Nikki 's Reviews > Lord of Emperors

Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
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's review
Jul 23, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction-alternatehistory, fantasy
Read in July, 2009

Sept 2008.

I loved the second book, too. Guy Gavriel Kay doesn't handle his readers gently, still, but I wasn't expecting that. My heart was really in my mouth during some parts of the book, and I was genuinely sad at some of the deaths. None of which is a surprise when it comes to Guy Gavriel Kay. I also had no real issue with the romance in this book, which often trips me up in GGK's writing -- until the very end, I didn't know who Crispin would end up with, but I wasn't at all troubled by that.

The political parts of this are good, too. And it's amazing how you're made to feel sad, amongst all the death, about the destruction of a half-finished mosaic.

Now I'm just sad that I've finished reading all of Guy Gavriel Kay's work.

July 2009.

I don't even remember what I said about this book the last time I tried to review it. It has the same flaws as Sailing to Sarantium, really -- a tendency to dwell on things that could be dealt with in a much more subtle way. Also a tendency to get ahead of itself, and talk about things that will happen many years down the line. And a slightly irritating tendency to flashbacks and confusing verb tense.

As a whole, though, it reads well, 'tastes nice', and builds up beautiful pictures in the mind. New characters are introduced in this book, but it does mostly build on the characters and ideas present in the first. I wonder if he wrote them together and had them published separately, or whether Sailing for Sarantium was published before Lord of Emperors was finished. I suspect the latter, given the publication dates being two years apart. It might explain some elements that I feel weren't used to their full potential.

Although, on the other hand, all of the characters introduced serve some purpose, whether they are small or not, and the number of characters and the way their lives intertwine is a part of the complexity that Crispin has to deal with once he reaches Sarantium. So it's appropriate enough, if slightly irritating -- characters like Vargos rather disappeared into the background, after having a reasonable run of it in the first book.

There's a lot of sadness in this book. Sadness about the impermanence of art, about politics twisting everything, about love despite politics, twisted loves... Struggles about religion, too. There's a lot of big stuff. I wish now, again, that I understood the "real" history better, because then certain events and people might mean more to me. For me, though, it's a fascinating fantasy world, offering tantalising glimpses of the politics and royalty of the world, while also knowing when to pull back and focus on the ordinary.

But then, I'm biased. I'm reasonably sure that Kay cannot put a foot wrong. Not far wrong, anyway.

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