A Brightness Long Ago

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 int...

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Title:A Brightness Long Ago
Author:Guy Gavriel Kay
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Brightness Long Ago Reviews

  • Robin Hobb

    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.

  • Paromjit

    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.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    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

    :

    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

    :

    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.

    , 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

    , 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

    and

    , 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Content notes: A few scattered F-bombs; a mildly explicit sex scene; attempted sexual assault.

  • شيماء ✨

    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 were bound to keep me up at night.

  • Celeste

    I received this book electronically via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

    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.

    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.

    This novel is somewhere between historical fiction and low fantasy, and Kay straddles that divide with great finesse.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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

    , 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.

    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 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.

    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.

    remains my favorite book my Kay, and among my favorite fantasy novels period, but I now believe that

    won’t be the only of his works that I will come to love and cherish.

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