A man no longer young in a large room at night.
–Guy Gavriel Kay - A brightness long ago - c.2019
It has been over ten years since I’ve read a Kay book! Or at least the last post on the blog reviewing a Kay book is more than ten years old, I could have read one and not mentioned it here, but I don’t remember that… And ten years is a long long time, especially considering that I really loved those other books by him that I’d read. So I have no idea why I haven’t picked up anything else by him.
I know I wanted to read his Viking-y book, and I still do, but I sorta went off reading Norse inspired fantasy fiction for a while.
In A brightness long ago Kay returns to Italy as inspiration. Here it is the machinations between the various city states of Renaissance Italy that have provided the world Kay has created. This isn’t an alternate Italy though, this a new world of Kay’s devising, but it echoes Renaissance Italy.
The story centers on Danio Cerra, he is the first person narrator, but there is also a third person narrator who gives various other characters’ POV scenes and insights.
At the start of the book Danio is a young man, and he recognises somebody but says and does nothing and so “an event” occurs. This event, and his inaction, or his action you could argue it both ways, shapes his life. And it is his book, he may not be at the center of all the events, or the driving force behind many of them, but the book is his memories of what happened him at that time, when he was a young man and his brightest memories were formed.
It is a wonderful read. Kay really does have a captivating style of writing. You just want to stay in his world forever.
However I actually found Danio a little boring at times and wanted to spend more time the other characters. This probably makes a lot of sense in the context of the story, as Danio is the witness and the reporter, not the driver of action. And he isn’t a boring character, that’s way too harsh a word, but the other characters just fascinated me more. In the author’s acknowledgements he does reference some of the real life characters that he used as inspiration and I’d be tempted to investigate further. Although part of me knows that Kay is such a great writer of fiction that he could probably turn the most dreary life into something intriguing. I doubt the mercenary captains of Renaissance Italy led dreary lives though…
Two thumbs up and I really must read all the Kay’s I haven’t yet read as well as reread the ones I did read, because they are great great books.