A journey without heroes… • Book 46 of 2019. Guy Gavriel Kay: A Brightness Long Ago. • “Life, the way events actually unfold, is not as precise or as elegantly devised as a storyteller can make it seem. There are moments that find us, like some stray dog on a country road, and they may not carry significance, only truth: That they happened and we remember them.” • Imagine a world where Joseph Campbell never wrote “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.” • The 1949 book introduced the idea of “the hero’s journey”, an archetypal narrative of heroic adventure, transformation and return, that charts a 17-stage odyssey from the “call to adventure” to the “freedom to live.” This dubious piece of comparative mythology went on to suck the creativity and imagination out of a generation of storytelling. • Don’t get me wrong, you can tell a great story with the “hero’s journey”. But for every journey with a hero, there are millions without. Your living one right now, and you’re surrounded by many more. • Forget the hero. We’ve got better stories to tell… • And this is where Gavriel Kay comes in. • Some parts of his writing don’t quite work for me. He creates a detailed analogue of 15th Century Italy, what he calls his “quarter-turn to the fantastic”. I love the idea, but I’m itching for maybe another quarter-turn on the fantastical dial. We can’t always get what we want. • But I’m 100% signed up to Gavriel Kay’s determination to tell “other stories” in an invented world, away from the monotony, the flash and din of the hero’s eternal sword and the villain’s dark soul. • The only true villain dies in the first few pages of A Brightness Long Ago. From then on, we follow the stories of minor characters in an ongoing game of power between city-states. • Once off the beaten track, you know you’re in the presence of a curious and playful writer. Scenes are retold from different points-of-view. The plot is unexpectedly propelled by indecision or accident. A character arch cut off half-way, a resolution sabotaged. • And also (no spoilers!) Gavriel Kay, like Dorothy Dunnett and Mervyn Peake before him, knows how to write about magic. Magic so good, if you blink you’ll miss it.