A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago

by Guy Gavriel Kay


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451472984
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 29,881
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Guy Gavriel Kay is the international bestselling author of the Fionovar Tapestry series, Tigana, The Last Light of the Sun, Under Heaven, River of Stars, and Children of Earth and Sky. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

Reading Group Guide

A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay
Questions for Discussion

1. Kay sets this novel in Batiara, not Italy. He has dealt with slightly changed settings in this way many times, using a “near Europe” in history, not the actual places and people, even though he cites his inspirations in the acknowledgments. Why do you think Kay approaches historical places and figures in this way?

2. There are only small elements of the supernatural in this book, primarily passages involving the voices of the recently dead. Do you think this novel is best seen as fantasy? Historical fiction? How much does a label or category matter in your thinking about a book?

3. Is art meant to reveal truths or to send messages? Is this true for all works of art?

4. Do you believe that Guidanio betrayed Morani by not defending him from the mob? What should he have done, if so?

5. Women in Batiara don’t have a lot of options as far as what they can be or do. Jelena and Adria have both chosen to lead lives different from the norm. How similar is this to women of today who try to break the barrier of women’s expected roles?

6. Is there a character in the story you identify with most? If so, who and why?

7. Guidanio is offered a prestigious position in Monticola’s court as a tutor for his sons. If you had been in his shoes, would you have accepted the offer?

8. Before the horse race, Adria thinks, Men—or women—cannot control the world. Do you consider this true?

9. We eventually learn how the feud between the Acorsi and Remigio families began. Did finding out the truth about the feud change your perspective on or opinions about Folco d’Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola? If so, how did your views change? Do you think one is a good person and the other bad? Do you think the author is making a point about this and how we make our judgments?

10. What are your thoughts on this quote? “Even so . . . we do turn the page, and can be lost again. 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.” Do the books you love become a part of who you are?

11. Guidanio’s journey has led him to meet many important leaders and figures. Do you believe that his experiences with men such as Monticola, Folco, and the duke of Seressa were by chance, or have Guidanio’s own choices led him to these moments? Could it be a mixture of the two? Does this apply to everyone’s life?

12. When the golden city of Sarantium falls, Monticola and d’Acorsi put aside their feud and an impending battle to grieve and pray for forgiveness. If they had put aside their differences and hatred earlier, would they have been able to save Sarantium from falling? How powerful are they, really?

13. How do you feel about how each character’s story ended?

14. Guidanio narrates, “We like to believe, or pretend, we know what we are doing in our lives. It can be a lie. Winds blow, waves carry us, rain drenches a man caught in the open at night, lightning shatters the sky and sometimes his heart, thunder crashes into him bringing the awareness he will die.” Do you think we are choosing our paths in life?

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A Brightness Long Ago 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
suekitty13 9 days ago
This is fantasy that reads like historical fiction. The world is so real that I kept forgetting that it wasn’t our world and the events feel so familiar and possible that it was hard to distinguish fantasy from history. It is such an immersive setting that I couldn’t help becoming caught up in it and completely invested in what happened. I did feel there was a little touch of Game of Thrones style peril for the characters as it became apparent that anyone could die at any time and being a “main” character was not protection from death. There was one death in particular that absolutely shocked me and brought home the true danger of this world. Up until that point I was sure that this character was going to have an important life full of adventure and to watch this person snuffed out so quickly and futilely was an unhappy surprise. As the story is told by Danio in old age it was clear that he would survive the tumultuous events he was caught up in and so I never worried about him. Everyone else was fair game though and this was a brutal and dangerous world. Not everyone gets what they deserve and not everyone dies a hero. There were several character arcs that I loved to watch as they developed in complex and unexpected ways. It was very satisfying to hear through the aged Danio what became of all the survivors, although he glossed over his own life. To the end he remained the humble archivist of this little bit of history and didn’t include himself among the ranks of the illustrious people who transformed history so greatly. Even though he influenced those important people significantly he considered himself more of a witness to these grand events. After reading this chronicle of his life there is no doubt that he was much more noteworthy than he gives himself credit for. He was a regular man swept up in extraordinary events. This book has made me rediscover my love for Guy Gavriel Kay and now I want to re-read all of his earlier work. I would highly recommend this to any fans of intricate, immersive world building, historical fiction (even though it is a made up world) or anyone just wanting to lose themselves in a great story. Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Viking for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.