Sailing to Sarantium

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Overview

Valerius the Trakesian has great ambition. Rumored to be responsible for the ascension of the previous Emperor, his uncle, amid fire and blood, Valerius himself has now risen to the Golden Throne of the vast empire ruled by the fabled city, Sarantium.

Valerius has a vision to match his ambition: a glittering dome that will proclaim his magnificence down through the ages. And so, in a ruined western city on the far distant edge of civilization, ...

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Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. 1999 H Hardcover New in J New jacket 1st printing/1st edition, SIGNED on the title page by the author. This book is square, solid, an rocking in ... every possible way! The DJ is sharp and lustrous in a protective mylar Brodart! When you receive this gem, you'll goggle, wide-eyed with amazement over its many excellences! ! ! Read more Show Less

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Sailing to Sarantium: Book One of the Sarantine Mosaic

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Overview

Valerius the Trakesian has great ambition. Rumored to be responsible for the ascension of the previous Emperor, his uncle, amid fire and blood, Valerius himself has now risen to the Golden Throne of the vast empire ruled by the fabled city, Sarantium.

Valerius has a vision to match his ambition: a glittering dome that will proclaim his magnificence down through the ages. And so, in a ruined western city on the far distant edge of civilization, a not-so-humble artisan receives a call that will change his life forever.

Crispin is a mosaicist, a layer of bright tiles. Still grieving for the family he lost to the plague, he lives only for his arcane craft, and cares little for ambition, less for money, and for intrigue not at all. But an imperial summons to the most magnificent city in the world is a difficult call to resist.

In this world still half-wild and tangled with magic, no journey is simple; and a journey to Sarantium means a walk into destiny. Bearing with him a deadly secret, and a Queen's seductive promise; guarded only by his own wits and a bird soul talisman from an alchemist's treasury, Crispin sets out for the fabled city from which none return unaltered.

In the Aldwood he encounters a great beast from the mythic past, and in robbing the zubir of its prize he wins a woman's devotion and a man's loyalty—and loses a gift he didn't know he had until it was gone.

In Sarantium itself, where rival factions vie in the streets and palaces, and chariot racing is as sacred as prayer, Crispin will begin his life anew. In an empire ruled by intrigue and violence, he must find his own source of power. And he does: high on the scaffolding of the greatest art work ever imagined, while struggling to deal with the dangers—and the seductive lures—of the men and women around him.

Guy Gavriel Kay's magnificent historical fantasies draw from the twin springs of history and legend to create seamless worlds as vibrant as any in literature. Sailing to Sarantium begins The Sarantine Mosaic, a new and signal triumph by today's most esteemed master of high fantasy.

"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 into chaos and ruin."

The 1999 Best Novel World Fantasy Award Nominee.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review

Art for Fantasy's Sake

Guy Gavriel Kay's career in fantasy began with his editorial contributions to J.R.R. Tolkien's posthumous epic, The Silmarillion. Since then, he has established himself as a remarkable and original fantasist in his own right, having published more than half a dozen large, ambitious novels in the last 15 years. His latest, Sailing to Sarantium, is the first in a projected two-volume sequence called the Sarantine Mosaic, an intricate, richly imagined work that reinforces Kay's position as one of the finest contemporary practitioners of classical high fantasy.

In the manner of his previous two novels, A Song for Arbonne and The Lions of AL-Rassad, Kay has once again used an actual historical setting — the early Byzantine Empire under Justinian I — as the basis for his fiction. In his new novel, Byzantium is transformed into Sarantium, and Justinian is reimagined as Valerius II, ruler of a beleaguered empire surrounded on all sides by pagan and barbarian hordes, and threatened from within by a complex series of political divisions, religious controversies, and palace intrigues. Valerius — a shrewd, resourceful ruler — is driven by two equally grandiose ambitions: to restore the remote western province of Batiara to Sarantine dominion and to build a monumental new cathedral in honor of the reigning deity of Sarantium, the sun god known as Jad. These twin ambitions stand at the novel's heart, and they are the motivating forces behind all its most significant events.

