Kay's latest is very much in the vein of his well-received Tigana (1990): an exhilarating epic fantasy based loosely on medieval history. Tigana was an imaginary kingdom analogous to Italy; Arbonne bears a similar resemblance to 12th-century Provence. But Kay is less interested in re-creating history than in playing the changes on the epic themes of love, war, and destiny. So rather than in medieval Europe, we find ourselves in a world with two moons, where a dualistic pagan religion takes the place of Christianity. Much of the time, we see Arbonne through the eyes of Blaise, an expatriate mercenary captain in the employ of Bertran, one of the most powerful lords of Arbonne--a man equally adept at war, music, and the art of seduction. As it turns out, Blaise is also a man with a complex past and a high destiny in his native Gorhaut, Arbonne's traditional enemy. There's a full quota of heroic action here--Kay has a rare ability to rise to the occasion for a set-piece battle. But as the duality of Arbonne's religion indicates in its balance of male and female gods, the women characters play an equally central role--from the Countess who rules the rival warlords of Arbonne, to the blind high-priestess, to the pregnant northern noblewoman who precipitates a war by fleeing south, to a young woman in the process of becoming one of the great troubadours of Arbonne. Meanwhile, music is a major theme throughout here, while Kay spins all the threads into a powerful tale of great events in a richly drawn magical kingdom. Complex and compelling: one of the most impressive fantasies in a long time.