Sailing to Sarantium: Book One of the Sarantine Mosaic
by Guy Gavriel Kay
Review by Wendy Kosak

I heard Guy Gabriel Kay read at World Fantasy Convention and was impressed enough to hurry out and track down all the books I could in the dealers room. Sailing to Sarantium had been nominated for Best Fantasy Novel, so I started with it.

My reaction is mixed. The story is of Crispin, a mosaicist summoned by the Emperor to do a mosaic for a newly built dome in the capital. The world is almost, but not quite our world. By jumping viewpoints we get slices of life from this world: a supporter of the Blue team of chariot racers; a royal courier; a slave; a senator. While the writing is excellent, each viewpoint change slows the plot down until it crawls. Once we settle on Crispin, things pick up, although not without a few leaps and starts afterward to expose plot twists he wouldn't normally be privy to. All in all, very little gets done in the first book. Crispin is summoned, he travels to the capital with only one notable mishap, watches a chariot race, talks to the emperor, talks to two or three other people, the novel ends.

Kay's writing is excellent enough that it took me a while to realize that he can't/doesn't write action scenes. Riots are sidestepped and talked about as past deeds. Murders are committed off screen so we only hear the screams. In one scene Crispin enrages a soldier, we then jump to the next scene with Crispin waking up, apparently struck in the face with a helmet. Except for one excellent chariot race, there are no action scenes. After a while, I found this quite annoying, especially after a main character is killed but we only witness the bloody ruins of his body.

Between the slow pace and the avoiding action scene, there are no cool parts that I would reread an entire book just to hit. My recommendation? It's a pleasant read, wait for the paperback.

Return to Review Indexes by author or reviewer.

Click here to return to the SIGMA mainpage.

This page maintained by Greg Armstrong Last modified: Fri Jan 7 20:40:28 EST 2000