The Golden Key

The Golden Key


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 6 days


Now in trade paperback, this World Fantasy Award-nominated novel by three powerhouse women fantasy writers introduces a world where art is prized above all.

In the duchy of Tira Virte, fine art is prized above all things, both for its beauty and as a binding legal record of everything from marriage and births to treaties and inheritances. And although the Grand Duke is aware that there is more to the paintings of certain limners than meets the eye, not even he knows just how extraordinary the art of the Grijalva family truly is. 

For certain males of their bloodline are born with a frightening magical talent—the ability to manipulate time and reality within their paintings, a Gift which enables them to alter events and influence people in the real world.

The power of the Grijalva family has always been used solely to aid Tira Virte and its ruler. But this all changes in the time of Sario Grijalva. Sario, driven by his own passion and ambition, has learned to use his Gift in a whole new way. Obsessed with both his magic and his beautiful, adored cousin Saavedra, Sario will do anything to win her love.

Unable to bear it when Saavedra gives her heart to another, he takes a first, fateful step beyond the boundaries previously placed on Grijalva spell-casting, capturing his cousin with forbidden arts. And it is this rash and dangerous act that sets in motion a generations-spanning pattern of treachery and betrayal, which may cause both the Grijalvas and Tira Virte to pay a terrible price....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780756415570
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: 06/11/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 912
Sales rank: 321,006
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 2.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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.

