Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Non-epic fantasy by GGK

Interesting review here for a new novel by Guy Gavriel Kay: A Brightness Long Ago.

Looks like this one came out, let me see, a few days ago. This is the first I’ve heard of it. Here’s what the post at tor.com says:

We all know how the story of the chosen one goes. We all know of fellowships formed around unlikely heroes who come from nothing but become something like legends when they declare against the darkness. We all know that the fate of the land, or the larger world, or perhaps the entire galaxy, hangs in the balance in this tradition of fiction. A Brightness Long Ago isn’t about any of that. Instead, it’s interested in what we don’t know—in the little things that happen to the little people, in particular.

Isn’t that interesting? About as far from, say, The Fionivar Tapestry, as you can get. Little people, doing little things. How about that.

This review goes on:

Imagine what fantastic fiction could look like if its designers deliberately directed our attention away from the centre of the stage. There, where there is less light, and the shadows are correspondingly softer, “richness and sorrow can be entangled.” There’s no pure good in this place, and no absolute evil. Indeed, in what can be interpreted as a declaration of intent, what simple wickedness there is in A Brightness Long Ago is dispatched fast—done away with within half a chapter, in fact.

This strikes me as a little unfair. Last I noticed, one can perfectly well get all the grays in the most epic of all epic fantasies; that’s hardly a quality that’s restricted to slice-of-life fantasies. Anyway, I do like the idea of doing away with the Big Bad in the first chapter and moving on with a different kind of story. I like that a lot!

Amazon’s description doesn’t make this novel sound quite as non-epic as the review. That description includes this paragraph:

Vivid figures share the 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.

Two larger-than-life mercenary commanders, lifelong adversaries, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance … you know, I might have seen a situation like that in a previous GGK title. Well, that kind of conflict certainly seems adequate to frame whatever other kinds of stories Kay is tellling in this new novel of his.

I’m definitely looking forward to this, though I couldn’t begin to guess when I’ll get to it.

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4 Comments Non-epic fantasy by GGK

  1. Elaine T

    I was less than enthusiastic about his last couple, so I decided to sample this one prior to buying. And that write up on Tor didn’t help. But it’s GGK and he’s always worth a look.

    The last couple weren’t bad, they just didn’t engage me in the way I wanted.

    I just reread Arbonne, and there’s lots of stuff about the smaller folk in there, too. He’s been doing it for a long time.

  2. Alison

    Of course I read it, it’s GGK. But it’s not Arbonne, or Tigana, or the Fionavar works. He seems to be reworking the theme of two men fighting each other over and over— Ysabel, the Lions of Al Rassan, etc. I enjoyed it but unfortunately not as much as his other works, which makes me sad.

  3. Rachel

    Elaine, I think you’re right that GGK has always included some of the less epic-ish details. Alison, too bad this one didn’t seem as compelling to you as some of the others.

    It’s just occurred to me that I might like this one as audio and might therefore put off getting it in ebook form. Audio might be a format that accentuates GGK’s beautiful writing, which might be a good thing if the story itself perhaps doesn’t grab me as much. Not sure, but I might try that if I renew my Audible membership.

  4. Jeanine

    Just finished it. I like his writing but not the stories he’s written lately. But that’s because they depress me; too much sadness and human stupidity inherent in the fall of empires. Which is a personal thing, I just prefer happier stories or, at the very least, happier endings. As they say, YMMV.

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