A Brightness Long Ago
International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay's latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose lives come together through destiny, love, and ambition. In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra's intelligence won him entry to a renowned school even though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count--and soon learned why that man was known  as the Beast. Danio's fate changed the moment he saw and recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count's chambers one autumn night--intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen, instead of a life of comfort, one of danger--and freedom. Which is how she encounters Danio in a perilous time and place.Vivid figures share the unfolding story. Among them: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a powerful religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting all these lives and many more,  two larger-than-life mercenary commanders, lifelong adversaries, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.A Brightness Long Ago offers both compelling drama and deeply moving reflections on the nature of memory, the choices we make in life, and the role played by the turning of Fortune's wheel.

A Brightness Long Ago Details

TitleA Brightness Long Ago
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 14th, 2019
PublisherBerkley Books
ISBN-139780451472984
Rating
GenreFantasy, Historical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fantasy

A Brightness Long Ago Review

  • Robin Hobb
    January 1, 1970
    This will be longer than my usual review because I have a lot to say. And I will attempt not to do spoilers.First of all, this book comes out in May. I received a free advance copy. I don't think that affects my review. I virtually know Guy Gavriel Kay and hope to someday play cribbage with him.So, to start with, in the intro in the ARC, Kay observes that our brightest and most lasting memories are usually from our late teens and early twenties. Which sent me to research that right away. If you This will be longer than my usual review because I have a lot to say. And I will attempt not to do spoilers.First of all, this book comes out in May. I received a free advance copy. I don't think that affects my review. I virtually know Guy Gavriel Kay and hope to someday play cribbage with him.So, to start with, in the intro in the ARC, Kay observes that our brightest and most lasting memories are usually from our late teens and early twenties. Which sent me to research that right away. If you know my books, you know I have a fascination with memory, and with information stored in our brains and yes, in our blood. So the articles on memory that I read supported what Kay said, and I plunged enthusiastically into the story.Fantasy is a genre that is a huge umbrella. In my opinion, fantasy is the umbrella that covers all fiction. In this case, this fantasy is set in a world somewhat like Italy, with characters somewhat like historical persons in a time rather like the Renaissance. If you love those times, it will add to your enjoyment of the book. If you knowledge of that place and time is limited or non-existent, don't worry. It doesn't matter. This is a book about people. The fantasy element is a subtle flavoring, as in a delightful cake where you can't quite identify what you are tasting, but you enjoy it. Some of the people you will meet may seem trivial to the plot. "Why are you telling us about this shoemaker?" Because Kay knows that, at heart, we are all little people in the greater story we live in. Even the most puffed up and important of us will be a tiny note in history, a few hundred years from now. Yet each of us (as my Fool would remind us all) changes the world every day. So it is with these characters. Painted vividly, these characters are each the main characters in their own stories. Each of them diverts the sequence of events into a slightly different track. Chance encounters become fate. Of these characters, Guidanio is arguably the most important. He is our guide to that brightness long ago, although he is not always the speaker in the tale. Like the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope, each character shakes the tube, and we see the brightness shine through their opinion of what really happened. Events turn and spin as we regard them from multiple angles. And finally, my favorite pages in the ARC are 240-243. I don't know if the pages will have the same numbering in the final hardback, but I suspect most of you will know what I loved when you encounter it. If you've been reading Guy Gavriel Kay for years, then this book will bring an added richness to that experience. IF this if your first book by Kay, don't hesitate to dive into the tale at this point. You will not feel confused nor excluded from the larger story lines that others will see.
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  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    Extraordinarily profound, complex, lyrical and moving storytelling that deserves far more than the five stars I am able to award it. I have never read Guy Gavriel Kay before, so this was my first read, a historical fantasy, where the term fantasy is misleading because it is deployed to throw the most brightest and insightful of spotlights on the complexity of history and the chaotic reality of the contemporary world we live in. It mulls over the nature of power and memory, of how the future is s Extraordinarily profound, complex, lyrical and moving storytelling that deserves far more than the five stars I am able to award it. I have never read Guy Gavriel Kay before, so this was my first read, a historical fantasy, where the term fantasy is misleading because it is deployed to throw the most brightest and insightful of spotlights on the complexity of history and the chaotic reality of the contemporary world we live in. It mulls over the nature of power and memory, of how the future is shaped and turned by choices and decisions by repercussions that are unforseen, where the tiniest and the most apparently insignificant and minor person, and their interactions, play their part. The author gives us a multilayered story of what at first appear to be a disparate set of characters and their lives that emerge to give us shifting perspectives with an interlinked and overlapping web of connections, in this story of love, ambition, the rise and fall of influential characters, human impulses and fate.This is set in Batiara, a version of Italy in the early Renaissance, evoked through a richly textured, subtle and delicate world building. The novel opens on a explosive note, Danio Cerra is now an old man, reflecting on his memories of his earlier youth in the most turbulent of times. Danio was a tailor's son whose intelligence secured him entry to a school of privilege and mixing in circles that would ordinarily be out of reach for those of his social status, and which is to place him in a powerfully dangerous milieu. This leads him to the court of the Count, the beast, and his fateful encounter with the feisty and noble Adria Ripoli, on the verge of assassinating the beast. Adria challenges her role and expectations of her to live and do what she wants to do. He comes to find himself in close contact with Teobaldo Monticola and Folco Cino, intense rivals and mercenary commanders. Vibrant pictures of minor and fringe characters, such as that of Jelena, the healer, have their own unexpected importance.Gabriel Gavriel Kay's epic and expert storytelling makes the kind of impact that left me admiring his considerable talents as a writer. He is astute and remarkable, compassionate in his humanity in capturing an era and a place, with insights that can be applied to our world today. He spins a thought provoking tale that is more than the sum of its parts, creating an enthralling, compelling and charismatic set of characters, the important, yes, but the greater focus on the more marginal people, that cannot fail to capture the reader's interest. This made for an indelible, exhilarating and memorable reading experience which I recommend highly to those looking for something different with depth. Many thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for an ARC.
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  • شيماء ✨
    January 1, 1970
    You know, getting emotional over fictional characters and stories was not really how I envisioned my adult life, yet here we are...I currently struggle for language to adequately express my feelings about this book. My head is still heavy with some fierce thing no matter how many times I sought to identify, name, I couldn’t. Though the story kicks into high gear from the opening sentence, the plot plods on for most of the book, and sometimes I was genuinely bored, but then moments of stark beaut You know, getting emotional over fictional characters and stories was not really how I envisioned my adult life, yet here we are...I currently struggle for language to adequately express my feelings about this book. My head is still heavy with some fierce thing no matter how many times I sought to identify, name, I couldn’t. Though the story kicks into high gear from the opening sentence, the plot plods on for most of the book, and sometimes I was genuinely bored, but then moments of stark beauty would break through, hitting me like a tidal wave, and I would falter in my reading. Not to mention that there's an understated allure to the writing that continuously caught me off guard. This is a profoundly contemplative story. The questions it asks, the uncertainty of its answers, but their inevitability all the same...those are the things that are bound to keep me up tonight. Full review to come.
