- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager; 1st U.S. ed edition (February 3, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061051179
- ISBN-13: 978-0061051173
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,859,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sailing to Sarantium (Sarantine Mosaic, Book 1) Hardcover – February 3, 1999
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Sailing to Sarantium is a small story. Its hero, Crispin, is unassuming as heroes go. He's a skilled mosaicist, an artist who makes pictures with decorative tiles, and responds to a request from a distant emperor to travel to the imperial capital and work on the new sanctuary there. Hardly the makings of high adventure. But then again, Guy Gavriel Kay could write about a peasant going to pick up a pail of water and you'd probably hang on every word.
If you don't know Kay, you should. His pedigree is impeccable, starting with a well-loved fantasy debut, the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road), and a compilation he did with Christopher Tolkien called The Silmarillion. Sailing to Sarantium, the first half of the Sarantine Mosaic series, evokes his other historical fantasy titles, such as A Song for Arbonne and The Lions of Al-Rassan, and is a well-researched analog to the Byzantine Empire and fifth-century Europe--with all its political and religious machinations.
Despite its seemingly prosaic cast and quest, Sailing to Sarantium is a charmer, another Kay classic. As usual, the character descriptions are subtle and precise--the mosaicist, Crispin, is a shrewd, irascible, and intensely likable man who is fiercely devoted to his art but troubled by guilt and loss. Reluctantly surrendering to events, he agrees to travel to Sarantium to work for the emperor. ("Sailing to Sarantium," we learn, is an expression synonymous with embracing great change.) As Crispin moves from roadside quarrels to palace intrigue, Kay gracefully shifts perspective from character to character, moving forward and backward in time and giving a rich sense of the world through the eyes of soldiers, slaves, and senators. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
Heavy of character and light of plot, Kay's (The Lions of Al Rassan) new series opens with the heady scents of sex, horseflesh and power. In the Holy City of Sarantium, the wily, murderous new emperor, Valerius II, stiffs his soldiers of their pay in order to build a fabulous monument to immortalize his reign. To adorn his temple, he summons a renowned elder mosaicist, who entreats his brilliant, younger partner, Caius Crispus of Varena, to make the journey to Sarantium in his stead. Crispus, who lost his zest for life after his beloved wife and daughters died of the plague, makes the journey under protest. His besieged country's young queen forces him to carry a dangerous, private message to the emperor, the contents of which could cost him his life. En route to Sarantium, Crispus becomes involved with mystically souled mechanical birds created by the magician Zoticus; encounters an awe-inspiring pagan god; saves the life of a beautiful, enslaved prostitute; and demonstrates that decency brings out the best in hired workers. At his destination, he learns to trust his own instincts, especially where knife-wielding assassins and powerful women who use their sexuality as a weapon are concerned. Kay is at his best when describing the intertwining of art and religion or explicating the ancient craft of mosaic work. The slow pace of the novel and the sheer volume of its characters (if ever a book cried out for a listing of dramatis personae, this is it) are dismaying, however, and don't augur well for future installments in the series. Rights: Westwood Creative Artists.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
One of the things I liked best about this novel was Kay's theme of the artist wanting to have his name remembered in history in some way; though this is only one of several themes in the book. I also admired his knowledge of the visual artist's perception of the physical world; how he must learn to be conscious about seeing and observing everything. Kay's breathtaking depiction of a chariot race (the writing of which can't be an easy task) made me reflect on how little the gambling and gaming nature of man has changed over the centuries (yesterday chariots; today, the Daytona 500!). The unique idea of Zoticus's birds is a beautiful one; their characters provide some of the book's most poignant moments. And one other quality I admired, which seems to be a Kay trait, is the way he presents different view points of a single event through several characters' eyes.Read more ›
I picked up this book, Sailing to Sarantium, while visiting the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in May 2000, at an outlet mall near Ashland, Oregon. I had heard so much about Kay that I just had to find a book by him, so when I saw this book on the shelf, I picked it up.
Ah! the sights, sounds, and smells he describes are so real - Guy Kay is able to take you there to see what the characters see, smell what they smell. But I felt there was no there there. The characters barely move through this detailed world.
This book also didn't seem to stand alone: it's waiting for its sequel to be published (which of course has happened).
I must say, though, that I will buy the sequel, and hope that the story moves along a wee bit better than this one.
If only Sailing to Sarantium had been less annoying.
Don't get me wrong, I thotoughly enjoyed the book, although I've come to expect more from Kay. However, his works seem to be getting more ponderous - scenes that should be dealt with in two pages seem to take twenty. Now, I admire Kay for taking time with his plot and scenes, but he does tend to go a little overboard in the Sarantine Mosaic. He continually shifts perspective from one character to another, seeing the same scene from many angles.
On the positive side, the story runs deep and thickly; Kay paints a tale of the lost and the gained in exquisite detail. He pains to portray the Byzantine Empire and succeeds magnificently. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical-style fantasy and enjoys deep characterisation. If you're after Hack'n'slash Fantasy, go elsewhere.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really do like GGK's books but there's something about his style of writing that always stops me from giving his stuff 5 stars. Read morePublished 20 months ago by BellaGrace
This man is my favorite author. Everything he writes is gold. This book is no exception. The Sarantine Mosaic is a fantastic series, and this will get you started. Read morePublished on January 28, 2014 by B. A. Modelle
Originally posted at FanLit.
The new emperor in Sarantium has a lot to atone for, so he's building a grand chapel to his god and calling the most famous artisans in the... Read more
My 2 star review probably comes from the fact that I'm not a huge fantasy fan. A fantasy book really needs to be wonderfully written with a driving narrative for me to enjoy it. Read morePublished on June 20, 2011 by nom de plume
Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the reasons I hate the whole concept of genre. Tragically, he is, now and probably forevermore, labeled as a fantasy writer (and thus stuck on the shelves... Read morePublished on December 19, 2009 by Jim Palmer
Sailing to Sarantium is a lush novel from Guy Kavriel Kay, whom I consider to be the finest modern writer of fantasy. Read morePublished on September 24, 2008 by Rich Gubitosi
If you are looking for a thrill a page action/adventure, keep looking. Guy Gavriel Kay writes character driven novels of remarkable depth. Read morePublished on January 27, 2008 by Michael McKee
I've just re-read both volumes of The Sarantine Mosaic. The two taken together are deeply moving and memorable. Read morePublished on December 24, 2007 by A Reader
Guy Gavriel Kay came very highly recommended, so I was quite excited about reading the first book in the duology. Read morePublished on December 2, 2007 by Norse Victorian