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Werthead

Guy Gavriel Kay

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On 4/24/2019 at 11:01 PM, Wik said:

Obviously this is subjective (I've only read Lions and Last Light) but can anything by GGK top these two?

I recall Lions being so highly recommended I never wavered and enjoyed it pretty much start to finish. Last Light took me a little to get into the at the start, but I actually felt the story was slightly better than Lions and I felt the ending was SO fantastic.  

I've been on a dry spell and a friend randomly bought Snakewood and said it was solid, so he is letting me borrow, but in light of lacking any GRRM or Bakker series at this point, there is plenty left for me to explore for GGK. 

Last Light of the Sun is generally regarded as GGK's weakest novel (certainly post the more divisive Fionavar Tapestry series), so if you liked that one you should be fine with the rest of his stuff.

Under HeavenTigana and A Brightness Long Ago are probably up there with Lions of Al-Rassan (or at least not far behind), and River of Stars, A Song for ArbonneThe Sarantine Mosaic duology and Children of Earth and Sky aren't far behind them. Kay is a pretty consistently solid author.

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1 hour ago, Werthead said:

Last Light of the Sun is generally regarded as GGK's weakest novel (certainly post the more divisive Fionavar Tapestry series), so if you liked that one you should be fine with the rest of his stuff.

Under HeavenTigana and A Brightness Long Ago are probably up there with Lions of Al-Rassan (or at least not far behind), and River of Stars, A Song for ArbonneThe Sarantine Mosaic duology and Children of Earth and Sky aren't far behind them. Kay is a pretty consistently solid author.

Thanks, Wert! Very much appreciated. 

By chance, is there a post or anything that covers the general period/area that each book covers? 

I was a big fan of Last Light because I love most things Vikings and that period of English/Norse history is so fascinating to me. I thought he did a pretty good job with the Britons, Celts and Norse. I know some novels deal with an "Italy" theme and there are several others. 

Anyhow, thanks again!

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On 4/29/2019 at 5:41 PM, Wik said:

Thanks, Wert! Very much appreciated. 

By chance, is there a post or anything that covers the general period/area that each book covers? 

I was a big fan of Last Light because I love most things Vikings and that period of English/Norse history is so fascinating to me. I thought he did a pretty good job with the Britons, Celts and Norse. I know some novels deal with an "Italy" theme and there are several others. 

Anyhow, thanks again!

Yes, this one does.

 

The Sarantine Mosaic: 6th Century Byzantium, Justinian's wars

Under Heaven: 8th Century China, An Lushan Rebellion

The Last Light of the Sun: 9th Century England, Alfred the Great

The Lions of Al-Rassan: 11th Century Spain, El Cid

River of Stars: 12th Century China, Jin-Song Wars

A Brightness Long Ago: 15th Century Italy, just before the Fall of Constantinople

Children of Earth and Sky: 15th Century Dubrovnik, just after the Fall of Constantinople

 

A Song for Arbonne takes place in a different world, but is influenced by the Albigensian Crusade of the 12th Century, in France.

Edited by Werthead

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15 minutes ago, Werthead said:

Yes, this one does.

 

The Sarantine Mosaic: 6th Century Byzantium, Justinian's wars

Under Heaven: 8th Century China, An Lushan Rebellion

The Last Light of the Sun: 9th Century England, Alfred the Great

The Lions of Al-Rassan: 11th Century Spain, El Cid

River of Stars: 12th Century China, Jin-Song Wars

A Brightness Long Ago: 15th Century Italy, just before the Fall of Constantinople

Children of Earth and Sky: 15th Century Dubrovnik, just after the Fall of Constantinople

 

A Song for Arbonne takes place in a different world, but is influenced by the Albigensian Crusade of the 12th Century, in France.

Very much appreciated, sir!

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3 minutes ago, Wik said:

Very much appreciated, sir!

But, beware.  You won't be able to guess the outcome of any particular story simply by knowing the history of the period.  Kay will move events in different directions to what actually happened, and commonly, a character will be based on a couple of real-life figures, rather than just one (which makes the stories more interesting, of course).

 

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25 minutes ago, Werthead said:

Yes, this one does.

 

 

River of Stars: 12th Century China, Jin-Song Wars

 

It took me a while to figure that out.   Initially, I thought it was analogous the the Mongol invasion of Northern China.

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11 minutes ago, SeanF said:

But, beware.  You won't be able to guess the outcome of any particular story simply by knowing the history of the period.  Kay will move events in different directions to what actually happened, and commonly, a character will be based on a couple of real-life figures, rather than just one (which makes the stories more interesting, of course).

 

Ya, I don't mind the ignorance...I had Lions kinda spoiled because I knew pretty well of El Sid. But alot of the other stories I just like to have general frame of reference so I can be more in the mind set....if that makes sense! 

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A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Danio Cerra is the song of a tailor who, through luck and connections, finds himself working in the household of the Duke of Mylasia, known throughout the city-stats of Batiara as "The Beast." Adria Ripoli is the daughter of a wealthy family who is predisposed to action and danger. Folco d'Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola are rival mercenary commanders, the greatest generals of their day, whose fame and expertise are desired throughout the world, and who share a hatred and rivalry that will shape all that is to come.

