Sailing to Sarantium is book one of The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay. I posted a review of the second book, Lord of Emperors, because I was too impatient to wait until I could get my hands on the first in the series. Because of my lack of patience, a virtue which seems to be in contunualy short supply, the review of Lord of Emperors wasn’t very informative. Without reading the first book, I wasn’t sure which of the many details I wanted to talk about might be spoilers. I hate spoilers and err’d on the side of caution.
Now that I’ve read the first book, I spent cash money to buy it, I think I can talk a bit more freely about why I like these books.
From the cover…
Caius Crispus, known as Crispin, is a master mosaicist, creating beautiful art with colored stones and glass. Still grieving the loss of his family, he lives only for his craft – until an imperial summons draws him east to the fabled city. Bearing with him a queen’s secret mission and seductive promise, and a talisman from an alchemist, Crispin crosses a land of pagan ritual and mortal danger, confronting legends and dark magic.
Once in Sarantium, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, intrigues and violence, Crispin must find his own source of power in order to survive. He finds it, unexpectedly, high on the scaffolding of his own greatest creation.
Change of Tone
Sailing to Sarantium has quite a bit more magic than book 2 Lord of Emperors. That tends to give it more of a feeling of fantasy. It also changed how I saw a few of the elements of the second book. I had filed away the doctor’s many small gestures as either superstition or small religious traditions. After reading the first book, I’m now more inclined to believe that those peculiarities succeeded in warding off bad luck, creating the most auspicious start to a day, and all the other myriad of outcomes he hoped to influence.
Character focus is different as well. Sailing to Sarantium focused more closely on Crispin than the second book. Crispin was a major character in Lord of Emperors, but the other character roles seemed to take on more importance than the first book. I liked that about Lord of Emperors, it helped to make the scope of the book seem much larger. The drawback is that a couple of the supporting characters that I liked from Sailing to Sarantium are largely ignored in Lord of Emperors. They still have roles to play, but they sink even further into the background than before.
Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors combine to create a story that grows in scope as you read it, while still conveying a message. No matter how grand the events of the world around us become, we still only perceive those great and powerful moments in history by the effect they have on our own lives.
I would suggest that you pick them both up. Oh… and read them in order.