Review: Lord of Emperors

lordofemperorsTitle: Lord of Emperors (2000)
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Pages: 580
Series: The Sarantine Mosaic #2 (Series Tracker)


Coming off the great Sailing to Sarantium, I was let down by part two of this duology. This book expands on several story threads and introduces new characters that I struggled to invest in. I would have been perfectly satisfied with a book solely focused on Crispin and the construction of his grand mosaic. Kay pushes the story well beyond the reaches of Crispin’s plight and, in doing so, created a story that feels uneven, unwieldy, and mostly uninteresting to me. It is still beautifully written and ambitious, so I certainly do not regret finishing it, but it falls towards the bottom of what I’ve read from GGK so far.

★★★ out of 5

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Review: Sailing to Sarantium

A1xQ-hkfksLTitle: Sailing to Sarantium (1998)
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Pages: 448
Series: The Sarantine Mosaic #1 (Series Tracker)


This first installment of the Sarantine Mosaic is wondrous, wonderful, and features some of the most beautiful passages that I’ve read yet from Guy Gavriel Kay.

The spirituality of the world and the exquisite mosaics that Kay describes are sights to behold. I’m fully invested in Crispin, his mosaic masterwork, the political web he’s fallen into, and the underlying mystical “half-world” that is nipping at his heels. The pacing of the overall story is uneven, but this is a great first half of a larger mosaic.

★★★★ out of 5

Review: The Lions of Al-Rassan

y648.jpgTitle: The Lions of Al-Rassan (1995)
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Pages: 510


As I continue to work my way through Guy Gavriel Kay’s work, I’ve arrived at The Lions of Al-Rassan, a book that many consider to be Kay’s best work. It certainly has the swiftest pacing of any of his books (that I’ve read so far). He deftly moves his characters around the map, while their allegiances shift and swirl and their cultures clash. It was a bit dizzying trying to piece together who was siding with whom at one point or another and sometimes the characters motivations didn’t always make sense to me. This made it difficult for me to connect with the main players. In the end, it was a solid story about complex heroes and compelling cultures. It was not my favorite GGK book, but I had a good time with it.

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: A Song for Arbonne

ASongforArbonneTitle: A Song for Arbonne (1992)
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Pages: 510


After Tigana and now A Song for Arbonne, it is clear that Guy Gavriel Kay can weave a complete, satisfying story in one standalone book. This novel is a beautiful tale of love and loss in the land of Arbonne. Kay’s character development and worldbuilding are outstanding and his lyrical prose is a perfect match for a sweeping story of troubadours amid a unique medieval world.

★★★★½ out of 5

Review: Tigana

91wlmjEBnGL.jpgTitle: Tigana (1990)
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Pages: 676


Two sorcerous lords battle for control of the territory they occupy, while the original inhabitants of the land attempt to win back control from their occupiers and reclaim Tigana, their (literally) forgotten homeland. Tigana explores imperialism, occupation, and memory through a fantasy lens and does so in an effective and thoughtful way.

This is a wonderful book an engaging, beautifully told tale, with well-drawn characters and clever storytelling. The first 100 pages were superb, then it spins its wheels for a few hundred pages, before finishing with a flourish. It all felt worthwhile in the end and I am grateful for the reading experience.

★★★★¼ out of 5

Review: Quietus

35464401Title: Quietus (2018)
Author: Tristan Palmgren
Pages: 512

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.


With the assistance of a Carthusian monk, anthropologists from distant planes of the multiverse study the spread of the Black Death on Earth to better understand the plague that is ravaging their home civilization.

Ah yes, the ol’ Carthusian monk meets transdimensional anthropologist story that we’ve all read a thousand times before. But seriously, this is a bold swing from a fresh new voice in speculative fiction. Author Tristan Palmgren deserves major points for creativity, even though this historical fiction/science fiction mashup wasn’t totally my cup of tea.

I very much enjoyed the characterization of the monk Niccoluccio Caracciola, who, aside from having a great name, was my favorite character to follow. He functions as a reader proxy, who experiences the infiltration of the anthropologists and gets swept up into a massive conspiracy while tackling his own internal conflict that evolves over the course of the novel. Niccoluccio’s perspective grounds the narrative in some semblance of reality before the story careens away into a somewhat convoluted direction.

Quietus functions most effectively when it’s focused on its historical fiction beats and stumbles as it delves deeper into inaccessible science fiction elements. This, combined with slow pacing, and a story that feels 150 pages too long, leads to a lower rating than I wanted to give. Author Palmgren has a knack for original storytelling, but the blending of two disparate genres didn’t quite work for me.

★★★ out of 5

Review: The Philosopher’s Flight

Philosopher's FlightTitle: The Philosopher’s Flight (2018)
Author: Tom Miller
Pages: 432

My thanks to Edelweiss/NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

In the midst of World War I, society grapples with the proliferation of Empirical Philosophy or “sigilry”, an art form that allows users to summon wind, carve smoke, or fly through the sky. Opponents of the field denounce and demonize these practitioners, as they seek to eradicate their kind from the face of the earth. Robert Weekes, a teenager with a burgeoning gift for sigilry, attempts to succeed in the female-dominated field and find himself along the way. He must exert considerable effort to prove himself against the notion that men are not good enough to be skilled in Empirical Philosophy.

In today’s current cultural climate, it seems ill-considered to center a book around a male character who must overcome gender discrimination…but at the same time, it’s refreshing to read an alternate history where women are so revered and respected for their talents in the first place. It also helps that Robert is a virtuous and endearing lead character who is easy to root for and works hard for everything he earns.

Author Tom Miller displays an impressive aptitude for storytelling as he deftly spins this wholly engrossing yarn. His writing style and dialogue choices really do a great job situating the reader in the early 20th century setting. Additionally, the plot, characters, motivations, and worldbuilding are all nicely fleshed out and well developed.

The Philosopher’s Flight is a wonderfully inventive historical fantasy that sinks its hooks into you and doesn’t let go. I truly enjoyed Tom Miller’s debut and hope a sequel is on the horizon. (The cover is great, too!)

★★★★½ out of 5