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  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    January 1, 1970
    On sale May 7, 2019! This is really an excellent historical novel, with light fantasy elements. If you haven't read one of GGK's recent novels, you owe it to yourself to give him a try. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:Guy Gavriel Kay writes magical books. Not magic in the sense of mighty wizards and spellcasting with unicorn-hair wands and cauldrons bubbling with potions best not tasted. The magic in Kay’s novels is a more elusive thing. He takes a plot and cast of characters, o On sale May 7, 2019! This is really an excellent historical novel, with light fantasy elements. If you haven't read one of GGK's recent novels, you owe it to yourself to give him a try. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:Guy Gavriel Kay writes magical books. Not magic in the sense of mighty wizards and spellcasting with unicorn-hair wands and cauldrons bubbling with potions best not tasted. The magic in Kay’s novels is a more elusive thing. He takes a plot and cast of characters, ones that would be interesting enough even in the hands of lesser authors, and turns them into something extraordinary through his lyrical and profoundly thoughtful storytelling, his insights into human character and motivations, and his musings on life and its meaning.We like to believe, or pretend, we know what we are doing in our lives. It can be a lie. Winds blow, waves carry us, rain drenches a man caught in the open at night, lightning shatters the sky and sometimes his heart, thunder crashes into him bringing the awareness he will die.We stand up, as best we can under that. We move forward as best we can, hoping for light, kindness, mercy, for ourselves and those we love.A Brightness Long Ago, like most of his recent novels, is what Kay aptly describes as “history with a quarter turn to the fantastic.” It’s a prequel of sorts (though a stand-alone read) to his equally excellent 2016 novel Children of Earth and Sky, set some twenty-five years before the events of that novel, in a slightly fantastical version of Renaissance Italy, here called Batiara. (I spent more time than I should have, researching to figure out the real-life counterparts of all the cities and historical characters that play a role in this story. Seressa is Venice, Rome is Rhodias, Sarantium is Constantinople, and so forth.) Inspired by the feud between historical figures Federico da Montefeltro and Sigismondo Malatesta, two great military leaders, Kay tells of the clashes ― both military and personal ― between Folco Cino, lord of Acorsi, and Teobaldo Monticola, lord of Remigio. Their lives, and that of Folco’s niece Adria, a rebellious duke’s daughter, are seen through the eyes of Guidanio (Danio) Cerra, the son of a tailor.Danio, who narrates most of the tale as the reminiscing of an older man, is chosen to receive an education with the children of nobility because of his intelligence and quickness, raising him far above his humble beginnings. After finishing his schooling he obtains a position in the palace of Count Uberto, known as “the Beast” for his violent and even murderous sexual proclivities.There were stories of youthful bodies carried out through the smaller palace gates in the dark, dead and marred. And good men still served him ― making their peace with our god as best they could.Balancing acts of the soul. Acquiescence happens more than its opposite ― a rising up in anger and rejection. There are wolves in the world, inside elegant palaces as well as in the dark woods and the wild.But Falco (admittedly for his own self-serving reasons) and his niece Adria have concocted a scheme to bring Uberto down. They set Adria up in a farmhouse outside of the city and eventually, almost inevitably, word of the attractive farm girl comes to Uberto and she is summoned to his palace. When Danio sees Adria being brought to Uberto’s suite of rooms and recognizes her as the duke’s daughter who once visited his school, that recognition could be deadly to either Danio or Adria. Or it might prove of immeasurable benefit to both of them.A Brightness Long Ago follows Danio and Adria, Folco and Teobaldo, and others through the next year or two, as their lives touch and separate and then interweave again. Adria is a particularly bright spark, a spirited and courageous young woman who is doing her best to live a life outside of the normal restrictions on noblewomen, though she knows the freedom she’s found can only be for a limited time. Doors of opportunity open and then close. Her participation in a particularly unusual horse race in Bischio is a high point in the story, where multi-layered plans and schemes of various characters collide in a truly spectacular way.In his narration, Danio frequently comments on “the random spinning of fortune’s wheel” and how chance occurrences can affect the entire direction of our lives. Our lives aren’t always in our control. But he realizes that personal choices have an equal impact on the path of our lives.Fortune’s wheel might spin, but you could also choose to spin it, see how it turned, where it took you, and she was still young, and this was the life she wanted. Kay weaves a pleasurably complex tale with a large cast of characters, but these characters are so vividly drawn and memorable that I never got confused. Kay’s storytelling evinces understanding and sympathy for even deeply flawed characters, even those who served the Beast and were aware of the terrible things he did to innocent youths.I think, it is the best thought I have, that he was devoted to the idea of being loyal, in a world with little of that. That a man needed to drop an anchor somewhere, declare a truth, find a harbour… Perhaps in the darkest times all we can do is refuse to be part of the darkness.In his later years, Danio recalls the unforgettable characters from this time in his youth, who still shine as bright torches in his memory. Their brightness will linger in mine as well.I received a free copy of this novel for review from the publisher through NetGalley. Thank you so much!Content notes: A few scattered F-bombs; a mildly explicit sex scene; attempted sexual assault.
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  • Celeste
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book electronically via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.You can find this review and more at Novel Notions. “I knew, once, a woman diamond bright and two men I will not forget. I played a part in a story in a fierce, wild, windblown time. I do have that. I always will. I am here and it is mine, for as near to always as we are allowed.”This is only the second book I’ve read from Guy Gavriel Kay, but I feel secure in stating that I’ve never come across another author wh I received this book electronically via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.You can find this review and more at Novel Notions. “I knew, once, a woman diamond bright and two men I will not forget. I played a part in a story in a fierce, wild, windblown time. I do have that. I always will. I am here and it is mine, for as near to always as we are allowed.”This is only the second book I’ve read from Guy Gavriel Kay, but I feel secure in stating that I’ve never come across another author who has his way with words. There’s something about his prose that is both breathtakingly lovely and oddly jarring. In A Brightness Long Ago, Kay paints with his words, writing something that is lush and poignant and real enough to touch. This novel is somewhere between historical fiction and low fantasy, and Kay straddles that divide with great finesse.“Perhaps it is true of every life, that times from our youth remain with us, even when the people are gone, even if many, many events have played out between where we are and what we are remembering.”Danio is one of the lucky youths who, despite low birth, are chosen to attend a school with noble children. Because of this education and a compelling personality, Danio finds himself in the midst of history in the making throughout his life, whether in the form of being present during an assassination or witnessing a horse race that will live on in legend or standing on the sidelines as mighty men made war or truces. His was an oddly calming, graceful presence among larger-than-life personalities. There was this graceful poise and sense of honor to his character that I found incredibly compelling.“Life, the way events actually unfold, is not as precise or as elegantly devised as a storyteller can make it seem. There are moments that find us, like some stray dog on a country road, and they may not carry significance, only truth: that they happened, and we remember them.”While Danio was the only first person perspective character, we did have other perspective characters. A pagan healer, a wealthy second son with no head for politics, an important daughter who wants nothing more than to escape the life that is expected of her and live life to the very fullest, a mistress yearning for legitimacy. There are others, as well, but these are the lives that most often intertwine themselves with Danio and the two powerful men who seem to dominate this part of the world. All of the characters were multifaceted and interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow and change over the course of the novel. The one thing each character seemed to have in common was a preoccupation with sex, but from what I gather that is a common theme in Kay’s work.“Shelter can be hard to find. A place can become our home for reasons we do not understand. We build memories that turn into what we are, then what we were, as we look back. We live in the light that comes to us.”The setting for this book is very heavily inspired by Italy, as is apparent by the names of people and places given. The land is made up of city-states who often find themselves at war with one another. So often, in fact, that springtime has become synonymous with war. I’ve read very little set in Italy outside of Romeo and Juliet, so I found the setting very thought-provoking. There was a horse race, briefly mentioned above, that was one of the most amazing sequences I’ve read. I could see and hear and smell absolutely everything, as if I had fallen into the pages and landed in the scene itself. I believe this race with stay with me for some time, which was unexpected.“We live, it might be said, in unstable times. Dramatic, interesting, magnificent in ways. But not stable. You would never say that.”There are two reasons that this book didn’t receive a perfect rating from me, and they’re both incredibly subjective. First, the central themes of the story were war, romance, and politics. Two out of these three themes are topics that I often find myself lost in, unable to focus on the intricate political movements and patterns of war. While these are areas I can read past, I have a difficult time enjoying a story that is made up in such large part by these components. Second, I believe that I would have enjoyed this story even more and connected with it on a deeper level if I had read Kay’s Sarantine Mosiac. I won’t explain why, but I’m positive that there are plot points that would have brought me to tears if I had already developed a bond with Sarantium. “Perhaps in the darkest times all we can do is refuse to be part of the darkness.”Once again, Kay crafted something incredibly beautiful with this story. While it might not be an immediate favorite, it definitely enticed me into trying more of Kay’s work, and soon. Tigana remains my favorite book my Kay, and among my favorite fantasy novels period, but I now believe that Tigana won’t be the only of his works that I will come to love and cherish. If you want to be transported, and see how the world can be impacted by one life, this is a beautiful novel to try.
