Sailing to Sarantium

{5/5} “To say of a man that he was sailing to Sarantium was to say that his life was on the cusp of change: poised for emergent greatness, brilliance, fortune — or else at the very precipice of a final and absolute fall as he met something too vast for his capacity.”

The emperor summons master mosaicist Martinian to Sarantium to help decorate a new sanctuary. Martinian, feeling old and whimsical, points to his partner Crispin and tells the messenger that he is Martinian. Crispin lost his wife and children in the plague, and Martinian thinks the trip will be good for him. Crispin initially refuses but gradually comes around to the idea. Then Crispin is surprised again — he’s whisked off for a private audience with the queen, who gives him an ultra top secret message to take to the emperor.

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay was published in 1998. It’s the first book of a duology called The Sarantine Mosaic.

As with most of Kay’s books, it’s based on a real place and time (Constantinople under Justinian I) but you don’t need to know anything about that to enjoy the book. Kay’s work has been called historical fantasy. He creates a world that’s based on a real historical one, and adds a bit of magic (usually much less magic than the average fantasy).

There are no clich├ęs here — it’s an extremely detailed world and anything can happen.

It’s about dealing with an environment that’s different than what you’re used to, chariot races, the game of thrones, and regional differences in religion. It’s insightful and funny.

Kay changes the point of view on a regular basis — from Crispin to his companions to other characters. The characters are fascinating, which makes you want to know what they’ll do next.

You won’t be able to put the book down. The story doesn’t come to any kind of conclusion, so you’ll want to read the sequel right away.

Kay is one of my favourite fantasy authors. I enjoyed The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Darkest Road, A Song for Arbonne, The Lions of Al-Rassan, and especially Tigana.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 9th, 2013 at 12:07 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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