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A Brightness Long Ago Paperback – May 5, 2020
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“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.”—Nicholas Eames, author of Kings of the Wyld
“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.”—Jessica Day George, New York Times bestselling author of Silver in the Blood
“Strong historical research and worldbuilding, a vast cast of characters, world-changing events... An epic tale filled with characters compelling enough to bear the weight of the high stakes.”—Kirkus Reviews
“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… Kay demonstrates yet again that he is a master storyteller in complete control of his craft.”—Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
“A Brightness Long Ago is a masterpiece; perhaps the finest work of one of the world’s greatest living storytellers…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.”—Fantasy Book Review
Praise for Guy Gavriel Kay
“[Read] anything by Guy Gavriel Kay....His strengths are strong characters and fantastic set pieces.”—The New Yorker
“History and fantasy rarely come together as gracefully or readably as they do in the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Kay is a genius. I’ve read him all my life and am always inspired by his work.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson
“Guy Gavriel Kay has a wonderful talent. He tells stories in an invented world that is so rich in historical echoes that I found myself smiling with pleasure as I heard the echoes, while engrossed in the story. Warmly recommended.”—Edward Rutherfurd
"Kay is peerless in plucking elements from history and using them to weave a wholly fantastical tale that feels like a translation of some freshly unearthed scroll from a time we have yet to discover."—The Miami Herald
About the Author
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Guidanio’s recollections are written in conversational first-person and filled with his philosophical and religious musings on memory, love, fate, and will. But other characters and sections are written in the third person, giving us a complex and satisfying view of the personalities populating this world.
The beauty of this novel is not in the plot, which is painted with broad strokes, but in the interconnected depth of characters and in the theme of fate and choice. Several times in the novel minor characters make small, seemingly inconsequential choices that turn out to have life-changing consequences in later chapters.
What I personally loved is the lack of linear logic in the chain of events. Sometimes things just happen. People just die. People get sick. People make irrational decisions that lead to catastrophic results. Sometimes your favorite loses the race and you go home. Sometimes the heroes don’t answer the call. Sometimes you luck out and win. Maybe the person you randomly meet is ends up being the love of your life, or maybe not, and you quickly forget each other.
As humans, we tend to think of our lives, the past, history, as a logical linear progression and our brains invent a connected narrative. But, real life isn’t like that, the narrative is always tacked on with hindsight. The future is hard to predict due to the vagaries of fate and choice. A Brightness Long Ago captures this like no novel I’ve read before. For the first time in awhile, I was actually surprised at some of the events without it feeling contrived.
The setting is beautiful and full of depth and the characters, from the major players to the minor ones that only stay with you for a few paragraphs are perfectly written. Connoisseurs of Italian Renaissance history will recognize Kay’s fantasy stand ins for the city-states, the mercenaries, the Medici, the Popes, and numerous other Renaissance personalities like Michelangelo. The world has a magical quality but also feels real and more complex than fantasy worlds developed over numerous novels.
A Brightness Long Ago is a fantastic, beautiful, and elegant novel. The perfect mix of literary and fantastic writing. A novel that goes beyond plot, exploring a complex theme, yet doesn’t sacrifice character, adventure, and magic. I have a feeling it stays at the top of my favorites for a long time.
Top international reviews
As usual, Kay focuses on setting, culture, texture, and depth of character. Magic plays its ephemeral part, for reality derives from what each believes is real. The many points of view touched on - I could not number them without rereading the entire book - all have their own distinct flavours; even, in one personal highlight, managing to gracefully break the fifth wall. (Yes. Fifth. I won't spoil the beauty of the experience by explaining what I mean.)
The author provides all the elements one expects from him, fascinating characters, a complex story with unexpected twists and those lovely little asides telling of the fate of minor characters that briefly appear. All written in delightful, polished prose that is a real pleasure to read. This is GGK back on top form with a book that enthralls.
The pace is good with the plot moving from event to event quickly and we get to see the characters change and grow as events shape them.
The problem is that the story doesn't feel like a coherent whole, the events and subplots aren't really bound together very well and it's never feels like there is a direction or real narrative, just some vaguely connected stories inspired by unconnected historical events.
Some of the narrators sections are both pointless and annoying.
It is a good read but disappointing when compared to Kay's other books.
I will look forward to the next book - please can we go back towards fantasy again?
In some ways his work is very same-y, but that's ok with me.
I do not know of another writer with such a palette for love, sorrow and reflection.