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  • Nicholas Eames
    January 1, 1970
    A BRIGHTNESS LONG AGO is, like all of Kay’s work, exquisitely crafted and deeply moving. By turns beautiful and bittersweet, it tells the story of small people caught in the current of world-shattering events, and of the ripples they make that are sometimes—but not always—lost in the flow of history. His most compelling characters are those found lingering near the frame of a famous portrait, or rendered, almost as an afterthought, in glass and stone. Guy Gavriel Kay has written a masterpiece, y A BRIGHTNESS LONG AGO is, like all of Kay’s work, exquisitely crafted and deeply moving. By turns beautiful and bittersweet, it tells the story of small people caught in the current of world-shattering events, and of the ripples they make that are sometimes—but not always—lost in the flow of history. His most compelling characters are those found lingering near the frame of a famous portrait, or rendered, almost as an afterthought, in glass and stone. Guy Gavriel Kay has written a masterpiece, yet again.
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  • Bob Milne
    January 1, 1970
    No matter the era, themes, characters, or plot, a Guy Gavriel Kay novel is always a marvel of narrative construction. Few authors can weave a tale in quite the same way he does, building a narrative that engages the reader as effortlessly as it flows from the page, and yet which, upon further reflection, is revealed to be a thing of complex beauty.A Brightness Long Ago is a story told in offset layers, with one narrative thread overlapping another, repeatedly taking us back a step to view pieces No matter the era, themes, characters, or plot, a Guy Gavriel Kay novel is always a marvel of narrative construction. Few authors can weave a tale in quite the same way he does, building a narrative that engages the reader as effortlessly as it flows from the page, and yet which, upon further reflection, is revealed to be a thing of complex beauty.A Brightness Long Ago is a story told in offset layers, with one narrative thread overlapping another, repeatedly taking us back a step to view pieces of scenes from a different point of view, before advancing further into the narrative from there. It's a technique that could be jarring, disconcerting even, but in Kay's hands it enhances the story, building connections with the characters, even as it builds our appreciation for what he's accomplished.It's not just a story of overlapping narrative threads, of course, but one of overlapping lives, and there is where the brightness shines strongest. Guidanio Cerra is at the heart of it all, a young man who comes into some very powerful, very dangerous circles. On the surface, it seems like a matter of right place, right time, but the more we read, the more we realize it's his choices - sometimes the simplest of choices - that guide him into those circles. The first circle he steps into is that of Adria Ripoli, a young woman about to assassinate the Beast. The lead-up to that act, the act itself, the escape, and the circle that follows, bringing Jelena, the healer, into the story, is more exciting than many novels, and that's less than 60 pages of a 560-page book.The two biggest, boldest circles are those of Folco Cino and Teobaldo Monticola, rival mercenary commanders with a shared history. It's a rivalry that threatens to spill over into battle, with the threat of war looming large over the whole story, and yet that's not the focus here. Kay can do battles, sieges, and conflicts very well, but here he is less interested in the action and more in the motives, the relationships, and the personalities. The crossing of their circles is alternately amusing and tense, playing out over the turning of seasons, until it does finally come to violence. A smaller circle connecting both men, drawing Guidanio deeper into intrigue, is that of Ginevra della Valle, a beautiful Mistress who alters the course of fate with a word, a wink, and a wager.Whereas so many fantasies are all about the story, with a quest or a conflict driving the narrative, we don't have that thread to follow here. Instead, A Brightness Long Ago follows the threads of the characters and their relationships, becoming more about the act of choosing than the choices we make, and more about the nature of memory than the memories we keep. Those overlapping circles, narratives, and characters are what make the story here, and it's a powerful one. By the time the story reaches its climax, it's almost shocking to see the way in which fate changes everything, and how the choices we make sometimes may mean everything to our lives, but nothing to the world.https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/...
