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Sailing to Sarantium

(The Sarantine Mosaic #1)

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4.16  ·  Rating details ·  11,957 ratings  ·  527 reviews
Crispin is a master mosaicist, creating beautiful art with colored stones and glass. Summoned to Sarantium by imperial request, he bears a Queen's secret mission, and a talisman from an alchemist. Once in the fabled city, 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 ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published November 4th 2002 by Earthlight (first published September 7th 1998)
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Brenna Saunders Pretty well, actually. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger, and you get some closure and explanations with certain things that happen. If you are…morePretty well, actually. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger, and you get some closure and explanations with certain things that happen. If you are interested in these books, but don't want to commit to both, then you can definitely read this one and enjoy it at face value before deciding if you want to read the sequel (Lord of Emperors).

I waited a year or so before reading the second book, without feeling pressed for closure. Interestingly, I enjoyed the second one even more than the first.(less)

Community Reviews

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4.16  · 
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 ·  11,957 ratings  ·  527 reviews


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Ivan
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
Most of today's fantasy can be traced through branches back to rather small root. Epic fantasy can be traced back Lord of the rings, fairytale inspired fantasy (like that of Gaiman or Diana Wyn Jones) can be traced to Lud in the Mist, grimdark to Dread empire, military fantasy to Black company, science fantasy to Amber chronicles.


Kay is one of few authors who's work come from different tree entirely as he draws inspiration from history and historical fiction. Sailing to Sarantium play out more
...more
Kemper
I would like to have been in the room when Guy Gavriel Kay pitched this story to his publishers:

“It’s a historical fantasy novel based on the Byzantine Empire and the works of W.B. Yeats. The main character is an artist caught up in political schemes during a tumultuous time.”

“Uh….The Byzantine Empire and poems? And the hero isn’t any kind of an archer or a sorcerer? Some kind of bad ass like we usually see in these books?”

“No, he’s just a mosaicist. That’s a guy who glues bits of colored glass
...more
Mayim de Vries
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is like a mosaic. I am at a loss how to properly categorise it.

It is neither a place-driven nor a character-driven story. The first part is just a road-tripping gig. It has a feeling of three, loosely connected novellas about people who meet on the road under weird circumstances. The second part reads like a prelude to the next instalment and remains inconclusive in terms of shape and direction.

However, this inability to pin down one particular trope or arch (revenge, love, quest, et
...more
Choko
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
*** 4.35 ***

A buddy read with the Fantasy Buddy Read Group, because we love Kay's storytelling!



"...“He wanted to achieve something of surpassing beauty that would last. A creation that would mean that he--the mosaic worker Caius Crispus of Varena--had been born, and lived a life, and had come to understand a portion of the nature of the world, of what ran through and beneath the deeds of women and men in their souls and in the beauty and the pain of their short living beneath the sun.” ..."

I g
...more
Markus
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He wanted to make a mosaic that would endure, that those living in after days would know had been made by him, and would honour. And this, he thought, beneath black and dripping trees, walking over sodden, rotting leaves in the forest, would mean that he had set his mark upon the world, and had been.
It was so strange to realize how it was only at this brink of the chasm, threshold of the dark or the god’s holy light, that one could grasp and accept one’s own heart’s yearning for more of the worl
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I have a love-hate relationship with Kay’s work: loved Tigana, really liked Song for Arbonne, put Lions of Al-Rassan down in disgust halfway through. (Last Light of the Sun is the only one I’ve been ambivalent about so far.) Maybe this book is too similar to Lions for me--and most people seem to love Lions (if you do, you might want to ignore this review). Or maybe I’ve just read too much Kay.

At any rate, this book is about Crispin, a mosaicist who travels to Sarantium (a very thinly disguised B
...more
Laura
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
Duology review: 5 brilliant stars!!

My favourite Kay books so far. This duology is, simply put, a masterpiece!!

A wonderful homage to art, to women, to beauty and to love!

Kay's writing is elegant, almost poetic at times and rich beyond measure at others, matching the greatness and opulence of Sarantium. He will take you on a journey through which you will just have to pay attention to the road, having no clue whatsoever as to the destination. But it is all worth it!


Full Painting of The Sarantine
...more
Megan Baxter
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Guy Gavriel Kay excels at writing those moments when the world stops, the characters hold their breath, and I do too. Those moments when powers beyond comprehension are right in front of you (worldly or supernatural), and no one knows what the outcome will be, where everything hangs on a knife's edge.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire revie
...more
Alissa
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
What can I say? It seems to be difficult to rate Kay's books any less than 5 full and deserved stars. This story offers, among others, a compelling “game of courts and intrigues”, violent intricacies, the clash of the sacred and profane, journeys and brilliant colors, all skillfully brushed with Kay's trademark themes and storytelling.

