cover image A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago

Guy Gavriel Kay. Berkley, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-0-451-47298-4

Kay returns to the rich world of Children of Earth and Sky in order to focus on Batiara, an analogue of early Renaissance Italy, in this lovely work of historical fantasy. Narrated primarily by Guidanio Cerra, a clever young scholar, the story centers on two powerful and magnetic warlords, Teobaldo Monticola of Remigio and Folco Cino of Acorsi, as they dance around each other in a series of elaborate machinations. Folco’s plots—including assassinating the ruler of a nearby city-state in a bid for power and fixing a famous horse race for financial gain—are always countered in some way by Teobaldo, his foremost rival. Their long-standing hatred of each other not only alters the brutal and heavily stratified world around them but changes the lives of those drawn into their orbits: Folco’s fiercely independent niece Adria, queer itinerant healer Jelena, feckless merchant noble Antenami Sardi, Guidanio himself, and many others. Though not quite as intricate as Kay’s early work, this well-constructed tale still has all the thoughtfulness and poignancy his fans have come to love and expect. Agent: John Silbersack, Bent Agency. (May)