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  • Sherwood Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Guy Gavriel Kay’s new book is set twenty-five years before his previous. Instead of a sprawling epic, the story paints three interrelated setpieces, each with a leisurely beginning, building to white-knuckled tension.At the center is the hatred of two formidable mercenary captains, Folco Cino d'Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola, based on two colorful Renaissance figures. Running tangentially is the story of Adria Ripoli, whose tale intersects with the occasional first-person reminiscence of Guidanio Guy Gavriel Kay’s new book is set twenty-five years before his previous. Instead of a sprawling epic, the story paints three interrelated setpieces, each with a leisurely beginning, building to white-knuckled tension.At the center is the hatred of two formidable mercenary captains, Folco Cino d'Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola, based on two colorful Renaissance figures. Running tangentially is the story of Adria Ripoli, whose tale intersects with the occasional first-person reminiscence of Guidanio Cerra, a young man venturing into the fraught world after years of first-rate education.Guidanio’s tone is elegiac, and many are his reflections on the merciless flow of time, of the violence of his time, contrasting with the universal appreciation—worship, even—of art. It’s a deeply engaging story, sharply painful at moments, filled with beauty and violence (as is much writing about the Renaissance). The three set-pieces are all set against the incipient fall of Sarantium/Constantinople. There’s little magic. When the supernatural enters the story, it’s quite effective, imbuing those scenes with the shimmer of the numinous—a contrast to the many scenes of deliberate violence.At first I thought this book was a frame tale, especially as it becomes clear that Guidanio is writing his memories of those brief years much later, when he’s older and wiser. The interspersion of third-person chunks from others’ POV I thought at first were inserted by Guidanio, though they never quite fit together, jinking back and forth in time, overlapping events and sometimes repetitions of ideas, but when we got to the POV of a ghost, I was thrown out of the story. How could Guidanio obtain that?As I read, I was always aware of these narrative pieces not quite fitting together (especially when we got chunks from various POVs sitting alone in a room thinking exposition at the reader) and began to long for an omniscient narrator to fit it all together either right up front a la Thackeray, or subtly, as Jane Austen’s narrator does in her later novels especially. Even the shifts in tense were not as jarring as the patchwork of third person scenes interspersed with first person—these matched the intensity of the scenes they were employed in. An omni narrator could have woven all this into one narrative, shifting tenses when necessary, and (at least for me) lifting the whole to another level.But we all read differently. Most readers won’t notice, and most of those who do won’t care because the story will draw them into the lives (some tragically brief) of these memorable characters, and the thoughts offered about big questions as well as small. But for me it’s the difference between a really good book and what might have been a great one.Copy provided by NetGalley
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  • Adam
    January 1, 1970
    “We like to believe, or pretend, we know what we are doing in our lives. It can be a lie. Winds blow, waves carry us, rain drenches a man caught in the open at night, lightning shatters the sky and sometimes his heart, thunder crashes into him bringing the awareness he will die. We stand up, as best we can under that. We move forward as best we can, hoping for light, kindness, mercy, for ourselves and those we love. Sometimes these things come, sometimes they do not.”Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightne “We like to believe, or pretend, we know what we are doing in our lives. It can be a lie. Winds blow, waves carry us, rain drenches a man caught in the open at night, lightning shatters the sky and sometimes his heart, thunder crashes into him bringing the awareness he will die. We stand up, as best we can under that. We move forward as best we can, hoping for light, kindness, mercy, for ourselves and those we love. Sometimes these things come, sometimes they do not.”Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the world’s best living storytellers.Set in the fictional nation of Batiara (serving as a near-proxy for 15th century Italy), Kay effortlessly drifts through a complex narrative while developing a wide cast of fully-realized characters. The reader experiences some of the same events through several different viewpoints, gaining multiple insights that helps to enrichen the story’s depth. The plot is reminiscent of The Lions of Al-Rassan as most major events swirl around two charismatic adversaries, mercenary captains Folco d’Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola di Remigio, neither of whom can be easily defined as good or bad men. They have both made a career out of being hired by powerful city-states to wage war and expand their employers’ territories, and have been finding themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield for decades. Their history of hate runs deep.But the story isn’t always centered d’Acorsi and di Remigio. Although their presence casts heavy shadows throughout the book, Kay chooses to spend most of the narrative through the eyes of characters who dance along the outskirts of these historic events. Most of these characters will not find their way into history books, but their influence on the world are just as powerful. These lesser-known players on the periphery are catalysts for change, and their impulses inadvertently help shape the world.“An encounter on a springtime road. The random spinning of fortune’s wheel. It can sway us, change us, shape or end our days.”Guidanio Cerra is the leading first-person POV in the story; we start and end with Cerra’s narrative, as his sections of the book are shared memories told from the later years of his life. Adira Ripoli is a noble’s daughter who defies her station through adrenaline-fueled assassination missions and high-stakes horse races. Jelena is a pagan healer with a supernatural sense of the spirit world and keeps finding herself amidst powerful players on the cusp of death. We spend time with dukes, High Patriarchs, scholars, soldiers, and many others as their lives drift in and out of some of the most important moments in the nation’s history. Some grow. Others die.Throughout the story, Kay keeps exploring the consequences of impulsive decisions and the chaos that spawns from them. Decisions such as hanging around a hallway for an extra minute, or turning your horse north instead of south – all are actions that one thinks nothing of at the time, but their repercussions can last beyond your lifetime. Interestingly, Kay challenges this theme by offering the possibility of divine intervention. Depending on your level of faith, this is one of the very few times the book veers into ‘low fantasy’ territory. It asks the reader to contemplate the existence of God, and if God plays a role in impulsive decision-making and its oft-fatal outcomes.Around the halfway point to the novel, there is an interlude that feels deeply personal. Kay outs himself by breaking the fourth wall and commenting on the nature of stories, how they are told, how they spread, and the reader’s role in experiencing it all. It feels like Kay is sharing his wisdom gained from a lifetime of crafting his stories for a worldwide audience.This story is shocking, devastating, and beautiful. Kay’s language is elegant in its simplicity, yet painstakingly profound as it cuts to the core of what makes us think, and act, and remember. Time and again you may guess where the story’s heading, only to be wrong over, and over again. Passages were read and re-read, and tears were shed more times than I care to admit. I believe that A Brightness Long Ago is a book I will revisit throughout my lifetime, with hope that I will gain new perspectives as my memories change or linger, and my feelings grow or fade.“Shelter can be hard to find. A place can become our home for reasons we do not understand. We build the memories that turn into what we are, then what we were, as we look back. We live in the light that comes to us.”10 / 10
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    A beautiful meditation on how seemingly small choices can have such great consequences, and on how people who come into our lives, even briefly, can change them. As Danio Cerra reflects on his life, on the great upheaval he witnessed in his youth, we see how small, impulsive decisions made by him and others brought dukes to their knees, ruined or saved whole cities, and changed the course of history. This book also made me think about how much I love Guy's style. Not just the achingly poetic way A beautiful meditation on how seemingly small choices can have such great consequences, and on how people who come into our lives, even briefly, can change them. As Danio Cerra reflects on his life, on the great upheaval he witnessed in his youth, we see how small, impulsive decisions made by him and others brought dukes to their knees, ruined or saved whole cities, and changed the course of history. This book also made me think about how much I love Guy's style. Not just the achingly poetic way he describes his world, but also how Guy will take a character, a face in the crowd, and show how their lives were affected by the larger events they witnessed, even if they had no part in them. A shoemaker in debt risks his last coins on a horserace, and we see how that changes his life, his children's lives, and those around them. A humble cleric on the side of the road takes on offhand remark by a passing soldier to heart, and goes on pilgrimage, and so on and on. Each life is important in its sphere, and some spheres just happen to be much larger.And in the spirit of true confession: Yes, I do tear up every time he mentions mosaics. Damn him. If you don't know why, go read what I consider his best books: Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors. Go. Do it.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    New Kay, New Kay, New Kay, New Kay!!!! *breath* New Kay, New Kay, New Kay!! And another that sound super back to his roots. Yes. Can't wait.
  • Tucker
    January 1, 1970
    Many thanks to Berkely for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest reviewNow available! | Goodreads | Blog | Twitch | Pinterest | Buy this book
  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Master wordsmith Guy Gavriel Kay returns with an epic historical fantasy that is rich in detail with beautifully crafted characters and immense, immersive and intricate world-building. Undeniably readable with lyrical prose, which draws you into the story, this is a stunning, highly ambitious novel set in the Renaissance period in what is an alternative version of Italy named Batiara. Kay paints vivid pictures of time and place so much so that I felt like I had been transported back in time. It' Master wordsmith Guy Gavriel Kay returns with an epic historical fantasy that is rich in detail with beautifully crafted characters and immense, immersive and intricate world-building. Undeniably readable with lyrical prose, which draws you into the story, this is a stunning, highly ambitious novel set in the Renaissance period in what is an alternative version of Italy named Batiara. Kay paints vivid pictures of time and place so much so that I felt like I had been transported back in time. It's no wonder this has been long-awaited as it is incredible in its complexity and I'm sure it was a real labour of love for Mr Kay. Crafted exceptionally well with every last detail placed perfectly within the story, this is a must-read for those who appreciate unique fiction.Although this is described as fantasy the only aspect that differs from reality is the setting, and this hybrid works better than one would initially expect. He broaches some profound and thought-provoking topics throughout the course of the narrative, including our extremely chaotic contemporary existence, history, karma, fate as the fickle mistress she is and philosophical principles of power, perception, memory, the illusion of choice, responsibility, how individual decisions can make both an impact on said individual and the collective/society as a whole and the question of whether a person's path in life is predetermined and whether the individual really is in as much control of his life as he believes.It is an often moving but always enthralling read which has left an indelible imprint on both my heart and my mind. Once again Kay asserts his dominance and rightly takes his place as the king of the historical fantasy genre. This is a masterclass in impeccable story craft. Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for an ARC.
