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Golden Key Paperback – 19 Sep 1997
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In Tira Verte births, marriages, treaties and all official documents are painted, not written. The paintings by certain males of the Grijalva family are also magical. This book tells the story of one such painter-magician's obsession with power, with life, and with a love he can never claim.
About the Author
Jennifer Roberson is the author of the Sword-Dancer Saga and the Chronicles of the Cheysuli, and collaborated with Melanie Rawn and Kate Elliott on the historical fantasy The Golden Key, a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. She has also published three historical novels, and several in other genres. An exhibitor and breeder of Cardigan Welsh Corgis, she lives on acreage in Northern Arizona with eight dogs and two cats. She is currently working on the third Karavans novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The story is set in an Italian-esque world, where formal legal documentation has been replaced by formal paintings which use symbolism to represent the legalese normally taken up by miles of paper. However, one family of painters has the secret of magic and uses it to bring their family to the front of power in the Court.
The story centres around Sario Grijalva, a member of this family of painters, whose belief in his own gift is so strong that it leads him to discover additional magics to those already known to his family, and to use them to further his own position, extend his life, and wreak revenge on those who oppose him. The story spans several centuries, and includes many different characters. However, in one way or another, it always comes back to Sario's relationship with Saavedra, a fellow Grijalva who was his friend, but fell foul of him when she became fearful of his power, and was trapped within a painting. It encompases magic, tragedy, romance and murder - a heady combination!
This book is beautifully written, stands well on its own, and is based on a concept I've not come across before in fantasy fiction (although the idea of people extending their lives at the expense of others is certainly not new, it does tend to occur more in science fiction) You are left with a real feeling for all the main characters, and it's a real page turner. Highly recommended.
The multi-generational novel is set in a world with a strong feel of Renaissance or early modern Spain. While never leaning too much on its real-world counterpart, the inspiration permeates all levels, immeasurably enriching the book. It is glimpsed most obviously in the characters' names, fashions and the oaths that pepper their speech. More subtly, it infuses the religious practices, behaviour (there is a strong emphasis on family honour and female modesty), and recent history - the novel opens a little after a long war with a religiously-inclined nomadic people, an obvious but not overstated parallel with the Moors.
The central conceit of the novel lies in the social and administrative role of portraiture in the state of Tira Verte, where it is used to record everything from marriage contracts to wills to treaties between nations. Those whose paintings are most highly valued enjoy considerable political and personal influence, and their style becomes something to imitate by those who follow them. A few, in secret, are able to wield more than mere influence with their brushes.
The story follows the fortunes of two noble families, and the consequences of one rashly destructive act (try to ignore the synopsis on the back of the book, which gives this act away), through several generations. Throughout, not only the story but also the world progress naturally and fascinatingly, as artistic fashions change and the society develops and diversifies. It is told in three parts, with each author taking one generation of characters - respectively: Roberson, Rawn, and Elliot. Melanie Rawn's section is the stand-out, but all three are highly accomplished pieces of writing, gripping and fluent as they tackle themes as varied as the relationship between art and artist, the moral responsibility of power, and the position of women in a highly-regulated society.
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