As Sailing toSarantiumopens, a master mosaicist and Batiaran citizen named Caius Crispus — commonly known as Crispin — accepts an imperial invitation to travel to Sarantium to help create a mosaic for the newly constructed Jaddite cathedral. The invitation is actually intended for Crispin's partner, Martinien, who is old, settled, and unwilling to leave his home. Crispin, who has recently lost his wife and two daughters to an outbreak of plague, travels to Sarantium in Martinien's place, hoping to find, through the practice of his craft, a renewal of his lost sense of purpose. To complicate matters further, he is also charged — by Gisel, the besieged young queen of Batiara — with delivering a dangerous and desperate message intended for Valerius alone.

Crispin's journey takes him through lawless territories still dedicated to forbidden pagan practices. During the course of that journey, he rescues a young slave girl about to be sacrificed in an annual blood rite, encounters the earthly manifestation of a primordial god of the forest called a zubir, and is beaten senseless by the imperial soldiers sent to escort him to the emperor. Once he arrives in Sarantium, complications continue to accumulate.

Crispin, an outspoken, acerbic man with little left to lose, manages, in his first appearance before the emperor, to challenge a number of commonly held aesthetic assumptions, to secure the dismissal of the reigning chief mosaicist, and to alienate some significant members of the imperial court. Within days of his arrival, he becomes the target of two attempted assassinations and an equally dangerous attempted seduction. Caught in a web of conflicting agendas and incomprehensible intrigues, he must struggle to survive while simultaneously struggling to shape his vision of the mosaic he has been commissioned to create, a mosaic that, should he live to complete it, will be his own greatest legacy to the Sarantium of the future.

Kay enlivens and enriches his fictional portrait of the Byzantine world by showing us that world from the shifting perspectives of cooks, queens, slaves, sorcerers, soldiers, artisans, politicians, and charioteers. (His accounts of chariot racing in the Hippodrome are particularly vivid and well rendered.). Despite the deliberate lack of closure, Sailing to Sarantium is both absorbing and satisfying. If the second volume — which will, I hope, appear before too much time has passed — is as good as the first, then the Sarantine Mosaic could stand as a benchmark work, one that helps to raise the standards in a genre too often populated by the dull, the derivative, and the second-rate.
—Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. He is currently working on a book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub.
Barnesandnoble.com

