Sailing to Sarantium

Guy Gavriel Kay, Author
Guy Gavriel Kay, Author HarperPrism $24 (438p) ISBN 978-0-06-105117-3
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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. (Mar.)
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