Title: A Brightness Long Ago (2019)
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
I spent the first few months of 2019 reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s early works (for the first time) as a primer to this book’s release. I polished off his first six novels and thought I was ready to dive in here until I saw the world map that features “Sarantium” quite prominently – I closed the booked and jumped back and read Kay’s Sarantine Mosaic as final preparation. I’m glad I did, because that duology enhanced my understanding of this world and there are several callbacks within Brightness to the events in those books. Here, Kay is exploring the ripples of time, how small actions have an impact on the world at large and how our memory of the past shapes our understanding of our future.
Much like Kay’s previous work, A Brightness Long Ago is beautifully composed, emotionally engaging, and it features compelling characters with depth. I really loved being introduced to minor, seemingly inconsequential characters who, once they had played their part in this specific narrative, have the remainder of their lives described to us and how consequential they end up being in their own right.
As much as I enjoy Kay’s writing, I hit a wall about midway through here and really limped my way to the end over several weeks. Whether a result of my own disjointed pacing or the book’s, I was never quite hooked. That kept it from full 4-star territory, but I will gladly continue on with GGK’s oeuvre.
★★★¾ out of 5
“We see only glimpses of history, even our own. It is not entirely ours – in memory, in writing it down, in hearing or in reading it. We can reclaim only part of the past. Sometimes it is enough…”