For whatever reason, Guy Gavriel Kay just insists on getting better and better. Sailing to Sarantium
outshone the already excellent Lions of Al-Rassan
, and now Lord of Emperors
--the stunning second half of the Sarantine Mosaic--somehow surpasses even its predecessors.
Emperors picks up the story of the overwhelmed but still tenacious Crispin, now Imperial Mosaicist to Valerius II and thoroughly steeped in the machinations of Sarantium--not to mention being personally entangled in the lives of the emperor, the empress, and now his own queen, the exiled Gisel. Lord of Emperors also sends a new protagonist sailing into Sarantium, an unassuming country doctor who--like Caius--has found himself thrust into a position of great potential and peril, a victim of both circumstance and his own competence and moxie. The two struggle to stay afloat in Sarantium's swirling intrigues, as Valerius prepares for war in Crispin's homeland and unexplained, ghostly fires flicker around the city.
A touching, literate, and doggedly intelligent book, Lord of Emperors continues to prove Kay's mastery of historical fantasy (Sarantium being a well-researched analog to sixth-century Byzantium under Justinian and Theodora), as he gracefully spins a rich, convincing weave of legend and history. While other fantasy titles might have us imagine our lives as great heroes, Kay leaves a far more lasting impression by celebrating the heroics and passions of ordinary people who possess extraordinary character and spirit. --Paul Hughes
The second volume of the Sarantine Mosaic continues the adventure of the provincial mosaic-maker Crispin in the imperial capital Sarantium, a fantasy-fiction version of Byzantine Constantinople. At center stage is Crispin's involvement with Rustem of Bassania and his family, who, after saving the Bassanian emperor's life, have been sent to Sarantium as spies. (This is a reward?) When Rustem enters the city, his bodyguard is killed, and he becomes part of the circle that includes Crispin, Crispin's rescued slave-girl mistress, the exiled queen of Antae, and a fine and authentically limned lot of soldiers, chariot racers, ordinary people, and members of the imperial household. Half the fun of the book is seeing how Kay turns the Byzantine reign of Justinian and Theodora to the uses of his own story, and a good part of the rest is exploring the early history of the same fantasy universe he used in The Lions of Al-Rassan
(1995). Kay is fulfilling the promise of Sailing to Sarantium
(1999) magnificently. Roland Green