Robin Hobb's Reviews > A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
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it was amazing
Recommended for: readers of fantasy, readers of historical novels, people who love Kay's writing.
Read 2 times. Last read April 8, 2019.

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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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 8, 2019 – Started Reading
April 8, 2019 – Finished Reading
April 9, 2019 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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Erika Sajdak Did you get an advance copy? Jealous!


Lizzie I can't wait for this to arrive in May! I'm so glad that it is worth getting excited for!


message 3: by Shaitarn (new)

Shaitarn I am really looking forward to this - I love Kay's writing!


Michael Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Have read all of GGK's previous novels and am so looking forward to reading this one when it is published next month.


message 5: by Amelia (new) - added it

Amelia Laughlan Love your reviews Robin! Thanks for sharing :)


message 6: by Karina (new) - added it

Karina Silver If every writer could have audio books. They travel with me where ever I go. They do yucky chores with me, they travel well. And so much more.


message 7: by Karina (new) - added it

Karina Silver If every writer could have audio books. They travel with me where ever I go. They do yucky chores with me, they travel well. And so much more.


message 8: by Mayim (new) - added it

Mayim de Vries "we are all little people in the greater story we live in" What a beautiful statement Ms Hobb. I really cannot wait to have this book in my hands.


Peter A great review!


message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert I must get this. I always enjoy GG Jay.


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message 15: by Simeon (new) - added it

Simeon Turner I just finished the section you mentioned, Robin. It brought tears to my eyes, especially with the nested references to his other stories. Stunning.

“And in that deep engagement we may find ourselves, or be changed, because the stories we are told become so much of what we are, how we understand our own days.” It’s breathtaking writing. I hope you two enjoy dinner together!


Wendy I just finished A Brightness Long Ago and I agree with what you have said here. Because I have visited both Venice and Sienna, I felt that I could imagine the settings for Kay’s parallel cities.

Your review doesn’t mention your full name, but you now have me curious about your books.


Nikesono Kevichusa I have read all of Kay's previous books and while I have either loved or liked them, I'm a little on the fence with this. The main character, Guidano Cerra sounds like almost all his other main protagonists, especially from Children of Earth and Sky or even the Sarantine Mosaic. I love, love GGK's style but this book doesn't pierce the heart like Tigana or The Lions of Al-Rassan. Btw, loved your Farseer Trilogy.


Annabelle This is a beautiful review of a beautiful book. I loved the way you described it!


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