Surprisingly, this book has a few more magical elements than those I read before, namely the brilliant masterpieces that are The Lions of Al-Rassan and A Song for
...more
Kyle
Oct 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kyle by: Crystal
As my first G.G.K. book, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Nothing wrong with that; in fact, I often prefer not having any expectations going into a book. But with Kay, I often heard the term "alternate history" or "historical fantasy." I was wary of those labels, and in fact I was really more confused than anything else since I noticed people using them interchangeably (and they clearly are not synonymous with each other). After reading Sailing to Sarantium, it's clear that the book is nei ...more
Angela
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book a bit of a struggle to read until I came to the last third of the book, which seemed to fly by quickly and overall made the book more enjoyable. I was more engaged in the story once more political intrigue was involved and most of our characters were in Sarantium.

Well worth reading, especially if you like historical fantasy novels.
Ivana Books Are Magic
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Within this book there is a metaphor that I quite liked. This metaphor happens to be the title of this book. Sailing to Sarantium is a metaphor used brilliantly during the course of the novel. It means that somebody has taken a change, braved to do something, changed his life in a drastic way. The metaphor does make sense because a man that is sailing to capital may be changing his life. Especially when that capital happens to be the centre of power and the place of many wonders. I can't say tha ...more
Nikhil
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A breath of fresh air from traditional fantasy with exquisite prose, but a few of the characters seem indistinguishable from one another and the irregular sequence is a hindrance. Still, a story that stands out.
Chris
For most of this read, I thought I was holding another 5-star GGK book. The political manueverings and intrigue are fantastic, as are the twists and turns that the protagonist, Caius Crispus, faces. The individual pieces in the political puzzle are intriguing too, from the Empress Arixana and the Emperor Valerius to the Queen Gisel, and the First Stratego Leontus and his seductive aristocrat bride.

The book beautifully sets up the sequel, Lord of Emperors, which now goes to the top of my read pil
...more
Lightreads
May 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
A mosaicist is summoned east to not!Byzantium to serve the Emperor in construction of the mightiest sanctuary dome the world has known. His journey takes him through danger, mystical adventure, and court intrigue, culminating in . . . er . . . absolutely nothing. One assumes the point will arrive in the sequel?

Wow, this is remarkable. I really mean it. This book never once uses the word ‘vagina,’ and yet if you woke me up in the dead of night and asked me what this book was about, I would have g
...more
Veronica
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, buddy-read
”To say of a man that he was sailing to Sarantium was to say that his life was on the cusp of change: poised for emergent greatness, brilliance, fortune – or else at the very precipice of a final and absolute fall as he met something too vast for his capacity.”

Caius Crispus is a man, a mosaicist by trade, who has been living under the shadow of grief after losing his wife and two daughters to the Plague. His life is only about his work now. The decision of an emperor in a neighboring country to
...more
Emma
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I knew going into it that this would feel incomplete as a story. Many reviews have said that it needs to be read in conjunction with its sequel. I think the novel definitely suffers from lack of a climax towards the end and a pace that seems too slow in places. Having said that, I really enjoyed the book. I'm a big fan of historical fiction set in Roman times and although this is historical fantasy, the world felt familiar. A rich tapestry has been woven with many characters. I hope no more are ...more
Kylie
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. I had little to no expectations about this book when I first started it other than Brandon Sanderson mentioned Kay in an interview or author panel once.
You will not enjoy this if you are looking for an action-packed sword and sorcery fantasy. This is all about the writing, the characters, the politics of this Byzantium-inspired story with a twist of fantasy. It's fantastic. Doesn't feel like a story in-and-of itself, but that's what book 2 is for.
Kostas
8.5/10

I have to say before I started The Sarantine Mosaic I was a bit worried that I might not like so much Guy Gavriel Kay’s more “historical” based stories, but after reading The Last Light of the Sun , which I liked it a lot, my interest on this duology began to change and of course Kay has done here a really great story.
Inspired by some events on the 6th century in Byzantium Kay has made an incredible world, full with wonderful characters and with his writing being, simply, amazing.

The sto
...more
Ross
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nautical
Sailing to Sarantium, Book one of "The Sarantine Mosaic" has blown me away and taken me by complete surprise. Iv'e known about Guy Gavriel Kay for a while, often hearing about his amazing use of language, and hearing how he meticulously researches before writing a book. I read on a fellow blogger's site that this is the perfect place to get introduced to Kay's style. I'm sooo glad I decided to give this book a shot!

