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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read!!
I am quite new to fantasy fiction, having picked up Kay's "Under Heaven" in a charity shop. I enjoyed this immensely, so when i checked on Amazon to see what I could get further from this, to me anyway, brilliant author, I chose the Sarantine Mosaic novels and Tigana. I have just finished reading Sailing to Sarantium and it left me craving to start the second...
Published 14 months ago by Bobsie

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just could not get enthused
As another reviewer has commented, this is a retelling of early Byzantine history with just the names changed. In that it seems kind of pointless because the story exists anyway as history and is very well documented. The retelling is rather dull and I just could not get enthused about it. There just did not seem to be a point any more than exactly retelling the American...
Published 9 months ago by Robert


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read!!, 3 July 2013
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This review is from: Sailing to Sarantium (Paperback)
I am quite new to fantasy fiction, having picked up Kay's "Under Heaven" in a charity shop. I enjoyed this immensely, so when i checked on Amazon to see what I could get further from this, to me anyway, brilliant author, I chose the Sarantine Mosaic novels and Tigana. I have just finished reading Sailing to Sarantium and it left me craving to start the second book, "Lord of Emperors". I love his style of writing, and the way he broadens the story out by bringing in a different angle from some of the other characters. It doesn't matter to me that Sarantium and Rhodias are, presumably, Constantinople and Rome in a different world, if I can see in my mind's eye what is being described in the novel, then I am content to go along with it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SAILING TO SARANTIUM, 14 Nov 2011
This review is from: Sailing to Sarantium (Paperback)
It is a very long time since I have read a book which gripped me as much as this has. When younger I would probably have stayed up all night to finish it! The written style is beautiful and the pace of events exciting. It gives an entirely new take to the historical characters and events which lie behind it as well as being a good story for those who have never heard of them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 9 April 2014
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R. Walsby - See all my reviews
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Like Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrance it takes little while to get going then I was utterly hooked, get this!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 21 Feb 2014
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I have read most of GG Kay's books. If you like one you will like them all. This is a good story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sailing to Sarantium, 3 Feb 2014
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I. Lodge "Barney" (UK) - See all my reviews
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Another amazing book from Kay. Anyone reading this must be intrigued and affected by the beautifully drawn characters and the story line.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Although this book is a fantasy story, and the first of two,, 28 Oct 2013
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it has a reasonable basis in history - all the events that take place could quite easily occur in ancient Rome or Constantinople. The characters are solidly based and very believable and live ordinary everyday lives. Some of the descriptions are excellent - the creating of mosaics for example, and in particular the horse races in the Hippodrome with the various teams that took part and the intense rivalry between them.

The story concerns Crispin a mosaicist who is summoned to Sarantium by his Emperor to decorate the greatest dome in the ancient world built in honour of their God of Gods Jad the God of the Sun. Along with Crispin's world you have Court intrigue, political skulduggery and the rivalry between the racing teams. There are many twists and turns along the way that all add up to a memorable read that I wouldn't hesitate in recommending to anyone that likes a story with a difference. This is not the end of the story, however, the sequel being Lord of Emperors which I will review under that name.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Story - you can trust the good reviews, 20 May 2011
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Mr. N. G. Wilson "Neil" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sailing to Sarantium (Paperback)
I am a big fan of Guy Kay and can recommend this to any history/fantasy reader. The story continues and finishes in "Lord of Emperors"
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just could not get enthused, 19 Nov 2013
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Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sailing to Sarantium (Paperback)
As another reviewer has commented, this is a retelling of early Byzantine history with just the names changed. In that it seems kind of pointless because the story exists anyway as history and is very well documented. The retelling is rather dull and I just could not get enthused about it. There just did not seem to be a point any more than exactly retelling the American Civil War with the names changed but the same events. The characters felt plodding and uninteresting.
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Even a Fantasy Novel But Bad Historical Fiction, 14 Jan 2013
By 
Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sailing to Sarantium (Paperback)
This "fantasy kingdom" is nothing more than thinly disguised historical fiction. Everything in here (with the exception of the three main characters) has a direct equivalent in the Byzantine Empire of Justinian. This goes for culture, characters, terms, events, everything. Just to show how utterly slavishly he sticks to this here's a brief list of names and their historical equivalents:
Sarantium=Byzantium
Valerius II=Justinian
Hildric=Theoderic
Gisel=Amalasuntha
Pertennius=Procopius
hippodrome=hippodrome
Rhodias=Rome
Bassania=Sassanian Persia
Esperana=Spain
Thrakesia=Thrace
Varena=Ravenna

