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Sailing to Sarantium (Earthlight) Paperback – 6 Sep 1999
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Guy Gavriel Kay's fantasy career began with "The Fionavar Tapestry", a popular trilogy mixing Arthurian and Tolkienian themes. He's since developed an original vein of alternative-historical fiction: richly suspenseful stories whose period settings have different country names and added magic. The Lions of Al-Rassan reinvented medieval Spain; Sailing to Sarantium lovingly reflects the intrigue and splendour of the Byzantine Empire and echoes W.B. Yeats's famous Byzantium poems. Magic exists: at least one old god is horribly real, and those artificial singing birds celebrated by Yeats take their life from an unexpected creepy source. Sarantium City is intensely imagined, with dynastic upheavals, riot and rebellion, a smashing chariot race, and knives glinting in every alley. There's sharp intelligence here, too. The hero, an outlander mosaic expert summoned to decorate Sarantium's newest and greatest dome, faces his worst test at the Emperor's court--where mechanical trickery lurks, conversation is double-edged and exile awaits the loser in a debate on mosaic techniques. There's also a Sherlockian challenge to deduce how the top charioteer pulled off a magical- seeming coup. Kay has laid fine groundwork for this new series "The Sarantine Mosaic", with more to follow. --David Langford
'This is Kay at his very very best!' -- BSFA VECTOR
LORD OF EMPERORS is wonderful. I never expect less from Guy Gavriel Kay. -- ROBERT JORDAN --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
There are intricate plans and plots by nearly everyone at court; there is thrilling, fast-passed action at the hippodrome where the chariots (which dominate every aspect of life in Sarantium) race; and there is the philosophical bent of the author who really does seem to be trying tell us something about human nature - though it feels like a discussion between author and reader.
One thing to note is the women! In Sarantium the women, as Crispin finds out, have just as much (or as little) control as the men do.
All of GGK's books are good, my particular favourites being The Lions of Al-Rassan and A Song for Arbonne - but the two novels comprising the Saratine Mosaic truly surpass his other works.
This is a well-told story with vivid and engaging characters, but the sense of place and of the real world around them is not as strong as in some of Kay's other works, such as the unforgettable "The Lions of Al-Rassan". The details of life are there, especially the technicalities of the mosaicist's craft and the charioteer's challenge, but the splendours and wonders of Byzantium's golden age can only be glimpsed amidst the petty intrigues of the court.
Well worth reading, but hardly the tour de force of "Tigana" or "The Lions of Al-Rassan".
Nonetheless, in comparison to many works of fantasy currently available, this book remains far better than most, and the prologue is almost worth the price of admission in and of itself. I will await the release of the second and concluding volume--though I will wait until it's out in paperback--in the hope that its pages will do much to repair and restore the stumble that appears to occur in the early portion of the story. Despite my hesitation to fully applaud this effort, Kay remains among the handful of authors representing the best in fantasy fiction.
I have no hesitation recommending this as an introduction to Guy Gavriel Kay, in fact I'd say it would be a far better starting point than the Fionavar Tapestry. The latter works were GGK's first, and I think he had matured enormously as a writer by the time he wrote Tigana and subsequent works.