I titled this post "unexpected" because I didn't actually expect to get to review this book when I requested to review it on NetGalley. I'd previously been getting rejected quite a lot, especially for "big" books from famous-er authors. Apparently, though, I've crossed some sort of threshold where I'm starting to get approvals. Maybe the number of reviews?
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Brightness Long Ago is a novel about unexpected events that change the course of one's life. Guidanio Cerra's meeting with Adria Ripoli in Mylasia (and I can never read this name without transposing it into Malaysia) alters the course of his life dramatically, with effects that ripple throughout the book. At each juncture, his choices--not always wise, not always safe--lead to even more unexpected events and meetings. What else can catapult a tailor's son from his small life in Seressa onto the political stage that involves the two most influential mercenary commanders in Batiara?
And there it is: A Brightness Long Ago also the story of a war of wills between those two commanders: Folco Cino d'Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola. It's not so much the story of war itself, though war is the backdrop to everything in this book, but their battle of wills, their manoeuvring, the little decisions and plays that change the course of history. It's also a story of honour and faith--misplaced honour in some cases, and neglected faith--and very much a tale of personal choice and responsibility and how that ripples from the personal to the political and vice versa.
The narrative shifts between POVs and time: Danio's POV is in the first person, but third person narratives include POVs from Adria, Folco and Teobaldo. It involves memory, that fickle thing that always changes and fades with time; a breathtaking scope that is both focused on the short span of time from the Guidanio's first meeting with Adria to the fall of Sarantium and played out over the years from the first battle between Folco and Teobaldo.
It's apparently a prequel, but I read it without having read the other book, so it works fine as a standalone. If anything, it spurs you on to want to read that other one, Children of Earth and Sky, which I will eventually get to (when this TBR shrinks)!
I can't really define why it's not a 5-star book for me, like all the other books of Kay's have been. It broke my heart, it did, but it took a long time getting there and maybe it's too sprawling, maybe I need the background of the book that came before this but is set after it, maybe I've been too distracted over Eastercon. It feels like one of those books that you need to re-read to really get it. So I'll leave it at 4 stars, and if I ever have the time to read it again, we'll see if that changes.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Hodder & Stoughton via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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I... skipped yesterday's A to Z Challenge post because... I got home from Eastercon and then I spent all day in bed. Sorry. I will catch up tomorrow, and will have to up the wordcount again. =.=