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Sailing to Sarantium

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sailing to Sarantium (1998) Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is an incredible writer. He doesn’t wrote epic fantasy in the sense of swords and sorcerey–in fact there is often no magic in his stories. He instead researches a subject an a time period and grounds his story in those elements, while writing of a time and place that never existed.

Sailing to Sarantium is about politics and moasicists and soldiers and chariot drivers while being at its core about people and truths.

Writers of history often seek the dramatic over the truth. It is a failing of the profession.

It is also about how events and people impress and shape individuals who are in only the periphery of the story. How a single event can change not just the major players, but also those who are there about whom we in theory shouldn’t care.

Strumosus buffeted him about the head and shoulders with a long-handled wooden spoon, breaking the spoon. The spoons broke easily, as it happened. Kyros had noticed that the cook seldom did much actual damage, for all the apparent force of his blows.

I love how that simple paragraph tells you a great deal about the cook, but I also love how we see events from the view of a young kitchen hand, and can imagine the results of those events will change the life of a single individual.

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 as he met something too vast for his capacity.

But mostly I love the seeing the story and characters slowly unfold.

If this was the world as the god— or gods— had made it, then mortal man, this mortal man, could acknowledge that and honor the power and infinite majesty that lay within it, but he would not say it was right, or bow down as if he were only dust or a brittle leaf blown from an autumn tree, helpless in the wind.

I will admit that this story may be harder to start–we get a lot of characters all at once, and events that shape the future, but as with all of Guy Gavriel Kay’s stories, the unfolding of events is a wonder and a delight.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by ROC

Categories: 8.5/10, Alternate History, Fantasy, Reread
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