The Sarantine Mosaic – Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors

The Sarantine Mosaic is a work composed of two books. Sailing to Sarantium was published in 1998 and Lord of Emperors was published in 2000. One of my favourite comments on GGK’s writing appeared in a review of Sailing to Sarantium: “Guy Gavriel Kay could write about a peasant going to pick up a pail of water and you’d probably hang on every word.” I love that. To read a selection of reviews of both books, click here.

The Sarantine Mosaic is inspired by 6th century Byzantium. If you’re interested in how GGK came to choose this period, you might want to check out his essay ‘On Writing Sailing to Sarantium’. Apparently, the process was a little different from the usual…

Those of you with a literary bent (quite a lot of you?) will probably have picked up the direct allusion to the great Irish poet, W.B.Yeats in the title Sailing to Sarantium. Yeats’ wrote extensively about Byzantium, and the motifs and themes of his poems about the city, Sailing to Byzantium and Byzantium, recur subtly throughout The Sarantine Mosaic.

SarantiumMap_bigMartin Springett, resident artist and musician, also found some inspiration for his talents in The Sarantine Mosaic. The haunting instrumental piece ‘Painted Feet (On Ochre Sand)’ was inspired by both The Lions of Al-Rassan -and- Sailing to Sarantium.

Martin was also the artist who created the map of Sarantium and the surrounding countries for the Mosaic. Apparently, for some reason, the map got left out of the Australian edition of the books – so for those who haven’t seen it, we’ve got a copy here for you.

Click on the map to see a (much) larger version.

The reading passages we have for both Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors continue the trend of the more recent books by being very un-spoilerlike. A difficult thing to do, with a passage from a second book, you may say, but the passage from Lord of Emperors introduces new characters to the stage, so doesn’t give anything vital away. Actually, we have two extracts from Lord of Emperors on the site. In the interests of full disclosure, as well as the passages that GGK would read to an audience, we also have here the extract that HarperPrism published in the endpapers of Sailing to Sarantium as a ‘teaser’ for the next book…

Passage from Sailing to Sarantium
Passage from Lord of Emperors
‘Teaser’ from Lord of Emperors

In terms of extra information, there are pluses and minuses for the Sarantine Mosaic. As it is the most recent of GGK’s works, there are only a few translations out so far, but they do include some beautiful cover art. There is also, as yet, no scholarship available on these books. However, the good news is threefold:

Firstly, GGK has again contributed a select bibliography of the most important texts he used in researching this period.

Secondly, GGK researched online more for The Sarantine Mosaic than for any of his other books, and we have many web links to reflect that, even including some images of ancient mosaics.

Thirdly, the vast majority of the interviews on the site discuss Sailing to Sarantium and/or Lord of Emperors. Other than the first two interviews in the section, all of them contain extensive discussion of one or both of the books of The Sarantine Mosaic. And one of them is an audio interview with CBC as well!

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