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  • Mayim de Vries
    January 1, 1970
    How is it possible that I missed this?!
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2019/0...This is a book that is more about the human element than the bigger picture of the world. How people’s lives can be defined, shaped, altered by a single moment. It is about those passing moments and memories. There are no guarantees in life, just because you feel something should be doesn’t mean it will happen or be that way. This book is full of danger, excitement, betrayal and love. Kay continues to prove his skill at storyt Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2019/0...This is a book that is more about the human element than the bigger picture of the world. How people’s lives can be defined, shaped, altered by a single moment. It is about those passing moments and memories. There are no guarantees in life, just because you feel something should be doesn’t mean it will happen or be that way. This book is full of danger, excitement, betrayal and love. Kay continues to prove his skill at storytelling is on a different level from most authors.Within the first hour of reading this book I was quickly reminded that even though I know I love reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s books, reading a new one is a fresh and strong reminder of how much I love them and why. I had a hard time putting this book down because I just kept wanting more, I was invested in the characters, their lives and the potential I could immediately see in them and the story. I wanted to see where things would end up.There is a decent size cast of characters and perspectives in this and I loved reading each character’s individual story. I feel like every character was important and their role in the larger story was critical, there was one individual that seems to be at the center of it all. Danio Cerra, a merchant’s son who was lucky enough to attend a prestigious school, seemed to find himself in the midst of many defining moments. He is very intelligent and quick witted. He is an excellent read of the people around him and seems to have a knack for understanding what to do and say to sway the tides.Among those unexpected and defining situations, he meets a woman who he realizes he can either save, at risk of his own life, or he can essentially ensure the end of her life. His decision here is so critical, yet has to be instantaneous (no decisions is essentially a decision in itself). A brief moment that changes everything. This book is full of moments like this, and Danio is in the middle of them more often than one would think. He can easily be seen as a trivial player by those around him, he is just the son of a tailor who happened to attend a good school. But he proves himself time and again to be more.I want to note that this book is not told in a traditional, chronological format. There are time jumps both forward and back for individual characters throughout. So 20% in, you might get details about what a character might be in 5 years, or perhaps you will get a flashback. It is a format that could cause a reader frustration or confusion in some instances, but I found it worked well and helped highlight how important instances in time as well as memories can be. Kay did an excellent job crafting this story and used the timejumps very effectively. They were also easy to follow and served the story well. Highly recommend, and as a bonus, typical of Kay, this is a standalone. It is very satisfying to read a single book and get the completed story.
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  • Kristen
    January 1, 1970
    Full review is here on my blog!~As this book is by GGK, it goes without saying that it is beautiful. But I have to say it anyway: goddamn this is a beautiful book. This review isn’t going to be as eloquent as others you’ll see for it. I am finding it rather difficult to even get words together for my thoughts on it that aren’t just ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ over and over. So it goes. The Lions of Al-Rassan is the only other Kay book that I’ve read up until now, and I wasn’t really expecting to Full review is here on my blog!~As this book is by GGK, it goes without saying that it is beautiful. But I have to say it anyway: goddamn this is a beautiful book. This review isn’t going to be as eloquent as others you’ll see for it. I am finding it rather difficult to even get words together for my thoughts on it that aren’t just ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ over and over. So it goes. The Lions of Al-Rassan is the only other Kay book that I’ve read up until now, and I wasn’t really expecting to latch on to the very next I read like I did Lions… but here we are. They’re about even.This story takes place in what is… more or less Italy in the 15th or so century, and it follows Guidanio Cerra, who is the son of a tailor who still nonetheless finds himself being allowed to study at a rather prestigious school. After that, he takes a job in the court of a duke, known as The Beast, and one night recognizes Adria Ripoli, the daughter of a powerful Duke as she enters The Beast’s rooms with every intention of assassinating him. She succeeds, but gets injured along the way. Danio helps her escape the castle. This won’t be the last time they meet, but it is the first. The story unfolds around Danio, and encompasses many people, but mainly two mercenary commanders who have had a long standing rivalry with each other, Folco Cino D’Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola di Remigio.As I said, this is a beautifully written story, and once I sat down with it, I couldn’t stop reading it until well into the wee hours of the morning. Kay’s prose is absolutely gorgeous, for a start, and the way it forms a story slowly but so intricately really puts the comparisons of Kay’s work to tapestries into perspective. It really is rather like having a story woven into a tapestry around you. The characters were so well built that I was emoting hard for them right from the start. Even characters that didn’t show up quite as often, such as the healer Jelena, or the rich and rather frivolous nobleman Antenami Sardi were so well written even in their comparatively brief appearances that they seemed to just emerge fully-formed into the story whenever needed.We want to sink into the tale, leave our own lives behind, find lives to encounter, even to enter for a time. We can resist being reminded of the artificer, the craft. We want to be immersed, lost, not remember what it is we are doing, having done to us, as we turn pages, look at a painting, hear a song, watch a dance. Still, that is what is being done to us. It is. Even so… we do turn the page, and can be lost again.So all told, this book was amazing. It was beautiful and rich. It was evocative and thought-provoking. It was tear-jerking and smile-inducing. In short, it was a masterpiece. GGK is a Canadian national treasure. Since he has already been given the Order of Canada, which is our highest civilian honor, we should knight him, or give him a Tim Horton’s gift card or something. Everyone loves gift cards, right?All of the stars in the universe out of 5.Thanks to the author, as well as Berkley via NetGalley for the review copy.
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  • Adah Udechukwu
    January 1, 1970
    A Brightness Long Ago is the best novel I have read this year. The novel is awesome, the plot is compelling and all characters in the novel are worth reading about.
