A Brightness Long Ago

Berkley. May 2019. 448p. ISBN 9780451472984. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698183285. FANTASY
OrangeReviewStarFantasy master Kay (Tigana) crafts a new novel set in a balkanized land reminiscent of Renaissance Italy. Danio Cerra, low-born but well educated, is caught up by chance in the assassination of a sadistic count. When he intervenes in events bigger than himself, he's entangled in a decades-old conflict between two mercenary leaders, which is further complicated by his feelings for a young noblewoman who serves one of them. The cast of supporting characters includes sharply drawn nobles, healers, and gamblers whose lives intersect with Danio's. The setting is evocative and vivid, inspired by real historical events and figures, and Kay manages a deft balance between quiet contemplation and exciting action as he explores the roles that fate, chance, and choice play for a minor figure in a time of upheaval.
VERDICT Readers of Jacqueline Carey's "Kushiel" series or Joe Abercrombie's "Half a King" books should enjoy this dramatic and lush title for its almost, but not quite, historical backdrop. Also a good potential crossover for historical fiction fans since, as is usual for Kay, magic and the supernatural play only the tiniest role. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/18.]

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