Sailing to Sarantium is the first book of a duology and it combines elements of H
...more
Jane Jago
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Still five stars even for the umpteenth reread
Kat  Hooper
Sep 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
The new emperor in Sarantium has a lot to atone for, so he’s building a grand chapel to his god and calling the most famous artisans in the surrounding regions to come work for him. Crispin, a mosaicist from a neighboring country, is one of these. Unhappy since his wife and children died, Crispin doesn’t think he has much to live for anymore, and he doesn’t want to go to Sarantium. But when his young queen, who sits her throne precariously, asks Crispin to carry a secret proposal to the already- ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, history, fiction
I've never read anything like this book before. Sailing to Sarantium is an amazing fantasy story with elements of art and history. I was really surprised by how well-written and imaginative it really was.
Geoff
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, canadian
This is the first Guy Gavriel Kay book that I have read, and I come away from it having had an enjoyable experience.

I found the world to be very fascinating. It might be even more interesting to people familiar with the history of the Byzantine Empire since this novel takes inspiration of that era/setting (the city of Sarantium taking the place of Constantinople). There is a lot of exposition about life in the city which might bore some people but I found it interesting in this instance. Especi
...more
Katie
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
4.5*
The prose was wonderful and rich. The world was so well built and fleshed out. I found the first half of the book where Crispin journeyed to Sarantium the most engaging. The second part dragged at times in my opinion. The ending was less impressive than I was hoping for and thus left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Overall really enjoyed my first GGK book, I have the sequel on hold at the library and will read it very soon.
Giovanna
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think this was as good as Under Heaven, but still, the more I read Kay the more I like him. His works are well written, carefully plotted and usually portray great (and human) characters. Fantasy without magic are not my favourites (even Locke has some magic in it, after all), but I don't find it disturbing in this case.

The biggest flaw for me was that in this case the slow pace did bother me a bit. It hadn't happened with Tigana or Under Heaven, but Sailing to Sarantium was, at least i
...more
Jane
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, fantasy, reviewed
This was my first foray into historical fantasy, unless I count the Strategos series of Gordon Doherty, which had a bit of fantasy. I enjoy reading about the Byzantine Empire. I chose this one because of the Byzantine [very thinly-disguised] setting; it was close enough to the real Byzantine Empire for me to make parallels. For much of this book I rated it a 4, but after 3/4 through, I had to lower my rating: partly because of sad developments in the story, but partly because of the excessive in ...more
Katie
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
4.5*
The prose was wonderful and rich. The world was so well built and fleshed out. I found the first half of the book where Crispin journeyed to Sarantium the most engaging. The second part dragged at times in my opinion. The ending was less impressive than I was hoping for and thus left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Overall really enjoyed my first GGK book, I have the sequel on hold at the library and will read it very soon.
Kelly
Sep 05, 2008 rated it liked it
See my review of this book's sequel 'Lord of Emperors' for the full review. I do think the sequel is better, but only because this book is truly 'Sailing' to where we want it to be, whereas the sequel is the real meat of what we find at our unlikely destination.
Vi
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took me forever to finish, partially because I have a toddler but that's really just my cheap, easy excuse.

This was my foray into the world of Kay and I quickly discovered his writing to be just as laborious as some reviewers have noted. Admittedly, I'm a fan of descriptive composition, with my own writing bordering on wordiness, but Kay made it really hard work to get through this historical fantasy piece.

Unlike some other readers, I found the plot to be decently interesting and my te
...more
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Fantasy Buddy Reads: Sailing to Sarantium [September 2017] 148 89 Sep 28, 2017 01:12PM  

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5,424 followers
Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categoriz ...more

Other books in the series

The Sarantine Mosaic (2 books)
  • Lord of Emperors (The Sarantine Mosaic, #2)
“We worship…the powers that speak to our souls, if it seems they do. We do so knowing there is more to the world, and the half-world, and perhaps worlds beyond, than we can grasp. We always knew that. We can’t even stop children from dying, how would we presume to understand the truth of things? Behind things? Does the presence of one power deny another? [p. 176]” 17 likes
“He wanted to achieve something of surpassing beauty that would last. A creation that would mean that he--the mosaic worker Caius Crispus of Varena--had been born, and lived a life, and had come to understand a portion of the nature of the world, of what ran through and beneath the deeds of women and men in their souls and in the beauty and the pain of their short living beneath the sun.” 11 likes
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