I held off on reviewing this until I had listened to both books in the series. With that being said, I found the series really enjoyable.
Th..Show More »e story itself is mainly focused on Crispin, an artist trying to fufill the accomplishment of his life time, the Sarantine Mosaic. The story, much like Crispin's art, is a mosaic of many different characters. Guy will often go off on wild tangents with seemingly random characters in an effort to build the story as a whole. This effect is powerful in the hands of a great story teller, which Guy certainly is.
I've read a few reviews that claim Berny Clark was a bad narrator. I'll admit it caused me to hesitate in purchasing book one. I'm glad I still went through with the purchase because I found no real fault in Clark's performance. If you are unsure I suggest you listen to the sample provided by Audible.
I will also comment that Guy REALLY likes to put these little twists in the last few pages of his books. I take it with a grain of salt and choose to ignore the cases where he demeans the overall story, see Song for Arbonne.
Overall I highly recommend this series if your a fan of Guy Kay, and even if you haven't read any of his works before.
Originally posted at FanLit. Lord of Emperors is the second (and final) novel in Guy Gavriel Kay’s THE SARANTINE MOSAIC duology. The story, set in..Show More » a pseudo-Byzantine Empire, mostly centers on Crispin, a mosaicist from a neighboring kingdom who’s been commissioned to decorate the ceiling of a new chapel the emperor is building. Against his wishes, Crispin has been drawn into the Sarantine court’s political intrigue. In this second installment, the political turmoil finally comes to a head and Crispin’s life is, once again, drastically altered by events he can’t control. Not only are his and his friends’ lives in danger, but the changing political climate has major consequences for his art.
While reading Sailing to Sarantium, the first book in the THE SARANTINE MOSAIC, I had a hard time believing in the characters and the drama — I thought the plot lacked the world-shaking significance that the characters seemed to be overwhelmed by at every moment. I felt manipulated — like Kay was showing me murder, lust, adultery, shocking brutality, witty repartee, and titillating suggestions to make me feel like there was more going on than there really was. While I liked Kay’s characters, it felt like a big soap opera to me and I was impatient with the story.
The first part of Lord of Emperors is more of the slow drama and introspection that occurred in Sailing to Sarantium — every character analyzing what everyone else says, scrutinizing each gesture, contemplating every look, even reporting how they would think about this word or that gesture when they looked back on it sometime in the future. We’re reminded over and over how subtle and dangerous everybody is:
"The room seemed laden and layered with intricacies of past and present and what was to come. Nuances coiling and spreading like incense, subtle and insistent."
There are several sweet and touching scenes, but most of Lord of Emperors is more of the melodrama of Sailing to Sarantium. Finally, about 2/3 of the way through, there is a major upheaval followed by a slow unwinding of its tragic consequences. There are some real heartbreaking scenes in the last third of the novel, and the story ends on a beautifully bittersweet note. It just takes a really long time to get there.
Guy Gavriel Kay’s strength is making his characters come alive. Thus, when the big events finally occur, they really are painful and tragic and we worry about these people’s futures. I cared about Crispin, his queen, the charioteers, and the cook and his apprentice. However, I didn’t feel the need to be privy to every thought they had along the way — how many times do I need to be told that Crispin is thinking that only two women in the world wear a particular perfume? THE SARANTINE MOSAIC should have been trimmed down to just one book — I would have enjoyed it a lot more.
I also think I would have felt more appreciation for THE SARANTINE MOSAIC if I had read it earlier in my acquaintance with Guy Gavriel Kay’s work. His world and characters are so full of life, there’s so much drama and passion, and I admire the character development. At this point in my reading history, however, I can’t help but notice that Kay’s intrusive style, which I’ve always thought of as almost over-the-top, never changes. Now that I’ve read ten of his novels, what I once admired — the type of story, the deep characterization, that particular distinctive prose — starts to become tiresome. If you’re new to Kay, or if you can’t get enough of his style, you’ll have a better experience with THE SARANTINE MOSAIC than I did.
Again I listened to Audible Frontier’s audio production which was narrated by Berny Clark. Dialogue is his strength — I thought it was perfect. His narration is a little too slow (I had to speed him up) and I think some listeners will think it’s also a little bland, but I liked how his reading didn’t elevate Kay’s drama even further.