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A Brightness Long Ago
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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > A Brightness Long Ago (9/20): finished reading (spoilers)

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message 1: by Shel, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Shel (shel99) | 2274 comments Mod
Post here with your thoughts about A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay! Spoilers ahead!

message 2: by Kathi, Moderator & Book Lover (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathi | 3243 comments Mod
Guy Gavriel Kay is a gifted storyteller, and A Brightness Long Ago is a well-told story. The characters are not cast as heroes or villains, but as people with strengths and flaws, passions and fears, all too human in their motives and actions. Kay’s female characters are as complex and compelling as his male characters.

So, why not 5 stars? The main voice, that of Guidanio Cerra, is a bit too philosophical, or maybe a bit too intrusive, in his musings about stories and their impact on one’s life. I found those interludes distracting, like hiccups that jolted me out of the flow of the novel by reminding me that I was reading a novel. I also found the changing POVs and the occasional overlaps or changes in the chronology of the story a bit confusing—just momentarily as I figured out who was narrating or when the event happened in relation to previous events.

Still, I highly recommend this book (and everything else I’ve read by this author)!

message 3: by Chris, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chris (heroncfr) | 553 comments Mod
I agree with Kathi that GGK is a good storyteller. He is also a meticulous researcher, and brings in-depth knowledge of bygone civilizations to enrich his world building. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of people and places, and imagined myself in a world where city-states argue not only politically but through conquest.

I like it, but didn't love the book. The characters are very interesting, but I didn't feel close to any of them, and I missed that engagement. But it's a very entertaining read!

I have visited Siena, although not during its famous Palio horse race. And it's true that the fastest HORSE wins, not just the first RIDER to cross the finish line. For a short video describing the race (the inspiration for the race in the book, watch here:

message 4: by Shel, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Shel (shel99) | 2274 comments Mod
I finished this afternoon, and I immediately went back to my copy of Children of Earth and Sky and confirmed that yes, this book is ending right where that one begins. I might need to read it again now :)

Anyway. To this one. I was a bit taken aback by the use of first person for Danio's chapters- I've read everything that Kay has written (except for his book of poetry -- I'm not really big into poetry) and he's never used first person narration before! At first I wasn't sure how I felt about the switching back and forth from first to third person, but I got used to it. I do agree with Kathi that the philosophical musings got to be a bit much. But overall I was glad to revisit this world, and fill in more of the chronology of its history. I liked the nods to some of his previous work - they kept referring to the history of Sarantium and the reign of Valerius, whose story is told in the Sarantine Mosaic duology (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors).

It was not my favorite of Kay's books, but from any other author I'd have probably given it five stars. It's just that it didn't leave me in tears the way that my favorites of his always seem to!

message 5: by Shel, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Shel (shel99) | 2274 comments Mod
Oh, and I too have visited Siena - twice - and both times, it was just a few days before the big race was to occur, and the rising excitement in the city was palpable! I have to say that the horse race was hands down my favorite scene in the book.

message 6: by Kathi, Moderator & Book Lover (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathi | 3243 comments Mod
I have not yet read Children of Earth and Sky, but I have it on my TBR pile to read in the next few weeks, after I discovered it comes after A Brightness Long Ago. I did read the Sarantium duo some years ago, and I remember not being as impressed with them as I was with several of Kay’s other books.

message 7: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Sep 09, 2020 07:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 227 comments I liked the characters, maybe too much considering how things turn out. It is startling how much like the events of the real Renaissance Italy the story resembles! I was expecting maybe some magic, too. But the book sticks to the reality of the actual Renaissance. The book is really a fictionalized version of real Italian history.

Lufia | 6 comments The horse race was gloriously exciting, I remember that part the most. Adria was my favorite character.

I enjoyed the book more than not, but felt sometimes less interested in the characters and whatever happened to them.

Wekoslav Stefanovski (swekster) | 38 comments 4/5

Guy Gavriel Kay manages to magically thread the line between history and fantasy.

We know that the novel is not set on the Apennine Peninsula, yet we're quite sure that it actually is. Even the author makes no secret of the fact. This is a roman-à-clef, yet the key is front and center.

What this comes down to is that Kay is able to have his cake and eat it too. He gets all the ready-made background from a historical novel, yet with the freedom of pure fantasy. He can add as much or as little of the fantastic as he wants.

And all makes for a fantastic read, with exceptionally nice characterizations, and with a very nice story told by a master.

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