Time Out
An enchanting, colorful fantasy adventure.
Lisa Goldstein
Compulsively readable...Once again, Guy Gavriel Kay has taken a period of history and transformed it into something magical, creating a multilayered society you can lose yourself in for days.
Toronto Star
"Sailing to Sarantium confirms, yet again, Kay's status as one of our most accomplished and engaging storytellers.
Calgary Herald
Kay's writing is of the literate, pageturning variety that is crafted with great care to weave together its underlying themes.
Evening Telegram
Sailing to Sarantium is simply one of the most beautifully written books I have read in ages. indescribably elegant, a pleasure to read.
Booklist
The characterization is up to Kay's usual high standard, and he has adapted real-world history so well for his world-building purposes that even those who know what he is borrowing from will admire it.
Star Toronto
For Kay, such familiar devices as the telepathic whisper or the lumbering monster are not intended as the main course. They're the potent spices Kay adds judiciously to heightenour appreciation [of] his tale's richer tastes and motifs. Sailing to Sarantium confirms, yet again, Kay's status as one of our most accomplished and engaging storytellers.
Winnipeg Manitoba
Sailing to Sarantium is an intricately plotted, fascinating historical novel and a moving story. Kay's distinctive prose style always flows smoothly and sometimes reaches strikingly beautiful depths.
Alberta Edmonton
For some time now, Canada's Guy Gavriel Kay has been recognized as one of the finest writers of high fantasy in the world. Now, in Sailing to Sarantium, Book I of the The Sarantine Mosaic, he has achieved one of the finest works of historical fantasy I have read in years. Kay has constructed his novel as a literary mosaic of great intricacy and delicacy.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Heavy of character and light of plot, Kay's (The Lions of Al Rassan) new series opens with the heady scents of sex, horseflesh and power. In the Holy City of Sarantium, the wily, murderous new emperor, Valerius II, stiffs his soldiers of their pay in order to build a fabulous monument to immortalize his reign. To adorn his temple, he summons a renowned elder mosaicist, who entreats his brilliant, younger partner, Caius Crispus of Varena, to make the journey to Sarantium in his stead. Crispus, who lost his zest for life after his beloved wife and daughters died of the plague, makes the journey under protest. His besieged country's young queen forces him to carry a dangerous, private message to the emperor, the contents of which could cost him his life. En route to Sarantium, Crispus becomes involved with mystically souled mechanical birds created by the magician Zoticus; encounters an awe-inspiring pagan god; saves the life of a beautiful, enslaved prostitute; and demonstrates that decency brings out the best in hired workers. At his destination, he learns to trust his own instincts, especially where knife-wielding assassins and powerful women who use their sexuality as a weapon are concerned. Kay is at his best when describing the intertwining of art and religion or explicating the ancient craft of mosaic work. The slow pace of the novel and the sheer volume of its characters (if ever a book cried out for a listing of dramatis personae, this is it) are dismaying, however, and don't augur well for future installments in the series. Rights: Westwood Creative Artists. (Mar.)
VOYA - Rayna Patton
Established craftsman Caius Crispin reluctantly answers an imperial summons to work on a mosaic in the new Sanctuary in Sarantium. Before he begins his journey Crispin is entrusted with a message for Emperor Valerius II by the embattled Queen of Batiara, and an aging alchemist gives him a small mechanical bird animated by a human soul. During his journey Crispin interferes with a human sacrifice, saving a young girl. Upon his arrival Crispin finds an imperial city that is colorful, bustling, and alive with intrigue and not a little crime. As on his journey, Crispin makes potential enemies in Sarantium and twice narrowly escapes death. He also makes friends, however, and his quick intelligence and evident talent engage the interest of Valerius and his brilliant and beautiful Empress. At the end of this first volume in the Sarantine Mosaic series Crispin has begun work on the mosaic, the young queen of Batiara is fleeing to Sarantium, the soul of the little bird has been freed from its metal prison (along with those of her sisters, save one), and the alchemist has voluntarily paid the penalty for the birds' imprisonment. This is a world that is not our own (it has two moons), but that has a distinct resemblance to the Roman Empire at the height of its power. A ruthless and gifted Emperor and his equally formidable wife; an outspoken craftsman with a knack for finding and escaping danger; a great empire threatened by political intrigue from within and military attack from without-these are only some of the facets of this well-crafted novel. Kay, a fantasy master revered for his Arthurian trilogy The Fionavar Tapestry (Arbor House, 1985-86), has created believable characters who comfortably inhabit his complex world. Fans of fantasy will quickly become engrossed, and will be waiting impatiently for the next volume. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, For the YA reader with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12 and adults).
BookList
The characterization is up to Kay's usual high standard, and he has adapted real-world history so well for his world-building purposes that even those who know what he is borrowing from will admire it.
The Toronto Star
For Kay, such familiar devices as the telepathic whisper or the lumbering monster are not intended as the main course. They're the potent spices Kay adds judiciously to heightenour appreciation [of] his tale's richer tastes and motifs. Sailing to Sarantium confirms, yet again, Kay's status as one of our most accomplished and engaging storytellers.
The Edmonton
For some time now, Canada's Guy Gavriel Kay has been recognized as one of the finest writers of high fantasy in the world. Now, in Sailing to Sarantium, Book I of the The Sarantine Mosaic, he has achieved one of the finest works of historical fantasy I have read in years. Kay has constructed his novel as a literary mosaic of great intricacy and delicacy
Calgary Herald
Kay's writing is of the literate, pageturning variety that is crafted with great care to weave together its underlying themes
The Evening Telegram
Sailing to Sarantium is simply one of the most beautifully written books I have read in ages. indescribably elegant, a pleasure to read.
Bill Sheehan

