Once again, Guy Gavriel Kay does not disappoint. That said, the very beginning didn’t really grab me (especially the caper on Rian’s Island). But partway through chapter 3, Blaise, our main character, gets ambushed, and I was hooked for the rest of the novel.

This is a fantasy drawing deeply of southern France. The Court of Love rules here, and troubadours and joglars are what keep the Court vital. There is a god-goddess duo here which is much reflected in somewhat separate but equally important male and female characters of the novel. The nature of Corannos the god are not much gone into, but Rian’s, the goddess, power all emanates from an island in the southern sea. The world is much wider than we really get to see, Gorhaut being somewhat developed as the antithesis of Arbonne, and Portezza being an Italy-equivalent that a couple characters are from and the main character has spent time in, and other areas merely mentioned.

The novel is, as ever with Kay, well-paced, with the action working up to greater heights after every lull, and Blaise becoming more important in every lull. His centrality to events flows naturally as we learn more about him, and he takes to himself more responsibility.

There is a much wider cast of characters, many of which get to be viewpoint characters at one point or another. However, Lisset, the second-most prominent, seems a little undeserved as her progression doesn’t seem to mirror the novel’s like Blaise, even though she’s a vital viewpoint, and in the center of the distinctive artistic-centered culture Kay is presenting here.

And that just barely scratches the surface of an expansive novel. All of Kay’s books have enough going on to feel epic, and I think this one tops Tigana and Al-Rassan in that for me. Better yet, I have thought for a while that Occitian France needed more attention, and this makes a good primer on the subject.