I read a lot of fiction, mostly historical-fiction, but also some fantasy/historical-fiction; fiction that takes on the feel of history, events that could have happened, cultures and people that could have existed. Such is Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay; a work that has the look and feel of a Roman/Byzantine world, but that also carries a look at contemporary issues such as religion and it’s hold on humanity through the ages. An excellent example of this can be found in a discussion between an architect and the Patriarch concerning the proposed ideas for the dome of a new sanctuary, “Deference becomes you,” said Artibasos, mildly enough. “It might be worth cultivating. It is customary – except perhaps among clerics – to have opinions preceded by knowledge.” I don’t know about you, my peeps and fellow travelers, but that speaks volumes to current affairs in 2018 America, if not the world.
I read a lot of different authors; a lot of different writing styles and strengths, some who move me with their descriptive abilities, others with the depth of their characters, or their grasp of fine dialogue. What I have found in my reading of Mr. Kay is an author who moves me with all of those things, but especially the beauty of his narrative; his “way with words”. I cannot begin to count the number of times I would read a passage, pause, reread, and then pause again to allow the flow of words to both fill me with wonder, and with just a smidgen of jealousy (I too, fancy myself as an author).
Sailing to Sarantium is a complex tale, filled with surprises; with the full range of human emotion, and human experiences – emotions and experiences that can be carried over to modern times – a time of wonder, but also a time of uncertainty. I can hardly wait to read the sequel. 5 Stars – BTW the chariot race chapter is worth the price of admission. 🙂
Let me just state from the get-go…I fancy myself as an author given that I have written and published a novel (with more to come) but when I read someone like Guy Gavriel Kay, I ache to have just a little of his talent; just a little more ability to draw word pictures in his manner. Lions is a complex story of love, loyalty, and devotion during a period of great upheaval; a period reminiscent of the Moorish-Christian competition to see whose God is best(sadly, still going on.) If I get anything out of reading this tale it is this, that the genocidal insanity of religious domination in political affairs is quite possibly the saddest concept in human history.
Another aspect of Lions is the almost impossible situations some of the characters find themselves in; especially when it comes to love and loyalty…so many lines are crossed and in such a way that the differences between Jaddite-Asharite-Kindath pale in significance to the individuals involved. The Kindath physician Jehane, the poet/warrior Ammar, the Jaddite warrior Rodrigo and many others, provide the reader with characters so fully developed as to make the story seem historical rather than a fantasy account.
So, my peeps and fellow travelers, prepare for an emotion filled, heart tugging tale from a master at his craft. 5 stars…or maybe two moons…or maybe just the Sun..read the book, you’ll get what I mean. 🙂
I actually started reading this book 20 years or so ago but for some undetermined and totally unfathomable reason I didn’t finish it. Perhaps I was too busy being a parent helping to raise our three children. Perhaps I was too involved in my career. I’m sure those two reasons were part of it but I think that what really contributed the most was a real bad case of Muse envy. My Muse was just beginning to awaken after a long dormant period and I was beginning to do a little writing around the time I was reading A Song for Arbonne and my Muse was so shaken by the immaculately flowing style of the author that she, through her envy, forced me to stop reading it. Since then, however, my Muse has matured enough to admit that she will most likely never attain the high standards of Mr. Kay and the brilliant Muse who inspires him, so, it was okay to read the book. This feeling was enhanced by a conversation, of the social media variety, with one of my favorite authors, SJA Turney in which he, in a not so mild a suggestion, implored me to give it another go as this book was his favorite of all time and had done much to set him on the path to becoming an author.
So, dear reader, what did I find the second time around? A masterful bit of storytelling full of great characters and a plot that kept me mesmerized throughout as it wove around and through the fabric of human emotions. One thing I realized about a third of the way through was that I basically knew the path the character of Blaise de Garsenc was going to take to become who I imagined he would be in the end. However, what I could not imagine was the many different forks that path would take, a long, winding and entertaining road indeed. As to this being a work of fantasy, it does, after all, feature an earth with two moons, it is also a work of real history as well,especially in the way the author portrays the misuse of religious power and the dangers inherent in that type of elitist exclusivity. To me it calls to mind the Crusading Popes and the modern Islamic jihadists. One thing that is certain is that I am in awe of the writing acumen of Mr. Kay and will certainly be adding his other works to my ever growing “to be read” pile.
5 stars for this brilliant and beautifully written book.