Review: A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
Also by this author: The Lions of Al-Rassan
Published by Berkley Books on May 14, 2019
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.
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.