  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*I want to give you a quick reaction, which I put together a few minutes after finishing this book - hopefully that will convince you to give it your attention. If not, there's more below. But this was my first, unfiltered thoughts:"This is numinous, illuminating work. Expectations high, expectations surpassed. Very emotional. Going to be thinking about it for a while."Not convinced? OK. Let's get into it a little more:A Brightness Long Ago is a fanta *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*I want to give you a quick reaction, which I put together a few minutes after finishing this book - hopefully that will convince you to give it your attention. If not, there's more below. But this was my first, unfiltered thoughts:"This is numinous, illuminating work. Expectations high, expectations surpassed. Very emotional. Going to be thinking about it for a while."Not convinced? OK. Let's get into it a little more:A Brightness Long Ago is a fantasy novel from Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s also a remarkably hard novel to talk about. That’s to its credit; the reason it’s hard to talk about is that there’s so much going on, so many layers, so many personalities, so much story, that getting a handle on it to explain why it’s so great has proven a bit difficult. So, lets start with this: This is a fantastic book, which explores life, death, sacrifice, age, the role of chance in history, and the role of people in the world. And that’s only a narrow sampling. This is a book with a lot to say. But it’s not just that, not just a pick-up-and-play philosophy text. It has characters whose lives feel as real as the reader’s own, whose loves and hatreds, dreams and duties, whose enmities and hopes all shape them, and the people around them. These are living, breathing people, with a rich inner life to match the political machinations and world events they find themselves entangled by. The world? The story’s set in the world of one of the parallel, almost-histories that Kay does so well, and I drew parallels with the renaissance Republic of Venice, which we’ve seen once before in another work of Kay’s.So that’s the elevator pitch. Deep, complex, believable characterisation. Vividly realised, semi-historical setting. A story that draws you in and won’t let go, through all its tides of hope and torment. The narrative is about people, first – about the way their personalities, their ambitions their affections and enmities shape the world around them.The world is classic Kay, in both senses. It feels like a lightly shifted version of Europe in the 1400’s, with a focus in a peninsula of warring city states with more than a passing similarity to Italy of that period. Regular Kay readers will have seen this world before – and even this small part of it, which was also heavily featured in his last novel, Children of Earth and Sky. New and old readers alike can delight in the lyrical prose, which builds a world up brick by brick, a world which feels instantly familiar, but with flashes of strangeness woven through it – a dream of sea-foam in the mortar. It’s a mark of Kay’s skill that every tree, every leaf, every stone, every wall feels alive, a luxuriant tapestry for his characters to run through. And while the detail is there, the wider aspect doesn’t suffer. There’s feuding cities, driven toward conflict by politics negotiated on a knife’s edge. There’s mercenary armies on the march, with all the destructive potential that implies. And there’s joys, as well – horses running their hearts out, and unexpected friendships found between cups of wine.This is a sprawling epic, engaging with difficult questions about ethics and systemic and personal morality, while also getting up close and personal – be that romance, individual crises of conscience, duels or any other of the plethora of human experience. This is such a densely packed story, and throughout, is absolutely captivating.I normally go on about the plot and the characters a little more – here, I wanted to give impressions of the breadth and scope of the work, of the way it made me feel, of the depth and emotional integrity of it because getting into the detail quickly got a bit spoilery.Suffice to say, if you’ve picked up a Kay novel before, this is another masterclass in fantasy from him; smart, emotionally raw, incredibly well characterised, wrapped in some truly beautiful prose. If this is your first step into this world – it’s fantastic. That simple. Pick it up and you won’t want to put it back down. It’s an ambitious, compelling story whose ambitions are realised, and which it’s a genuine pleasure to read.If you need to know whether it’s worth buying? Yes. Stop reading this, and go pick it up instead. You won’t regret it.
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  • Debbie Gascoyne
    January 1, 1970
    Guy Gavriel Kay’s website is called “Bright Weavings,” and this new novel is brightly woven. The narrative is, indeed, more weblike than linear, tracing the tight but seemingly random relationships between characters in one brief moment in time. For me, the title represents the brief light of a life flaring out in the dark reaches of history; Kay brings them to life and their lives shine and interact like a kaleidoscope.The novel opens with an incredibly tense and suspenseful assassination, and Guy Gavriel Kay’s website is called “Bright Weavings,” and this new novel is brightly woven. The narrative is, indeed, more weblike than linear, tracing the tight but seemingly random relationships between characters in one brief moment in time. For me, the title represents the brief light of a life flaring out in the dark reaches of history; Kay brings them to life and their lives shine and interact like a kaleidoscope.The novel opens with an incredibly tense and suspenseful assassination, and two characters meet whose lives will intersect briefly. Their lives intersect with others, and with others, and so the web is woven. It is a novel built of moments – like history – each one shining out, radiantly important to the individual at its center, perhaps meaningless beyond that context, or having repercussions that go unsuspected at the time. In our universe, Guidanio Cerra, the narrator whose memory captures most of the threads of this web and spans a time-line that exceeds the direct actions of the novel, would have read Boethius in the school in Avegna where he was fortunate enough to study and which led his path to cross with larger figures of his time. He thinks about Fortune’s Wheel, and if we have read Boethius, we think of his central lesson which is to withstand the blows of fate and set an even keel through life. Guidanio Cerra does that, and perhaps this is why he is the one to encounter and witness the brief, more fortune-driven lives of others, and to reflect on them and his own place in them.We meet many characters: Guidanio Cerra, the son of a bookseller from Seressa (a Venice analogue), Adria Ripoli, the young woman at the center of the two most striking set-pieces in the novel (the assassination and the most exhilarating horse-race), the powerful rival mercenaries, Folco Cino and Teobaldo Monticola, and the intriguing Jelena, the healer. And others. We get brief insights into the lives of “bit” characters as well, each one vividly drawn even if just for a moment.Kay is known as a fantasy writer, but this is something of a misnomer; Kay himself resists genre identification. A Brightness Long Ago is perhaps the least “fantasy-like” of his novels that I’ve read, and I’ve read most of them (all but one, I think). This is set in the same world as Children of Earth and Sky, and I believe is a prequel. Someone needs to write a guide to Kay’s characters and settings, because there are connections and threads running between his works that add to the complex sense of connectedness that informs them. Perhaps the best description of Kay’s work would be “meta-history” – his novels are set in a world that does not exist, yet explore and illuminate themes and historical trends that are very much alive in our own. Kay’s work always has an underlying melancholy, a sense of tragic inevitability, perhaps just in the sense that all our lives and enterprises are brief and ultimately pointless, but we also get the sense that each of us has our own brightness to share, and what a brilliant light that can be.I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Patrick St-Denis
    January 1, 1970