Read an Excerpt

Sario Grijalva saw at once what had become of her; where she had gone, despite her physical presence. He knew that look, that blind glaze in eyes, the stillness of features, the fixed feyness of expression. He even knew how it felt: he, too, was what some might call victim. He himself named it potential. Promise. Power. And his definitions were unlike those of others, including the moualimos, the teachers who for now defined his days in the workshops of the students.
Petty men, all of them, even those who were Gifted. They spoke of such things as potential, as promise; even, quietly, of power, and knew nothing of any of them.
He knew. And would know; it was in him to know.
“’Vedra,” he said.
Bound by her inner eye, she neither answered him nor moved.
“’Vedra,” he said more clearly.
She twitched. Her eyes were very black; then slowly the blackness shrank, leaving another color behind. Clear, unmuddied gray, unsullied by underpainting, by impure pigments. It was one of the things about her unlike so many others: Grijalva gray eyes, unusual eyes, the markers of their mutual Tza’ab ancestry, though his was cloaked in far more ordinary clothing: brown eyes, brown hair, desert-dark skin. Nothing in the least remarkable about Sario Grijalva.
Not outside, where men could see. Inside, where no one could see but he, because the only light available was the kindling of ambition, the naphtha of his vision.
He looked upon her. She was older than he, and taller, but now she huddled upon the colonnade bench like a supplicant, a servant, leaving him to accept or deny preeminence. She turned her face up to him, into a shaft of midday sunlight that illuminated expression in quiet chiaroscuro as it illuminated the wood-speckled paper attached to a board, the agile, beautiful hands. With a quick, unthinking motion she tossed unkempt black hair out of her eyes; saw him then, registered his presence, marked identity—and answered, dredging awareness back from the vast geography of her other world, confined by the bindings of her inner eye.
“Wait—” Clipped, impatient, imperative, as if he were the servant now.
They were all of them servants, Grijalvas: gifted and Gifted alike.
“—wait—” she repeated—softer now, pleading, asking understanding, forgiveness, all underscored by impatience—and sketched frantically upon the paper.
He understood. There was compassion in him for her, unalloyed comprehension. But impatience also, his own for other reasons, and more than a little resentment that she should expect him to wait; she was not and could not be Gifted, not as he was Gifted.
Therefore he could answer: “There is no time, ‘Vedra. Not if we are to see it.”
Silence, save for the scratching of her charcoal upon the inferior paper.
“I must get this down ...” And unspoken: —while it is alive, while it is fresh, while I see it—
He understood, but could not coddle it. “We must go.”
“A moment, just a moment longer—momentita, grazzo—” She worked quickly, with an unadorned economy of movement he admired. Many of the young girls labored over their work, as did many boys, digging and digging for small truths that would strengthen their work, but Saavedra understood better what she wanted to do. Her truths, as his, were immense, if unacknowledged by either of them as anything other than ordinary, because to each of them such truths were. They breathed them every moment.
As did he, she saw those truths, that light, the images completed by her mind in all the complexities, exploring none so much as freeing them with a minimum of strokes, a swift stooping of her gift.
Luza do’Orro, the Golden Light, the true-talent of the mind.
He watched. For once he felt like moualimo to student, teacher to estuda. It was not he laboring beneath the unrelenting eye of another, but she beneath his eye, doing nothing for him but for herself instead, only for herself; she understood that freedom, that desire for expression apart from the requisites of their family, the demands of the moualimos.
“No,” he said suddenly, and swooped down upon her. His own vision, his own Luza do’Orro, could not be denied. Even for such dictates as courtesy. Even for her. “No, not like that... here—do you see?” They none of them were without pockets or charcoal; he took a burned stick from his tunic and sat down beside her, pulling the board and paper away into his own lap. “Look you—see?”
A moment only, a single corrected line: Baltran do’Verrada, Tira Virte’s Duke, whom they had seen only today in the Galerria.
Saavedra sat back, staring at the image.
“Do you see?” Urgency drove him; he must explain before the light of his vision died. Quickly he scrubbed away what he could of the offending line, blew it free of residue. The portrait now, though still rough and over-hasty, was indeed more accurate. He displayed it. “The addition here gives life to the left side of his face ... he is crooked, you know. No face is pure in balance.” He filled in a shadow. “And there is his cheekbone—like so... do you see?”
Saavedra was silent.
It struck him like a wave: he had erred. He had hurt her. “’Vedra, forgive me—” Matra ei Filho, when someone did that to him— “Oh, ‘Vedra, I’m sorry! I am!” He was. “But I couldn’t help myself.”
She put her charcoal into her tunic pocket. “I know.”
“I know, Sario. You never can help yourself.” She got up from the bench and shook out her tunic. Charcoal dust clouded. Her tunic was, as his, stained by powdered pigments, dyestuffs, binder, melted resins, oil, all the workings of their world. “It is better, what you have done.”
He was anxious now, thrusting the board and pinned paper back into her hands as he rose hastily. “It was only—” He gestured helplessly. “It was only that I saw—”
“I know,” she said again, accepting the board but not looking at the sketch. “You saw what I didn’t see; what I should have seen.” Saavedra shrugged, a small, self-conscious lifting of her shoulders. “I should have seen it also.”
It lay between them now. They were alike in many ways, unalike in others. She could not be Gifted, but she was gifted, and more so than most.
He saw again in his inner eye the image. No one would mistake it. No one could have mistaken it for anyone other than Baltran do’Verrada before he had altered the sketch, but he had altered it nonetheless.
He was sorry to hurt her. But there was exactitude in his Gift, a punishing rectitude: there was no room in his world for than anything less than perfection.
“Regretto,” he said in a small, pinched voice. Inside his head: Nazha irrada; don’t be angry. Nazha irrada, ‘Vedra. But he could not speak it aloud; there was too much of begging in it, too much humility. Even to her, even for her, he could not bare so much of himself. “I’m sorry...”
She was in that moment far older than he. “You always are, Sario.”
It was punishment, though for her it was merely truth, a bastard form of luza do’orro. He valued that in her. Truth was important. But truth could also punish; his own personal truth had transformed the rough sketch from good to brilliant, with merely an added line, a touch of shadow—he understood it all so well, it burned in him so brightly that it was beyond his comprehension how another might not know it.
His truth was not hers. She was good, but he was better.
Because of it, he had hurt her.
“It’s all right,” she said, tucking hair behind her ears. A bloody speck glinted there: garnet stone in the lobe. “Do’nado. You can’t help it.”
Indeed, he never could. It was why they hated him.
Even the moualimos, who knew what he could be.
“Where are we going?” she asked. “You said it was important.”
Sario nodded. “Very important.”
“Well?” She repositioned the board, but did not so much as glance at the image on the paper.
He swallowed tautly. “Chieva do’Sangua.”
It shocked her as much as he expected. “Sario, we can’t!”
“I know a place,” he told her. “They will never see us.”
“We can’t!”
“No one will see us, ‘Vedra. No one will know. I’ve been there many times.”
