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The Sarantine Mosaic

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Just in case you’re interested, I’ve tried to unload my thoughts regarding my top ten books from the interview in On Spec. In that post, I mention the Sarantine Mosaic is my favourite Guy Gavriel Kay work—and of the two, I’d have to choose Lord of Emperors.

Lord of EmperorsNow I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by Guy Gavriel Kay. I found him through reading the Fionovar Tapestry, but became a huge fan through reading Tigana. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and chat with him twice, once before Tigana was released and once during the release of Lord of Emperors. He’s a fascinating person, extremely intelligent, personable, and with vast knowledge of mythology.

The Sarantine Mosaic was something different for me. First off, the period is after the fall of Rome, but it is before the dark really descends on the Dark Ages. The main characters are not sword-swinging heroes, but an artist and a physician. The action is mostly social and political.

SailingToSarantiumNow, given that right now I’m digging on something called sword noir, and that I’m in the middle of a modern action/adventure/fantasy serial, this might not hit you as something that I would love.

Here’s the thing: Kay does it right. He hits all the right notes. The characters are engrossing. The setting is fully realized, and the text allowed me to build this world in my head. Kay knows Byzantium, he’s done his homework. Just like a jazz musician, because he is so supremely confident, he can riff on something and create a thing of beauty. This is not Byzantium, but there’s enough of our world there to quickly situate oneself. I know this place, but it holds secrets and surprises.

It’s also not that the Sarantine Mosaic does not deliver on action and adventure, because it does, but action is not the driving force of this story.

I hear a lot about how “Eurocentric” fantasy is, and how readers are looking for something different. The funny thing is that while—especially in this period—Byzantium could be considered part of Europe, the society and attitudes illustrated in this work are alien to us. This is something different. It is a different culture in a different book inhabited by different characters.

So, if you love your fantasy, but you are ready for something different, check out Guy Gavriel’s Kay the Sarantine Mosaic.

Oh, but first, go buy the current issue of On Spec if you have not already.

Reason # 6? To read the results of Fraser being totally blindsided by a simple question about top ten books.