A Brightness Long Ago is the thirteenth novel by Guy Gavriel Kay, the Canadian author who (since the sorrowful departure of Gene Wolfe) may now hold the best claim to being the greatest living writer of fantasy fiction, a claim backed by the likes of both Tor.com and Brandon Sanderson. Kay's novels take real historical events and then weave a fantastical new shape out of them, creating a rich tapestry of characters, events and emotions that is never less than affecting, and, at his best, can be deeply moving.

Kay's finest novels, arguably, are Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan and Under Heaven, in each of which epic events are set in motion but relayed through the eyes of a small number of fantastically-drawn characters. A Brightness Long Ago comfortably joins their ranks, telling a somewhat larger, more epic story than his previous novel, Children of Earth and Sky (to which A Brightness Long Ago can be read as a prequel, although both novels stand alone). Kay's Batiara - his take on Renaissance Italy - is a land of beautiful cities and gifted artists, writers and philosophers, but it's also a land of feuding politicians and frequent warfare, which the High Patriarch in Rhodias (the Pope, effectively) is unable to overcome. With the Asharite armies threatening to breach the walls of Sarantium to the east, the cities of Batiara and the other Jaddite kingdoms are unable to join forces to save the City of Cities from its fate, which looms large in the background of the novel.

The main focus is on the cast of characters, with Danio as our first-person narrator but the action frequently cutting away to Adria, Folco, Teobaldo and several other prominent characters. As is usual with Kay, these characters are vividly well-drawn, with their hopes, desires and pasts driving their motivations. Kay's gifts lie also in atmosphere, and also in his lack of bloodlust. Too many epic fantasy authors seem to thrive on massive battles with bodies piled up like cordwood afterwards, but Kay has always been a more humane author, not to mention a more historically-minded one; bloodbath battles where tens of thousands are killed are relatively rare in real medieval and Renaissance history, with the most successful generals being those who used military force and sometimes just the threat of military force to achieve clear-cut objectives with the minimum of losses (and thus expense). As a result, the military rivalry between Folco and Teobaldo (loosely inspired by the rivalry between the real Frederico Montefeltro and Sigismondo Malatesta) is more of a fascinating game of chess, with both men seeking to out-manoeuvre the other on the battlefield, not slaughtering one another's men en masse.

Like most of Kay's novels, the book also references artists and creatives, with Danio's ambition to be a bookbinder and seller constantly thwarted by being drawn into the affairs of the mighty, and a minor subplot focusing on an artist who is constantly wandering from city to city, being paid vast sums for work that is generally never completed, because the lord in question dies or their city is taken by someone else. As with most Kay books there are also moments of real warmth, friendship and fellowship. Kay is not afraid to the show the uglier, messier side of life, death and war, but he also embraces the good things about life, and shows that it is worth fighting for.

A Brightness Long Ago (*****) is another superb novel from an author who may be fantasy's most reliably excellent, thoughtful, atmospheric and humane writer, and one whose powers remain notably undimmed. It's a book about lives, how people live them and the events that shape them, and how everything is connected. The novel will be published on 14 May in the UK and USA.

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16 minutes ago, Corvinus said:

This review is making me interested in the book. But what are the fantasy elements in the story and world that Kay crafted?

Spoiler

Ghosts, and the ability to communicate with them and foretell the future.

 

Edited by Werthead

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Thanks for the review, Wert. I'm eager to jump back into a GGK novel and this sounds great.

Regarding your spoiler:

 

 

Spoiler

Any similarities to Zoticus from the Sarantine Mosaic and capturing souls in mechanical objects?

 

 

Edited by Astromech

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I read A Song for Arbonne years ago. I found it intriguing, but never got deeper into GGK at the time. What would everyone recommend from him to get going again? 

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7 hours ago, Veltigar said:

I read A Song for Arbonne years ago. I found it intriguing, but never got deeper into GGK at the time. What would everyone recommend from him to get going again? 

His top books for me are The Lions of Al-Rassan and The Sarantine Mosaic duology (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors). Under Heaven is another excellent one.

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Have to say, A Brightness Long Ago is so good that I just had to go and re-read Children of Earth and Sky. I didn't even do that after River of Stars, though I enjoyed it and its predecessor Under Heaven very much. It's a beautiful novel, meditating on memory, aging, and loss.

I definitely tend to recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan as an introduction to Kay, because to me it's pretty much his most perfect standalone novel. But if one wants distinctly more fantasy elements, it has to be Tigana

Lord of Emperors still has my favorite action sequence in any novel ever.

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IMO, Kay's best book is still pretty much Tigana, followed by Song for Narbonne.

Unlike people here, perhaps because I know the locations, Spanish, the history, etc. so well, Lions ranks for me with the Fionavar Tapestry -- very low, and never to be re-read.  Kay's non-existent language and linguistic capacity are always painful to me, in whatever book pretense imitation history and culture he's employing.

 

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2 hours ago, Ran said:

Have to say, A Brightness Long Ago is so good that I just had to go and re-read Children of Earth and Sky. I didn't even do that after River of Stars, though I enjoyed it and its predecessor Under Heaven very much. It's a beautiful novel, meditating on memory, aging, and loss.

I definitely tend to recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan as an introduction to Kay, because to me it's pretty much his most perfect standalone novel. But if one wants distinctly more fantasy elements, it has to be Tigana

Lord of Emperors still has my favorite action sequence in any novel ever.

Spoiler

The race?

 

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41 minutes ago, Astromech said:
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The race?

 

Yep! Exhilirating.

 

@Darth Richard II,

 

It links to Children of Earth and Sky but in a grace note kind of way.

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