In this fantasy inspired by the Italian Renaissance, various figures share in an 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...is powerful proof, as exquisitely articulated as anything this thoughtful author has put to the page, that there are 'so many stories that can be told' ... The push and pull at the heart of A Brightness Long Ago’s narrative also informs its structure, which brilliantly resists the tendency of such tales to pick a side and stick with it ... [a] patchwork of perspectives lends such power and presence to the relatively trivial affairs that A Brightness Long Ago is about that they start to matter ... Guy Gavriel Kay...turns his attention to the kinds of characters and conflicts you tend to find sidelined in [fantasy] stories, to truly tremendous effect.
[Kay's] latest novel...[is] as elegantly polyphonic as ever ... It’s easy to read A Brightness Long Ago as an extended parable of butterfly effects and unforetold consequences, but this reminder that Kay’s novels are among the most elegantly designed in modern fiction goes a lot farther toward explaining the effects of his unique approach of placing very real people in not-quite-imaginary gardens. Stories, he reminds us, are told, but novels are shaped. A Brightness Long Ago...is not only the latest example of how Kay has honed this technique over decades; it’s also one of the best.
... not quite historical fiction nor quite fantasy but a piquant amalgam of both ... Chapter sections from different characters’ viewpoints interlock as neatly and tidily as mosaic tiles and the prose flows like a limpid stream. Believably and with great vividness, Kay recreates the past not as it was, but as it might have, perhaps should have, been.