After reading Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay I couldn’t wait to read Lord of Emperors, even though it was the second book in a series. I really don’t like to start a series in the middle, but I just couldn’t wait until I could get to a book store to find the first one. Going against that nagging little voice in my head, I dove in.
There were a few references to events that I assume were in the first book, that’s to be expected. That wasn’t a problem though. It was surprisingly easy to not only understand what was going on, but to get involved with the story. I credit Guy Gavriel Kay’s excellent writing for that pleasant surprise.
Beginning in the Middle
Lord of Emperors starts by introducing a new character and detailing the circumstances that bring him to Sarantium, where most of the book takes place. Guy Gavriel Kay also does a great job of reintroducing the returning cast of characters. People who, like myself, missed the first book got pertinent info, but I don’t believe returning readers will be put off. The explanations are delivered slowly as they’re needed.
Guy Gavriel Kay does an excellent job of creating a world of diverse cultures. It makes sense that there would be tension between the nations, religions and the people that rule them. It was so well done that it took me a bit of time to realize that Lord of Emperors wasn’t as solidly founded in real world history as Under Heaven was. There do seem to be parallels to history, but they seem to be the type of loose comparison you normally see in fantasy, albeit very well constructed.
If you’re looking for a fantasy filled with believable intrigue and conspiracy on a scale fit for ancient Empires, look no further. Guy Gavriel Kay has you covered with The Sarantine Mosaic.
I would recommend starting with the first book. I enjoyed Lord of Emperors, but can’t help feeling that I would have enjoyed it even more if I had enough patience to wait until I picked up Sailing to Sarantium and read it first.