There are too many to list, but rest assured that even the ones I don't list here have their equivalents. Not only are these copies, but most of them are pretty obvious too (my favorite is Varena which is simply an anagram for Ravenna. Bassanid feels like a bad joke). These parallels exist in the narrative as well. The easiest way to show that is to summarize the plot using the real names, with the changed names in parentheses. Rome (Rhodias) ruled the original empire, but now the empire has converted to Christianity (Jaddism) from paganism and moved to Byzantium (Sarantium). Justinian (Valerius II) helped put his uncle on the throne, and now rules alongside his wife, the former prostitute Theodora (Alixana). After the Church of Holy Wisdom (Sanctuary of Holy Wisdom) is destroyed in the dangerous Nika Riot (Victory Riot, which is just the translation of the Greek word), Justinian orders it rebuilt. He summons artisans from all over the empire to help. In addition Justinian's preparing to send Belisarius (Leontes) off to reconquer Italy (Batiara) from the Ostrogoths (Antae). His reign is also known for a devastating plague. Every bit of this is in the book.

Now if I sound righteously outraged about this it's not intentional. Fantasy authors are allowed to steal from historical periods. They just shouldn't do so this directly. It makes the book boring for anyone with a background in the period. Here's an example: Game of Thrones is based off the War of the Roses. It takes a good deal of the setup and even obvious imitations of the names (Stark and Lannister vs. York and Lancaster) from that period. So why is that book original while this one isn't? Because while it might be inspired by the War of the Roses it created a new world for it (with additions from other periods and cultures) and set off in a direction of its choosing. Knowing how the War of the Roses ends doesn't mean I know how those books will end. Another example is The Foundation Trilogy. It features an empire based off Rome going into the Dark Ages (kinda like this book) and even has a character called Bella Riose who is obviously based off Belisarius and follows approximately the same narrative. Again, he makes changes and doesn't feel compelled to stick to real events. But I know exactly where these books will end, so why should I even finish reading them?

I'm annoyed at the sheer lack of originality and effort on display here yes, but what really gets me is that it's truly so close he could have just kept the original names and made himself a decent historical fiction. A mosaicist summoned from Italy to work on Justinian's Hagia Sophia would not be a bad plot for a novel. It's not even that implausible. The fantastical elements in here are so few and far between that they feel forced as it is. They could easily be excised from the plot without any noticeable effect. As it stands it's probably already more realistic than Conn Iggulden's Emperor series. Some might find it clever to create a fantasy world so identical to the real world (oooh there are two moons. So different!) but I don't see the point.

As far as the writing style goes, this guy has an extremely annoying quirk. He seems to dislike the conventional straight narrative and enjoys doing unusual things with it. For example, he'll start off a chapter talking about a chariot race, then go back and explain how there was a major riot in the city two years ago, then he's back with the race, then back to the riots again, only to conclude with a description of the race itself. Or he'll tell a story from one point of view before switching to another and telling the same story again. Many times these are characters who are irrelevant to the plot. Sometimes he switches characters numerous times simply to establish what everyone is experiencing at the same time. It's confusing and irritating. He also has a really nasty tendency to go on and on about what might have happened had only things gone another way. Like the following example: "Had he arrived back at the inn after the racing, as he had intended, had he spoken with Kasia and learned of her encounter with a visitor-the details of which would have meant rather more to him than they did to her-Crispin would almost certainly have conducted himself differently in certain matters that followed. This, in turn, might have occasioned a significant change in various affairs, both personal and of much wider import. It could, in fact, have changed his life and a number of other lives, and-arguably-the course of events in the Empire." He never explains what would have changed of course, merely gets all epic and self-important about it. It's meant to be portentous and foreboding but it just comes off as pretentious and silly.

Those who do want to see a good fantasy world based on the Byzantines should check out the Videssos Cycle. It also copies pretty slavishly from Byzantine history, but it doesn't stick to one specific time or narrative. It also put some actual thought into the changes it made instead of merely changing the name and hoping for the best. Changing God to Jad does not a new religion make, while Videssos' Phos was actually a well developed theology.
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Sailing to Sarantium
Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay (Paperback - 3 Mar 2011)
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