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Lord of Emperors: Book Two of the Sarantine Mosaic Hardcover – March 1, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Sarantine Mosaic Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Booklist

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

Product Details

  • Series: Sarantine Mosaic (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; 1st U.S. ed edition (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061051217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061051210
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Many reviewers have complained that this work is disjointed. What they don't see is that Kay intended it so - he has taken an artistic discipline, and mirrored it in his writing. The Byzantines made the art of mosaic more central to their cultural and spiritual life than any civilisation before or since. Kay has used mosaic as a writer's conceit. The lives of his various characters are presented to us in fragments, like pieces of tile; allowed to scintillate on their own while being assembled into a greater whole. Up close, each piece is unique and tells us its own particular story. But as we recede from near to far, the form and pattern of an empire emerges.
The use of this kind of metaphor is not new. Kay has used it earlier in his Fionavar trilogy. There, the metaphor was a tapestry and the lives of each character a thread. But in that earlier work, he could not resist the temptation to push his metaphor in our face. Here he has learned restraint. In fact, he submerges the metaphor so successfully into the texture of his work, that its presence passes most of us by. This is as it should be. It is meant to be felt, not noticed.
There is something else admirable about this work - its quiet voice. In Kay's earlier works, his characters undergo the profoundest changes through singularly defining experiences. I often found such changes abrupt and contrived. Here, it is different. Here, Kay takes his time. The main character lays aside his survivor's guilt and rediscovers his joy for life in increments. His life change is entirely believable because we are witness to its evolution.
This is a wonderful duology for people who find pleasure in the nuances of human complexity. It is oblique, subtle, restrained, multi-layered and evocative. But it does not conform to the trappings of fantasy.
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Format: Hardcover
This book (and the other in the duology, Sailing to Sarantium) is, in my opinion, Kay's best work. I have just finished reading this for the second time, and I think the second time might have been better than the first one.
The characters are expertly developped, as if by a painter painting a portrait (many small ones actually), or even by a mosaicist practicing his craft.
Kay really should get into epic fantasy works. In two books, he manages to introduce more multi-dimensional characters than Robert Jordan has been able to do in 9 books, or Terry Goodkind in 6. He has, also, managed to craft a world that is entirely believable and probably took a long time to create, even if it is a reflection of our own.
The most important factor in this book is that, like most of Kay's other writings, this evokes feelings and may even bring tears at times. The ending is extremely well done in my opinion (if a little rushed), yet it leaves us wanting for more. Kay is too good a writer; finishing the book brought me an intense dissatisfaction, and I was almost inclined to throw it across the room.
I can't wait for his next novel. If you've read this book, you probably can't, either.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I didn't care for Sailing to Sarantium as much as most of Kay's novels; although the characters were compelling and the world was impressively detailed, the novel seemed a bit slow-paced and didn't fully grip me. Furthermore, the novel's conclusion was hardly as moving as most of his--and Kay has a rare talent for writing satisfying endings. (Of course this was the consequence of it being first in a series, but I was nevertheless disappointed.)
I was very happy to find that Lord of Emperors was more to my taste. As in the previous novel, Kay achieves a sort of panaromic sweep as he puts us all over his world and in the minds of his many characters--but I also found there to be more force and direction to the story. Midway through the novel, as events begin coming to a climax, I found myself captured sufficiently to read without pause through to the conclusion. Admittedly, events in the final pages seem contrived, but overall I found the ending to be moving and effective.
If you liked Sailing to Sarantium, definitely don't wait for the paperback. If you're new to Kay, the Sarantine Mosaic may not be the place to start. Of his works, I still feel Lions of Al-Rassan is the best crafted and Tigana the one fans of conventional fantasy should read first. If you love those as I do, then by all means read the Sarantine Mosaic.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel is the second part in "The Sarantine Mosaic" and follows "Sailing To Sarantium". Once again we follow the mosaicist Crispin and a host of other characters in the city of Sarantium, which is Kay's fantasy equivalent of Byzantium.
Some new characters are introduced, most notably the Bassanid (Arab) doctor Rustem. Like Crispin, he arrives in the city to exercise his craft, but he also becomes entangled in the web of political and personal rivalries. Rustem's son, Shaski, provides one of the closest links to Kay's previous novels "The Lions of Al-Rassan".
I enjoyed this novel even more than its already brilliant predecessor. The characters continue to flesh out. The plot becomes more and more complex. The conclusion of the novel is very satisfying, although the epilogue, in my eyes, seems a bit rushed.
All in all, this is another brilliant effort by one of the best fantasy writers on the scene today. If you're new to Guy Gavriel Kay and you enjoy fantasy, buy Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, and the novels mentioned in this review immediately!
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