    I've said it before and I'll undoubtedly say it again. Every two or three years, Canadian speculative fiction author Guy Gavriel Kay releases a new novel that never fails to amaze me. For some unfathomable reason, though the man is definitely one of the very best fantasists of his generation, if not the best, I can't help but feel that he remains, at least outside of Canada (where he is a bestselling author), one of the genre's best-kept secrets. With unforgettable titles such as Tigana, The Lio I've said it before and I'll undoubtedly say it again. Every two or three years, Canadian speculative fiction author Guy Gavriel Kay releases a new novel that never fails to amaze me. For some unfathomable reason, though the man is definitely one of the very best fantasists of his generation, if not the best, I can't help but feel that he remains, at least outside of Canada (where he is a bestselling author), one of the genre's best-kept secrets. With unforgettable titles such as Tigana, The Lions of al-Rassan, Under Heaven, River of Stars, Sailing to Sarantium, and Lord of Emperors, Kay has set the bar rather high throughout his career. And I'm happy to confirm that A Brightness Long Ago is another memorable read that remains with you long after you've reached its end.Like the majority of his books, Kay's latest is another captivating blend of history and fantasy. Having read the Sarantine Mosaic and Children of Earth and Sky is not a prerequisite for enjoying A Brightness Long Ago to the fullest. It is a stand-alone tale which takes place between the duology and the novel. Still, there are a few nuances that might resonate a little more strongly with readers familiar with the aforementioned works. In any event, you should read all of Kay's books if you haven't already!Here's the blurb:International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose lives come together through destiny, love, and ambition.In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra’s intelligence won him entry to a renowned school even though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count–and soon learned why that man was known as the Beast.Danio’s fate changed the moment he saw and recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count’s chambers one autumn night–intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen, instead of a life of comfort, one of danger–and freedom. Which is how she encounters Danio in a perilous time and place.Vivid figures share the unfolding story. Among them: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a powerful religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting all these lives and many more, two larger-than-life mercenary commanders, lifelong adversaries, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.A Brightness Long Ago offers both compelling drama and deeply moving reflections on the nature of memory, the choices we make in life, and the role played by the turning of Fortune’s wheel.Long-time Kay fans will be pleased to learn that the tale occurs about 900 years following the events chronicled in the Sarantine Mosaic books, just before the fall of Sarantium. Once again, the worldbuilding was inspired by the Renaissance era, during the heydays of the republic of Venice. Richly detailed as only a Kay work can be, A Brightness Long Ago enthralls you from the get-go. I'm not sure how he does it with every new novel, but Guy Gavriel Kay once again came up with an incredibly evocative narrative and an arresting imagery. It's likely due to the extensive amount of research that the author puts into every project. Once more, I feel that Kay captured the moods and nuances of his chosen setting to perfection.I've said it a thousand times, but Kay's talent and imagination allow him to create a living and breathing environment that draws you in and refuses to let go. I don't know how he manages to do it, but Kay's worldbuilding is almost always a subtle thing. The setting never takes precedence over the story and he never relies on info-dumps and other such contrivances. Still, somehow, seemingly effortlessly, as the tale progresses Kay ends up with an elegantly crafted setting that never fails to dazzle the eye. Few authors can immerse readers in such a vivid manner, and Kay's eye for historical details and traditions imbues A Brightness Long Ago with a realism that is seldom seen in works of speculative fiction. Having said that, his latest is not a sprawling novel such as Kay's epic works like The Lions of al-Rassan, Under Heaven and River of Stars. Indeed, A Brightness Long Ago is not as vast in scope and is more reminiscent of Ysabel and Children of Earth and Sky. It's a shorter book, true, but one that nevertheless packs a powerful emotional punch.Guy Gavriel Kay has always possessed a deft human touch and his past novels are filled with memorable characters. And once more, it's the superb characterization which makes this book impossible to put down. As is usually his wont, the author came up with a group of disparate men and women, whose paths will cross unexpectedly and whose fates will be spun into a vast tapestry of love and tragedy. Each of them is going through important changes in their lives. Back when Children of Earth and Sky was about to be published, Kay told me that as much as anything, he wanted that novel to be about non-powerful (not same as ordinary) people on borderlands in a time of war, trying to shape their lives (very differently) in difficult times. They intersect, some of them, with power, but that isn't the heart of the story. It was also important for Kay to balance the five of them, not let one character take over the book. Add to that his usual desire to also balance awareness of history and themes against characters, narrative drive, etc, and you ended up with a complex and satisfying plot on your hands. For the most part, the same can be said about A Brightness Long Ago. The difference is that the protagonists are "less important" people in the greater scheme of things who get caught in the periphery of influential men and women whose actions will cause world-shaking ripples that will change the world as they know it. Young Guidanio Cerra is at the heart of the tale. But his meetings with first the beautiful and mysterious Adria Ripoli, and then with Folco Cino and Teobaldo Monticola, rival mercenary commanders with powerful armies, will set him on an unexpected course. Jelena, a young healer who treats a wounded nameless stranger will also unwittingly be drawn into events that will change her life. Of course, all of these protagonists are well-defined and three-dimensional. Other than the High Patriarch of Jad, that is, especially early on. He comes into his own later on in the novel, but at first it felt as though he was more of a cardboard cutout kind of character.It takes a while for the various storylines to come together. And yet, in typical Kay fashion all these threads do come together beautifully at some point and the author closes the show with style and aplomb. I loved how the decisions of minor players can nonetheless have grave consequences that will shake the world and echo down the centuries. Returning to the universe of The Lions of al-Rassan, the Sarantine Mosaic series, and Children of Earth and Sky was in itself quite a treat. I once asked Kay if he would ever consider giving us a book on the fall of Sarantium one day. It was nice to witness its collapse and the repercussions it would engender around the rest of the world. But I'm still hoping for a full novel/series focusing on the downfall and capture of Sarantium at some point.Though the pace can be slow-moving at times, it is never dull. From start to finish, with Kay's lyrical prose the narrative is a joy to read. I don't know how he does it, but it often feels as though Kay can convey more in a single sentence than most of his peers can in a full paragraph or a full page. With A Brightness Long Ago, Kay demonstrates yet again that he is a master storyteller in complete control of his craft. This is definitely one of the speculative fiction titles to read this year.For more reviews, check out www.fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com
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  • Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
    January 1, 1970
    DNF at 46%Not going to rate this because one day, I'll come back to the book. At the moment, though? I just couldn't get into it. The beginning was so explosive! I was so excited to read it and see where it went. Then, it slowed down. A lot. It slowed to the point where I forgot characters and what was going on. I didn't even know the plot at that point.However, the writing was amazing. I'd try another book by this author. And, one day, I'll probably come back to this book since I think it had p DNF at 46%Not going to rate this because one day, I'll come back to the book. At the moment, though? I just couldn't get into it. The beginning was so explosive! I was so excited to read it and see where it went. Then, it slowed down. A lot. It slowed to the point where I forgot characters and what was going on. I didn't even know the plot at that point.However, the writing was amazing. I'd try another book by this author. And, one day, I'll probably come back to this book since I think it had potential. Simply not the right time for me.
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  • Barb in Maryland
    January 1, 1970
    Happy sigh...Not as grand in scope as 'Children of Earth and Sky'; this 'prequel' is more tightly focused on one set of experiences for one character. Guidanio Cerra is looking back to a certain point in his life--when he was young and the small, seemingly random, choices he made led him into love, adventure, and the company of dangerous men.I was totally swept up in Danio's story. The author has a graceful way with words and the ability to engage the reader's emotions as well as their interest Happy sigh...Not as grand in scope as 'Children of Earth and Sky'; this 'prequel' is more tightly focused on one set of experiences for one character. Guidanio Cerra is looking back to a certain point in his life--when he was young and the small, seemingly random, choices he made led him into love, adventure, and the company of dangerous men.I was totally swept up in Danio's story. The author has a graceful way with words and the ability to engage the reader's emotions as well as their interest in 'what happens next'.This review may be revised, re-written, etc as I get a better grip on my reaction. (or it may not. who knows?)I'm now off to do a quick skim of 'Children' to refresh my memory about a few people/events mentioned obliquely in 'Brightness'...
