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“Lord of Emperors” by Guy Gavriel Kay


The sequel to “Sailing to Sarantium” immediately picks up where the first book left off, and quickly accelerates the plot. The intrigue gets much more complex and deadly as a coup attempt is launched against Emperor Valerius. Crispin and his friends must somehow find a way to survive despite being drawn into the centre of events, Crispin meanwhile faces a threat to his masterpiece as some of the more religious members of the Sarantine nobility declare that his detailed and life-like mosaic are sacrilegious in their attempt to portray the Jaddite God. There are also some new characters added, some new sub-plots explored and the main plot is never predictable and the success or even survival of any of the main characters never feels assured. The only small flaw with the plot is that it does get slightly ridiculous how every female character in Sarantium seems to be infatuated with Crispin.

Although the plot is very heavily based on the events during the era of the real-world Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great as the novel moves on it does start to differ from history in a few ways, perhaps an attempt by Kay to show how big differences in the course of history can result from seemingly minor events.

The novel does also have some commentary on the significance of historical events in the form of a couple of brief chapters unconnected to the main plot. In one, the climatic events in Sarantium are juxtaposed against the tragedy of the death of a simple farmer, in the other a humble merchant in a far-off land has a vision that will lead to him founding a new religion that will end up having a huge effect on Sarantium’s future.

Unsurprisingly, Kay again produces his traditionally excellent prose, dialogue and characterisation and uses those tools to describe an increasingly compelling plot. While the first book in the series felt a bit like an extended prologue at times, “Lord of Emperors” is a fast-moving page-turner.

In summary, judged as a whole the Sarantine Mosaic duology is an excellent piece of storytelling that gets better as the story progresses.

Rating : 9 / 10

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