Art for Fantasy's Sake

Guy Gavriel Kay's career in fantasy began with his editorial contributions to J.R.R. Tolkien's posthumous epic, The Silmarillion. Since then, he has established himself as a remarkable and original fantasist in his own right, having published more than half a dozen large, ambitious novels in the last 15 years. His latest, Sailing to Sarantium, is the first in a projected two-volume sequence called the Sarantine Mosaic, an intricate, richly imagined work that reinforces Kay's position as one of the finest contemporary practitioners of classical high fantasy.

In the manner of his previous two novels, A Song for Arbonne and The Lions of AL-Rassad, Kay has once again used an actual historical setting -- the early Byzantine Empire under Justinian I -- as the basis for his fiction. In his new novel, Byzantium is transformed into Sarantium, and Justinian is reimagined as Valerius II, ruler of a beleaguered empire surrounded on all sides by pagan and barbarian hordes, and threatened from within by a complex series of political divisions, religious controversies, and palace intrigues. Valerius -- a shrewd, resourceful ruler -- is driven by two equally grandiose ambitions: to restore the remote western province of Batiara to Sarantine dominion and to build a monumental new cathedral in honor of the reigning deity of Sarantium, the sun god known as Jad. These twin ambitions stand at the novel's heart, and they are the motivating forces behind all its most significant events.

As Sailing to Sarantium opens, a master mosaicist and Batiaran citizen named Caius Crispus -- commonly known as Crispin -- accepts an imperial invitation to travel to Sarantium to help create a mosaic for the newly constructed Jaddite cathedral. The invitation is actually intended for Crispin's partner, Martinien, who is old, settled, and unwilling to leave his home. Crispin, who has recently lost his wife and two daughters to an outbreak of plague, travels to Sarantium in Martinien's place, hoping to find, through the practice of his craft, a renewal of his lost sense of purpose. To complicate matters further, he is also charged -- by Gisel, the besieged young queen of Batiara -- with delivering a dangerous and desperate message intended for Valerius alone.

Crispin's journey takes him through lawless territories still dedicated to forbidden pagan practices. During the course of that journey, he rescues a young slave girl about to be sacrificed in an annual blood rite, encounters the earthly manifestation of a primordial god of the forest called a zubir, and is beaten senseless by the imperial soldiers sent to escort him to the emperor. Once he arrives in Sarantium, complications continue to accumulate.

Crispin, an outspoken, acerbic man with little left to lose, manages, in his first appearance before the emperor, to challenge a number of commonly held aesthetic assumptions, to secure the dismissal of the reigning chief mosaicist, and to alienate some significant members of the imperial court. Within days of his arrival, he becomes the target of two attempted assassinations and an equally dangerous attempted seduction. Caught in a web of conflicting agendas and incomprehensible intrigues, he must struggle to survive while simultaneously struggling to shape his vision of the mosaic he has been commissioned to create, a mosaic that, should he live to complete it, will be his own greatest legacy to the Sarantium of the future.

Kay enlivens and enriches his fictional portrait of the Byzantine world by showing us that world from the shifting perspectives of cooks, queens, slaves, sorcerers, soldiers, artisans, politicians, and charioteers. (His accounts of chariot racing in the Hippodrome are particularly vivid and well rendered.). Despite the deliberate lack of closure, Sailing to Sarantium is both absorbing and satisfying. If the second volume -- which will, I hope, appear before too much time has passed -- is as good as the first, then the Sarantine Mosaic could stand as a benchmark work, one that helps to raise the standards in a genre too often populated by the dull, the derivative, and the second-rate.
--Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. He is currently working on a book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub.
Barnesandnoble.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061051173
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/2/1999
  • Series: Sarantine Mosaic Series , #1
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.62 (w) x 9.61 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author

GUY GAVRIEL KAY is acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost fantasy authors. He is the author of eleven novels, and his works have been translated into twenty-five languages. Kay lives in Toronto with his family. Visit him online at brightweavings.com.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER I

The Imperial Post, along with most of the civil positions in the Sarantine Empire after Valerius I died and his nephew, having renamed himself appropriately, took the Golden Throne, was under the hegemony 'of the Master of Offices.