“You’ve seen a Chieva do’Sangua?”
“No. Other things; there hasn’t been a Chieva do’Sangua for longer than we’ve been alive.”
She was taken aback. “How do you know these things?”
“I have open eyes, unplugged ears—” Sario grinned briefly. “And I know how to read the Folio, ‘Vedra; I am permitted, being male.”
“To look, eiha, yes; but it’s too soon for you to read so much. Do the moualimos know?”
He shrugged.
“Of course not! Oh, Sario, you’ve read too far ahead! You must be properly examined before permission to read the Folio is granted—”
He was impatient now. “They won’t know we’re there, ‘Vedra. I promise.”
Beneath charcoal smudges, her face was leached of color. “It’s forbidden—it’s forbidden, Sario! We are not Master Limners to see the Chieva do’Sangua, any more than you are permitted to study the Folio—”
Again, he could not help it. “I will be. I will be.” And Lord Limner also!
Color flared briefly in pale cheeks; she, being female, would never be permitted to study the Folio, or to be admitted to the ranks of Master Limners, the Viehos Fratos. Her purpose was to conceive and bear them, not to be one. “You aren’t one yet, are you?”
“No, but—”
“And until you are, you are not permitted to see such things.” She glared at him, clearly still stung by his reminder that gender as much as blood precluded her from rising as he would. “And it’s still true: we are not Master Limners to see the ritual. Do you know what would happen to us if we were caught?”
Abruptly he grinned. “Nothing so bad as Chieva do’Sangua.”
She ignored the sally and shook her head definitively. “No.”
He smiled. “Yes.”
Now she looked again at the sketch. Her image, that he had made come truly to life with the single quick stroke of his charcoal here, and a bit of shadow there.
Neosso Irrado they called him; Angry Youth—and with reason. He tried them all. Tested them all. But they knew it even as he did: the Grijalva family had never, since the Gift had come upon them, known anyone with his talent.
He was surely Gifted. Unacknowledged, undefined, as yet unconfirmed. But they knew itas surely as he did. As surely as Saavedra, who had told him so once, long before he saw it in his teachers’ eyes, because the moualimos would not speak of it.
He would be a Master Limner, one of the Viehos Fratos ... how could he not? The Gift surged within him despite his youth, despite the fact no one would yet consider admitting it.
Lord Limner, too. He thrust his chin into the air proudly. I know what I am. I know what I will be.
Saavedra’s mouth twisted. She looked away from the sketched face because his living one demanded it. “Very well,” she said.
He had won. He always won. He would go on winning.
No one, not even the moualimos, knew yet how he might be beaten. Or even if he could be.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Golden Key 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 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.
Anonymous 15 days ago
BobNolin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I made it about 400 pages into this book before deciding that life is too short to waste it reading sub-par books. As an artist and fantasy fiction lover, I really wanted to like this book, but it was too much small-time soap opera and not enough story. The idea is such a good one (being able to control people and events through painting), but it's wasted here. My first and likely last encounter with these three authors. (PS - my wife enjoyed this book, but she did characterize it as "chick-lit fantasy". Take that for what it's worth.)
starstorm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It had been a while since I read this book (quite a few years, actually!) and I'd forgotten so much about it that it was almost like reading it again for the first time. There are some books that I reread after a long time that seem to lose a great amount of their appeal in the intervening time, but that was in no way true about The Golden Key. I was still impressed with how well a book by three authors flows together so seamlessly, following Sario's single-minded goal of guiding Grijalva art out of obscurity to the pinnacle of perfection. At the same time, his very single-mindedness (and those actions he undertakes to insure his success) drive him ever deeper into madness, with his original purpose eventually so idealized and static that he doesn't even realize he will never be able to reach it in a world that is continually changing around him.
jshillingford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is almost indescribably awesome! A truly unique story, with a a few very well developed characters in a fully realized world. The Grijalva Family has a secret. They are renowned artists in a world where fine art represents legally binding contracts. But they imbue their art with an ancient magic - to manipule time and reality with the paintings. Dorian Grey has come to a whole new level! Highly recommended!
SevsOnlyGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So I thought I would add a new feature to the blog. I'm going to call it Wayback Wednesday (for now at least!). It will feature books that are from at least 10 years ago that I think you should all read. :)For our first selection, here's a book that I was thrilled to find is being re-released!I'm going to take a moment here to talk about the authors and cover artist. Melanie Rawn has written numerous books since 1988 and been nominated for the Locus Award on three occasions. The rumor is that a prequel to The Golden Key is coming up later this year, the title? The Diviner. Jennifer Roberson has been publishing since 1984. She has multiple stand alone books as well as series and is still releasing books. Kate Elliott has been publishing since 1988 under her Kate Elliott name and also under Alis A. Rasmussen. She is still publishing and has more books in the works right now. Cover Artist Michael Whelan has done illustrations for authors such as Stephen Kin, Isaac Asimov and Anne McCaffrey. Pretty impressive, eh? He's also done CD covers for Sepultura and Meatloaf. If you look at the picture on The Golden Key you'll see many elements of the story and it's an amazing picture. The most amazing part - go look at a picture of Michael Whelan from the 1990's and then look at the painter on the cover. Look familiar? :)This book was a World Fantasy Award finalist for Best Novel of 1996 and Voya's 1996 SF, Fantasy, and Horror Books of the Year.So finally. The story is multi-generational and covers approximately 400 years. It concerns two families; the Grijalvas - an artistic family and the do'Verradas - the royalty. The Grijalvas give up one female member of every generation to be the official mistress to the reigning Duke, while one male member is the official artist to the Court (Lord Limner). The d'Verradas don't always realize that they are given these Grijalvas, they believe that they are choosing them. Some of the male artists in the Grijalvas family have an ability to manipulate time and reality in their paintings. All records - birth, death, marriage, treaties, etc., are documented by paintings rather than written documents in thisstory. The language used in the book seems to be a blend of several languages with made up words added in. There is a dictionary of sorts in the back of the book, but I caught on quickly and thought that this is such an easy language, we should adopt it! The two main characters are Sario and his cousin Saavedra Grijalvas. Both have been born with the genius for painting, although girls aren't supposed to have it so no one believes it. Sario loves Saavedra and cannot stand for her to give her heart to another. He uses his talents in a new and dangerous way to prevent it.The story moves along quickly and the political elements keep the story fresh and exciting. This is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite re-reads
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago