Guy Gavriel Kay’s series The Sarantine Mosaic begins with the fascinating Sailing to Sarantium, which opens with the expert mosaicist Caius Crispus traveling to Sarantium at the Emperor’s behest. The problem is that he has assumed the identity of the expert who was actually summoned but retains his own irascible nature. The labyrinthine machinations of the various rulers of his area of the world enmesh the opinionated artisan in a power struggle that he has previously only superficially been aware of and his entire belief system is challenged by his journey to Sarantium. The remarkable characters he meets on his travels remind him that the entrenched beliefs that the disparate peoples honor need not automatically inactivate each other. An amazing encounter with talking creatures in his childhood is recalled when Caius starts his journey accompanied by one of those very creatures.. The arcane forces involved in animating it enmesh Caius in yet another struggle that he is ill-prepared for but it serves to broaden his knowledge of the gods. Just as a mosaicist takes bits of materials and adeptly combines them to make an overall picture, Caius slowly gathers information and experiences to give a portrait of both the powerful emperor that he is attempting to serve and the empire that is in a precarious state of balance.
This is another of Guy Gavriel Kay’s richly textured multi-dimensional stories that apparently jumps idly from one person to another and from location to location yet gradually weaves a mesmerizing tale. He skillfully uses the Byzantine Empire as his template while creating intriguing characters who can almost make one forget the heinous crimes they are committing while in pursuit of power. Seemingly inconsequential occurences are touched upon and innocuous activities are described which become pivotal when viewed from a different angle. The breadth of tragedy encompassed within the tale underscores the harshness of the characters’ lives without inducing pity while the unabashed ambition depicted almost leads one to believe that actions are understandable if not quite condoned. Just as Caius Crispus is a puzzle solver who meets a kindred spirit in the Emperor, the reader is coached to also become another player in the game with the pieces being gradually revealed. The only disappointment is that this work was previously published elsewhere and therefore may not be a new tale to some readers but it will certainly garner new fans from those who are reading this series for the first time.
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-and unexpectedly discovers it high on the scaffolding of his own greatest creation.