The immensely complex running of the mails--from the recently conquered Majriti deserts and Esperana in the far west to the long, always shifting Bassanid border in the east, and from the northern wildernesses of Karch and Moskav to the deserts of Soriyya and beyond--required a substantial investment of manpower and resources, and no little requisitioning of labour and horses from those rural communities dubiously honoured by having an Imperial Posting Inn located in or near them.

The position of Imperial Courier, charged with the actual carrying of the public mails and court documents, paid only modestly well and involved an almost endless regimen of hard travelling, sometimes through uncertain territory, depending on barbarian or Bassanid activity in a given season. The fact that such positions were avidly solicited, with all the associated bribes, was a reflection of where the position might lead after a few years more than anything else.

The couriers of the Imperial Post were expected to be part-time spiesfor the Quaestor of Imperial Intelligence, and diligent labour in this unspoken part of the job--coupled with rather more of the associated bribes--might see a man appointed to the intelligence service directly, with more risks, less far-ranging travel, and significantly higher recompense. Along with a chance to be on the receiving end, at last, of some of the bribes changing hands.

As one'sdeclining years approached, an appointment from Intelligence back to, say, running a substantial Posting Inn could actually lead to a respectable retirement--especially if one was clever, and the Inn far enough from the City to permit rather more watering of wine and an enhancing of revenues by accepting travellers without the required Permits.

The position of courier was, in short, a legitimate career path for a man with sufficient means to make a start but not enough to be launched by his family in anything more promising.

This, as it happened, was a fair description of the competence and background of Pronoblus Tilliticus. Born with an unfortunately amusing name (a frequently cursed legacy of his mother's grandfather and his mother's unfamiliarity with current army vernacular), with limited skill at law or numbers, and only a modest paternal niche in Sarantine hierarchies, Tilliticus had been told over and again how fortunate he was to have had his mother's cousin's aid in securing a courier's position. His obese cousin, soft rump securely spread on a bench among the clerks in the Imperial Revenue office, had been foremost of those to make this observation at family gatherings.

Tilliticus had been obliged to smile and agree. Many times. He had a gathering-prone family.

In such an oppressive context--his mother was now constantly demanding he choose a useful wife--it was sometimes a relief to leave Sarantium. And now he was on the roads again with a packet of letters, bound for the barbarian Antae's capital city of Varena in Batiara and points en route. He also carried one particular Imperial Packet that came'unusually--directly from the Chancellor himself, with the elaborate Seal of that office, and instructions from the eunuchs to make this delivery with some ceremony.

An important artisan of some kind, he was given to understand. The Emperor was rebuilding the Sanctuary of Jad's Holy Wisdom. Artisans were being summoned to the City from all over the Empire and beyond. It irked Tilliticus: barbarians and rustic provincials were receiving formal invitations and remuneration on a level three or four times his own to participate in this latest Imperial folly.

In early autumn on the good roads north and then west through Trakesia it was hard to preserve an angry mien, however. Even Tilliticus found the weather lifting his spirits. The sun shone mildly overhead. The northern grain had been harvested, and on the slopes as he turned west the vineyards were purple with ripening grapes. Just looking at them gave him a thirst. The Posting Inns on this road were well known to him and they seldom cheated couriers. He lingered a few days at one of them (Let the damned paint-dauber wait for his summons a little!) and feasted on spit-roasted fox, stuffed fat with grapes. A girl he remembered seemed also to enthusiastically remember him. The innkeeper did charge double the price for her exclusive services, but Tilliticus knew he was doing it and saw that as one of the perquisites of a position he dreamed of for himself.

