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The Golden Key

The Golden Key

4.7 8
by Melanie Rawn

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In Tira Virte, art is prized for its beauty and as a binding legal record of everything from marriages to treaties. Yet not even the Grand Duke knows how extraordinary the Grijalva family's art is, for certain Grijalva males are born with the ability to alter events and influence people in the real world through that they paint. Always, their power has been used for


In Tira Virte, art is prized for its beauty and as a binding legal record of everything from marriages to treaties. Yet not even the Grand Duke knows how extraordinary the Grijalva family's art is, for certain Grijalva males are born with the ability to alter events and influence people in the real world through that they paint. Always, their power has been used for Tira Virte. But now Sario Grijalva has learned to use his Gift in a whole new way. And when he begins to work his magic both the Grijalvas and Tira Virte may pay the price.

Editorial Reviews

Available in paperback, this fantasy collaboration is a World Fantasy Award nominee, and with reason; it's quite possibly the best fantasy collaboration I've read to date. Collaborations these days are fraught with reader-peril, and many of them often offer far less than the sum of their combined (or at least billed) talents. Not so with the world of Tira Virte. From the outset, with the creation of Saavedra and Sario, two impassioned artists in a world where art is magic, Tira Virte resonates with the sense of history and place that make a fantasy world real. The book itself is written in three sections, during three different historic periods of the Duchy of Tira Virte and its artists, but the story that starts in the first section finishes in the last, giving the book a sense of resolution and structural unity; it's not quite a novel, but it's not three separate unrelated chunks either. There's a detail and a richness here that, while it doesn't make for fast reading, makes for fine reading.
—Michelle West
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The three Musketeers they're not, but judging by their finished product, the three authors who have collaborated on this hefty historical fantasy comprise a competent team. In exploring the relationships among art, magic and morality, Rawn (The Ruins of Ambrai), Roberson (the Cheysuli series) and Elliot (the Jaran series) have tried to create a novel that is seamless yet preserves their individual literary personalities. The narrative covers three generations in the mythical history of Tira Virte; each generation's story seems the work primarily of one of the three authors. For centuries, Tira Virte's do'Verrada Dukes have been manipulated by the gifted Grijalva family. Selected Grijalva women become First Mistresses, while male Grijalva artist-magicians, the sterile Limners, can direct human lives by incorporating their own vital juices into their pigments, a practice that causes them to die young and in agony. Unifying the book is the Machiavellian Limner Sario Grijalva, who achieves unnaturally long life by successively murdering 16 men and taking over their bodies. The novel begins with "Chieva do'Sangua," apparently by Rawn, which competently depicts Sario's daring youth, his domination of Tira Virte as Lord Limner and his complex desire for his equally talented artist-cousin Saavedra. This introduces the major theme of women whose biological imperatives conflict with the demands of their talents. Foiled by Saavedra's love for the handsome Duke Alejandro, Sario magically imprisons Saavedra in a ravishing portrait. "Chieva do'Sihirro," which displays Roberson's hand, is more pedestrian in concept, detailing Sario's incognito political engineering 300 years hence. Finally, the colorful "Chieva do'Orro" tidies up Tira Virte a generation later, bloodlessly establishing a constitutional government, releasing Saavedra from her enchantment and punishing Sario's villainy with a unique revenge that opens a door to shared-universe sequels. Perhaps Sario's last words here best sum up this long and involved experimental saga: "remember patience." Authors tour. (Sept.)
VOYA - Nancy K. Wallace
Tira Virte is a mythical country ruled jointly by its Grand Duke and its magical Limners, the extremely talented painters who record each birth and death and legitimize each treaty and deed. These gifted painters, holders of the coveted "Golden Key" for their proficiency both in magic and art, create their masterpieces with more than paint; what they put to canvas they can also make reality. One Lord Limner, Sario Grijalva, has discovered ancient magic and power exceeding anything his colleagues have used before-magic so powerful it offers him immortality. But Sario's love of art is exceeded only by his passion for his cousin Saavedra. Jealous of her growing devotion to the young Duke Alejandro, Sario uses his magic to cruelly blind Saavedra to him forever. In this four-hundred-year-long saga, these three talented authors trace Sario's rise to greatness, literally over the bodies of those who would oppose him. His single-minded ruthlessness makes him both the most talented painter of all time and also the most treacherous. Well-known artist Michael Whelan, who provided inspiration for the novel, has supplied the cover art: a chilling portrayal of himself as Sario. While each author has written a third of the novel, skillful transitions smoothly blend three time periods into a seamless collaboration. Mediterranean flavor and rich detail lend the text the authenticity of historical fiction. The unique use of art as a vehicle of terrifying power, literally controlling life and death, compels the reader anxiously on. There can be nothing but praise for this new fantasy. Each author has previously succeeded in her own right, but this collective effort is brilliant. Rarely does a work combine such uniqueness, creativity and suspense. Don't miss it! VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Kirkus Reviews
A "shared world" trilogy in one volume, offering connected novels by three of this publisher's most popular authors (the credits page lists over two dozen of their previous works), collaborating for the first time.

The setting is an imaginary quasi-Mediterranean country, Tira Virte, where a close alliance between political power and fine art is the norm. Contracts, treaties, wills, and important occasions are recorded not in writing but in painting, and the Grand Duke considers the Lord Limner (the court artist) his most significant appointment. As the story begins, we learn that one family of artists, the Grijalvas, has fallen into disfavor despite their exceptional technique. One young Grijalva artist, Sario, strikes a deal with the mysterious Tza'ab, a descendant of the hereditary enemies of Tira Virte, to learn how to combine painting with magic. At the same time, his beautiful cousin Saavedra becomes the official mistress of the Grand Duke's son—planning to use her influence to make a Grijalva the next Lord Limner. In a fit of jealousy, Sario uses his magic to imprison her inside a painting; he then makes use of his powers to transfer himself into the body of a younger man, thereby escaping the early death that awaits all Grijalva painters. So begins a multigenerational saga in which Sario, in different embodiments, and the official mistresses (the title is now a Grijalva perquisite) influence Tira Virtean life and art. We jump three centuries ahead to an era when the still thriving Sario's plans are temporarily thwarted by the equally insidious schemes of the mistress, then at last to an even later era where revolution threatens to turn Tira Virte into a modern nation with little room for either Grand Dukes or Grijalvas.

In overall effect, this resembles nothing so much as a fantasy soap opera on a grand scale—exactly as might be expected from the authors' previous work.

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet 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.

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The Golden Key 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books.  I re-read it every year.  One of the things I like best is that the story continues over generations.  I don't know anything about painting, but the authors present the details of painting (and art in general, and the language of Tira Virte) in such a way that it's all very clear.  
Guest More than 1 year ago
a book that i keep on going back to read again and again. Passion, romance, thrills drama, action, magic. It has it all, without making it unrealistic (as far as is possible) and pulls on the heart strings of those who have had similar emotional experiences as the characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I have read books by all three authors in the past, I wasn't convinced that I would like this book since I have little interest or knowledge in the area of oil paintings. To others who are avoiding this book for the same reason, I want to say READ ON. The authors give just enough info to let you see into the characters' world of painting without bogging down in details. The descriptions of the finished paintings given in the beginning pages of the book are given to set the scene of the politics of this world and how paintings are used in it. The few references to these paintings are only in the most general terms. It isn't important to remember the small details included in the descriptions. By the end of the book, you will be laughing along with the authors at the critic's reviews of paintings.
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