The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay

kauldron26

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upon finishing this novel, i am simply awe-struck. I dont know where to begin. you see, when you read a masterpiece... there is never any debate in your mind subjectively and objectively about its worth. This novel reminded me about who i am, who i want to be and what i want from life.

What i can i say
that hasnt been said
about guy gavriel kay

Thanks man. Thank you.
 

pyan

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I agree - and when you consider that he was also heavily involved in the preparation of The Silmarillion for publication...:)
 

williamjm

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I really liked the series as well, some excellent characterisation and world-building. I did feel it was a bit slow to start off with, it only really started to get interesting when Crispin encountered the forest God on the way to Sarantium, but once it got to Sarantium I thought it was very good. The chariot racing was particularly good fun, and Kay also did a good job of showing why Crispin's art was to important to him. I would rate it alongside Tigana and The Lions of Al-Rassan among Kay's best books.
 

Clansman

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kauldron, you have summarized my feelings on most of Kay's works. Ysabel was a disappointment, to me, but Kay is one of the most lyrical and poetic writers going. The man is simply brilliant. His next novel is due out very soon.
 

Bugg

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I would rate it alongside Tigana and The Lions of Al-Rassan among Kay's best books.
Me too! I read Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors over the New Year and I was totally swept away. I was expecting not to like them as much as Lions or A Song for Arbonne. Happily, I was wrong :)
 

Brian G Turner

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I'm really in two minds about this.

I know this period well - it's the most popular period of Byzantine history - and GGK has basically lifted it, word for word, from the history books.

The main historical figures are there - Justin, Justinian, Theodora, Belisarius, even Procopious - as are the places: Rome, Constantinople, Persia, Greece. Heck, he even has Muhammed, the founder of Islam in it! All GGK does is change the names.

He even has the same major issues present - the Nike Riots, and Iconoclasm.

And yet, after following history faithfully and as a direct copy paste for 9/10's of the book, he suddenly changes it all with what feels like a deus ex machina near the end.

Spoilers:

The Dardenoi conspiracy came almost out from nowhere - why on earth would the empress take Crispin to that island?

And it was the weak historian who suddenly turns assassin, killing the emperor with his dagger - something no one blinks an eye at, and is not further referenced.

And, additionally, the only fantasical elements - the magic birds, and the Zenubir, seemed utterly irrelevant to the story

To just copy history feels like cheating the reader - to then suddenly, inexplicably, change history near the end of a story with no obvious reason, also feels like a cheating the reader.

GGK also has the annoying habit of trying to hide information from readers, which IMO undermines his use of POV. And as many seem to serve little point other than to reflect on circumstances from additional persepctives, except for Crispin, none of the other characters really feel properly fleshed out - Kasia is a prime example of someone who undergoes massive changes, but these are rarely referenced from her POV after they happen.

Then there's also the annoying habit of jumping to different time periods in order to make for "dramatic pace" - I think the arrival of the doctors family, seeing Sarantine in smoke, long before we ever get to that point, really underlines this.

And yet, for all my complaints, I did actually enjoy these books - Crispin is a brilliant protoganist, and really well written - his thoughts when he's drifting off after dramatic events in the postal service tavern in the first book I thought was an exceptional internal narrative, especially the way it was paced to show Crispin getting drowsier. And the way Crispin constantly perceives different colours and lighting and compares them to mosaic tesserae I thought was inspired.

However, as Crispin states at the end of the second book, he never really did anything. Events and circumstances just bounced off from him.

And why does every high bred woman seems to desire this peasant artist who never does anything?!

As before, I did enjoy this book - it is generally well written and there is a good cast. It's just very frustrating that GGK has not bothered to create his own world, but instead just copy one of the most popular periods of history, and for the most part, simply swap the names. Write either fantasy, or historical fiction. Don't write one and pretend it's the other.
 

Bugg

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I guess I might feel differently if I knew the history as well as you obviously do, Brian, which probably explains why I'm at a polar opposite from most of what you say, and suffered none of the frustrations that you did. I guess one positive you could view as a result of it is that it has got an ignoramus like me interested in the real history, which can be no bad thing. For that reason alone, I disagree with your last couple of sentences completely.
 

Bugg

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Is there a particular book you would recommend to a newcomer to the subject, such as myself?
 

Brian G Turner

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John Julius Norwich wrote a 3 volume definitive history on Byzantium. That's the popular reference. :)
 

Coragem

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I started writing a door stopping wedge of a sci-f
I'm half the way into Sailing to Sarantium. I must say, I'm struggling a bit. Maybe the events up to now take on significance later, but a lot of things seem over-elaborated and as if they're delaying the story. There are flashes of Kay's brilliance, the odd perfectly crafted, razor sharp scene, but these have been the exceptions.

Also, I prefer the low magic works … or even Tigana where magic and the supernatural are never a focus. The supernatural and religion and a sort of vague mysticism seem to be much more centre stage in StoS.

This is an odd experience for me. I count GGK as a favourite writer. I'm not sure I've ever read a better book than The Lions of Al-Rassan – a masterpiece – and I Song for Arbonne as utterly amazing too.

I'm sure things with improve with StoS, as indeed many of you have said they do.

Coragem.
 
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