AUTHOR: GUY GAVRIEL KAY | PUBLISHER: HODDER & STOUGHTON | RELEASE DATE: MAY 14TH
Set in the same world as his Sarantine Mosaic, The Lords of El-Rassan, and his previous novel Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay weaves another tale of the lasting loves, generational grudges, and the arts and wars which shape the history of nations.
Like his previous novel, A Brightness Long Ago takes place in the nation of Batiara, a land of city-states reminiscent of the Renaissance Mediterranean. The sun-worshipping Jaddites are ascendant, though the star-worshipping Asharites lay siege to Sarantium in the east.
Guidanio Cerra, a tailor’s son whose sponsored education paves his path to the upper classes of Batiaran society, postpones his plans to become a seller of books. Instead he has been persuaded to contribute to the world, working for a friend of his tutor as a servant in the palace of Lord Uberto, also known as the Beast, ruler of the city-state of Mylasia.
Uberto has reputation for dark lusts. One night a young woman is brought to Uberto’s chambers, and Cerra’s master is required to search her for weapons. Cerra, hidden in the shadows, recognises her as Adria Ripoli, another duke’s daughter. Yet he keeps this information to himself.
In so doing, he becomes an accomplice to her assassination attempt, and escapes blame for the chaos that follows.
Small decisions change the world. As ever in Kay’s worlds, the world spins on those quick and clever enough to realise the significance of such small decisions. Two such characters are the mercenary commanders Teobaldo Manticola and Folco Cino, lords of small cities but leaders of large armies, clever and ambitious, renowned for their mutual hatred of each other. They duel with swords, with men, with money and with politics, ever seeking the advantage in a treacherous world.
Their balance tilts on the choices of many other characters: a pagan healer, summoned urgently in the middle of the night, and whether her discretion can be trusted; the second son of a banker, eager to indulge his passion for horse racing, but ignorant of other cities’ traditions; a mistress, fighting to legitimise her children; a lady desperate to live a full life before she must choose between a political marriage or religious vows; a tailor’s son who wants to become a seller of books, who understands how to walk the corridors of the powerful, and who might be so very useful.
Consequences build, responses lead to deadlier conundrums, civilisations rise and fall and the people react. Kay’s novel depicts people in the midst of great events, and the stories and arts which survive their days.
If you have read Kay’s work before, you will find more of the same here. If you haven’t, you should, but while this is a perfectly approachable standalone story it wouldn’t be our first recommendation.
This reviewer confesses the sometimes over-elaborate sentence structure might be contagious.