briefing for a Descent is about a man, who is found wandering around in London. He's taken into a psych ward for treatment and it soon turns out he has lost his memory. He sleeps a lot, dreaming intense and interesting dreams. Eventually he wakes up and the hospital staff find out his identity - then begins the task of making the man and the identity meet.

The book starts slowly and I'm fairly sure many people have started, but not finished. My recommendation is to skim through the early parts about floating in oceans - the book gets a bit more solid about halfway through and is actually quite interesting. Worth reading, definitely, if not the best one I've read from Lessing. (Review based on the Finnish translation.) [ Briefing for a Descent into Hell at ] [ Briefing for a Descent into Hell at LibraryThing ]

In New York of 1893, painter Piambo is suffocating. He's forced to paint society portraits of the nouveaux riches in order to make a living. A mystery comission to paint the portrait of Mrs. Charbuque offers a way out, as she offers a rather mind-boggling amount of money for her portrait. There's a catch, of course: Piambo is not allowed to see Mrs. Charbuque. He can only hear her talk behind a screen.

Piambo accepts the commission. While he struggles with the painting, a wave of mysterious murders hits New York. Soon Piambo finds out he's in a bit too deep for his own good, but getting out is not that easy - and does Piambo really want to get out?

Jeffrey Ford has written a marvellous book. The story was a real page-turner, this is a magical book full of new wonders. Both Piambo and Mrs. Charbuque are interesting characters and the story is riddled with interesting people and events. It's been a while since I've read a book this captivating. Highly recommended for the fans of magical and fantastic. [ The Portrait of Mrs.Charbuque at ] [ The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque at LibraryThing ]

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