On the last night, however, the girl asked him to take her away, which was simply ridiculous.

Tilliticus refused indignantly and--abetted by a quantity of scarcely watered wine--offered her a lecture about his mother's family's lineage. He exaggerated only slightly; with a country prostitute it was hardly required. She didn't seem to take the chiding with particular good grace and in the morning, riding away, Tilliticus considered whether his affections had been misplaced.

A few days later he was certain they had been. Urgent medical circumstances dictated a short detour north and a further delay of several days at a well-known Hospice of Galinus, where he was treated for the genital infection she had given him.

They bled him, purged him with something that emptied his bowels and stomach violently, made him ingest various unpleasant liquids, shaved his groin, and daubed on a burning, foul-smelling black ointment twice a day. He was instructed to eat only bland foods and to refrain from sexual congress and wine for an unnatural length of time.

Hospices were expensive, and this on, being celebrated, was particularly so. Tilliticus was forced to bribe the chief administrator to record his stay as being for injuries incurred in the course of duties'or else he'd have had to pay the visit out of his own pocket.

Well, a crab-infested chit in a Posting Inn was an injury incurred in the Emperor's service, wasn't it?

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

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(20)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2001

    Wow! This book rules!

    This book (and its sequel Lord of Emporers) were stunning. By far the best work that GGK has done so far and one of the best books that I have read in a long time. It's different than a lot of other fiction out there - its very memorable in a haunting sort of way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2014

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    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2014

    a new fan

    I am a Naomi Novik fan. I love the fantasy/ alternative history genre. At the goodreads site, I was encouraged to seek out Mr. Kay's work, as a result. I started with the Lions of Al Rassan and despite loads of 'papers' (I am a teacher), I could not put the Nook down. Kay's world creation is engrossing. I like, although I cannot describe, his narrator. Reading Kay is like reading a book with a friend, who knows exactly when to be quiet and let the story tell itself, but also knows when to step in and drop a sardonic comment too. Sailing to Sarantium, shimmering with imagery of ancient Istanbul and Crispin's irascible ( understandably so) personality, was another good read. I am signing off to read the sequel. I think it safe to say that, at least for this reader, the summer of 2014 will be known as the summer of Kay ?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2013

    A boy

    Comes running in full speed. He falls, hits the ground and rools, then keeps running. He is 5'11" with brown hair and piercing green eyes. In his right hand is a green celestial bronze blade

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2013

    Sam

    Lol!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2013

    Fatty

    assasssinates the hunter or artrimis. 'Scum. We wship god here, nt a hooker. 0,0'

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2012

    Another Excellent one by Kay

    read it and enjoy

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    love this book and this author

    I have so enjoyed every by this author. He is quite magical!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2002

    One of the Best

    Though not quite of Tolkein's standard, Sailing to Sarantium, along with its sequel, Lord of Emperors, draws the reader into an epic journey in a world of fantastic proportions. Crispin, the protagonist of the tale, wins the support of readers on his search for personal fulfilment, and we join with him in his struggle for justice and right in a corrupted court. Sailing to Sarantium is filled with wonderful imagery, and details Crispin's quest, and Lord of Emperors forms a conclusion that will leave all readers satisfied.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2001

    This book is amazing!!!!

    This book swept me away the very first time I opened it and set foot in Kay's world. Kay does well in capturing a fantasy world on paper while making it reminiscent of a bygone era. It is poetic, rich in character and detailed enough to make the reader feel as if he has stepped into a totally different world while it is open. It is a page turner and a wonderful read. I recommend it to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2000

    Amazing detail

    Kay is a poet and a literary scholar among the Harlequinesque fantasy genre. His characters are as finely-tuned as those of Eddings. The plot comes honestly out of the characterization.

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    Posted March 21, 2011

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