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  • Adam Whitehead
    January 1, 1970
    Danio Cerra is the song of a tailor who, through luck and connections, finds himself working in the household of the Duke of Mylasia, known throughout the city-stats of Batiara as "The Beast." Adria Ripoli is the daughter of a wealthy family who is predisposed to action and danger. Folco d'Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola are rival mercenary commanders, the greatest generals of their day, whose fame and expertise are desired throughout the world, and who share a hatred and rivalry that will shape a Danio Cerra is the song of a tailor who, through luck and connections, finds himself working in the household of the Duke of Mylasia, known throughout the city-stats of Batiara as "The Beast." Adria Ripoli is the daughter of a wealthy family who is predisposed to action and danger. Folco d'Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola are rival mercenary commanders, the greatest generals of their day, whose fame and expertise are desired throughout the world, and who share a hatred and rivalry that will shape all that is to come.A Brightness Long Ago is the thirteenth novel by Guy Gavriel Kay, the Canadian author who (since the sorrowful departure of Gene Wolfe) may now hold the best claim to being the greatest living writer of fantasy fiction, a claim backed by the likes of both Tor.com and Brandon Sanderson. Kay's novels take real historical events and then weave a fantastical new shape out of them, creating a rich tapestry of characters, events and emotions that is never less than affecting, and, at his best, can be deeply moving.Kay's finest novels, arguably, are Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan and Under Heaven, in each of which epic events are set in motion but relayed through the eyes of a small number of fantastically-drawn characters. A Brightness Long Ago comfortably joins their ranks, telling a somewhat larger, more epic story than his previous novel, Children of Earth and Sky (to which A Brightness Long Ago can be read as a prequel, although both novels stand alone). Kay's Batiara - his take on Renaissance Italy - is a land of beautiful cities and gifted artists, writers and philosophers, but it's also a land of feuding politicians and frequent warfare, which the High Patriarch in Rhodias (the Pope, effectively) is unable to overcome. With the Asharite armies threatening to breach the walls of Sarantium to the east, the cities of Batiara and the other Jaddite kingdoms are unable to join forces to save the City of Cities from its fate, which looms large in the background of the novel.The main focus is on the cast of characters, with Danio as our first-person narrator but the action frequently cutting away to Adria, Folco, Teobaldo and several other prominent characters. As is usual with Kay, these characters are vividly well-drawn, with their hopes, desires and pasts driving their motivations. Kay's gifts lie also in atmosphere, and also in his lack of bloodlust. Too many epic fantasy authors seem to thrive on massive battles with bodies piled up like cordwood afterwards, but Kay has always been a more humane author, not to mention a more historically-minded one; bloodbath battles where tens of thousands are killed are relatively rare in real medieval and Renaissance history, with the most successful generals being those who used military force and sometimes just the threat of military force to achieve clear-cut objectives with the minimum of losses (and thus expense). As a result, the military rivalry between Folco and Teobaldo (loosely inspired by the rivalry between the real Frederico Montefeltro and Sigismondo Malatesta) is more of a fascinating game of chess, with both men seeking to out-manoeuvre the other on the battlefield, not slaughtering one another's men en masse.Like most of Kay's novels, the book also references artists and creatives, with Danio's ambition to be a bookbinder and seller constantly thwarted by being drawn into the affairs of the mighty, and a minor subplot focusing on an artist who is constantly wandering from city to city, being paid vast sums for work that is generally never completed, because the lord in question dies or their city is taken by someone else. As with most Kay books there are also moments of real warmth, friendship and fellowship. Kay is not afraid to the show the uglier, messier side of life, death and war, but he also embraces the good things about life, and shows that it is worth fighting for.A Brightness Long Ago (*****) is another superb novel from an author who may be fantasy's most reliably excellent, thoughtful, atmospheric and humane writer, and one whose powers remain notably undimmed. It's a book about lives, how people live them and the events that shape them, and how everything is connected. The novel will be published on 14 May in the UK and USA.
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  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    As always, achingly lovely. Guy Gabriel Kay writes about love, and loss in ways unlike anyone else. In this he writes about the futility of war, the suffering it causes, how a persons life can change suddenly in ways not to be imagined. How you can love someone you have met only briefly and how they can change your life.
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  • Olivia
    January 1, 1970
    Netgalley - Detailed thoughts coming soon.It's now out.
  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    Ugh!
  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    I discovered him just a couple of years ago and I'm lucky because I have not read all his backlist yet. This is so wonderful. Please read others' reviews for better takes on this.
  • laureneliza
    January 1, 1970
    He did it again.
  • Aidan
    January 1, 1970
    Flawless.
  • Calvin Park
    January 1, 1970
    Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago is a beautiful story. It is vintage Kay, with prose that can only be properly described as art. It’s the sort of story that elicits emotion at nearly every turn. Sometimes aching and haunting, sometimes tragic and nostalgic. It’s a deeply personal tale about the small people who still contribute to great events, and perhaps in doing so have a measure of greatness themselves. One of my first thoughts on finishing A Brightness Long Ago was that I would never Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago is a beautiful story. It is vintage Kay, with prose that can only be properly described as art. It’s the sort of story that elicits emotion at nearly every turn. Sometimes aching and haunting, sometimes tragic and nostalgic. It’s a deeply personal tale about the small people who still contribute to great events, and perhaps in doing so have a measure of greatness themselves. One of my first thoughts on finishing A Brightness Long Ago was that I would never be able to write an adequate review for this novel. To even attempt a review felt a bit like hubris. After all, any words I might put down to describe and quantify this story would only pale in comparison to the work itself. I could describe characters, plot, and setting. Each of these are excellent, beautifully crafted, world class in execution. But what stands out most about this novel is the feeling it left me with, the satisfaction of reading it. I often reread paragraphs for the beauty of the prose or to simply read again the profound thought or reflection being offered. Paragraphs like this one, which begins the novel:“The sailors say the rain misses the cloud even as it falls through light or dark into the sea. I miss her like that as I fall through my life, through time, the chaos of our time. I dream of her some nights, still, but there is nothing to give weight or value to that, it is only me, and what I want to be true. It is only longing.”Each of the characters are vividly and lovingly crafted, multifaceted and complex. They feel real. And in some ways almost more than real. They are complex enough to allow us to glimpse, if only for a moment, those we have known who might share similarities with them. This causes them to be much more than characters on a page. They become people, real and breathing, or at least so it seems. It is exceedingly rare to find characters that feel so unique, so authentic. The characterizations stand out as exceptional even in comparison to those in Kay's other novels. As with all of his work, this one makes us feel deeply. For the characters we come to love and what they go through...but also for ourselves. The narrative style surfaces our own memories, mixing our quite real nostalgia and memory with that portrayed in the telling of the story itself. Where does one begin and the other end? How much of our memory is truth, and how much simply a hope of how we ought to have acted or wish we had felt? These sorts of questions blend seamlessly with a plot that is perfectly paced and set in a fully realized world. Much of Kay’s fiction, while technically secondary world, takes place in a world quite similar to Europe in various parts of its history. This story centers on Batiara, roughly analog to Renaissance Italy in our own world. Perhaps most importantly, Kay’s world is fully realized and the way he tells the story leaves no doubt in your mind that you are getting only a glimpse, fleeting and yet beautiful, of the lives taking place in this world that is so like and yet unlike our own.This book, even more than Kay's other works, reads as a reflection on the vagaries of life. How we each manage, lives changing on a moment, a single decision, as we each make our way "under the god's sun." It's also a book about how our lives affect and change the lives of others, even when--especially when?--we don't intend it. Perhaps most of all it makes us think about the idea of memory, the way we may vividly recall those seemingly random happenings that shaped our lives many years later and turn them over in our minds, finding new meaning in them, or not.I am not old. But in reading this novel I find myself reflecting on my own youth, my own formation. There is a sense in which our adolescence shapes us, for good and ill. We find those memories, I find those memories, especially vivid, moving, bright. Kay crafts a story here that is more than a story. It's a sort of memoir. A reflection on memory and especially on this tendency we have to remember vividly--if not always fondly--those days of our own liminality, or own becoming. Those events which most shaped us as the people we were to become. In the words of the novel, "perhaps it is true of every life, that times from our youth remain with us, even when the people are gone, even if many, many events have played out between where we are and what we are remembering."This is Kay at his finest, his most reflective, his most powerful. 10/105/5 starsThis review originally appeared on Fantasy Book Review
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