“Sailing to Sarantium” by Guy Gavriel Kay (Roc, 2010)

Sailing to Sarantium

Sailing to Sarantium, the first in the two-part Sarantine Mosaic, is a picturesque and moving adventure of ancient Byzantium, with Guy Gavriel Kay writing at his best. This is the story of a talented mosaicist, Crispin, who has lost his wife and children to the plague and is looking for something new in his life.  He is delivered this opportunity, a chance to create something, a project in the distant and renowned city of Sarantium.  As this is the first part of a two-book series, Kay spends a healthy amount of time exploring his main character and exploring the world he has created, which is a lot like that of the ancient world, but also a wonderful fabrication of Kay’s imagination.  Crispin experiences much on his journey to Sarantium: the meeting of an alchemist, a slave girl, and an epiphany where he perhaps comes face to face with an ancient god.  The events serve to change Crispin’s outlook on life, but also to let the reader in on his experiences and ideology.  In Sarantium, he tries to keep to himself and his work, but finds himself drawn into political factions, the emperor’s court, and becomes part of the many who seemingly worship the hippodrome and the great chariot races, whose riders are seen as heroes.  Sailing to Sarantium is a great example of Kay’s creative writing, his strong and interesting characters, and his imagined but quite believable world.

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Originally written on October 26, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.