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Davian93
10-12-2010, 03:47 PM
I finished both books of The Sarantine Mosiac by GGK this weekend (actually finished it on Friday I think). Overall, its up there with most of GGK's better works. I think I would place it below Tigana. Under Heaven and Lions of Al-Rassan but higher than Song for Arbonne for overall quality. It was one of his most beautifully written works and GGK showed his mastery of the English language with this duology.

Things I liked/loved:

1. The chariot racing scenes...both were absolutely amazing...the 2nd one was probably the best written scene of the book.

2. Cripin is a great character and I loved that the main character had no special abilities. He was a commoner and artist. He wasn't a great warrior, he didn't have any "magic" powers and he wasn't all that powerful.

The saddest scenes (and GGK always has a bunch of them)

1. The Death of Justinian...I mean Valerius

2. Leontes telling Crispin that his Mosaic is coming down and Crispin finishing his daughters images anyway...how sad was that. It did provide closure for him though so theres that.


Things that annoyed/confused me:

1. The ending. Sorry, I just didnt see anything to suggest that Crispin would end up with Alixana. It felt a little too convenient. He should have ended up with the dancer/courtesan. However, I did love his final mosaic and the fact that its a twist on a similar mosaic in Ravena, Italy that depicts Justinian's court.

2. The failure to develop a couple plotlines including the "Why Crispin should look up Rustem in Sarantium" subplot. That was quite annoying. GGK should try to write some longer books or maybe a trilogy occasionally.

Still, overall it was a great story.

It was fun to see GGK basically compress 300 years of Byzantine history into one story and as someone who had a very strong background in that area of history, it was very enjoyable to notice what and where he copied.

Birgitte
10-12-2010, 10:04 PM
1. The ending. Sorry, I just didnt see anything to suggest that Crispin would end up with Alixana. It felt a little too convenient. He should have ended up with the dancer/courtesan. However, I did love his final mosaic and the fact that its a twist on a similar mosaic in Ravena, Italy that depicts Justinian's court.

Yeah, it seemed like it came out of nowhere. It was a great story other than that, though.

Davian93
10-12-2010, 10:10 PM
Yeah, it seemed like it came out of nowhere. It was a great story other than that, though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Meister_von_San_Vitale_in_Ravenna_003.jpg

Here's the mosaic I was referring to...you can see the obvious take off of it (other than the females).

The ending was just a "WTF" moment. Why would the Empress want to be with him...why would Crispin be interested? There was nothing on either side through the books to suggest it.

Ishara
10-13-2010, 12:12 PM
First off, let me say: SQUUUEEE!

Okay, now we can actually talk about it.

I will say that for me, my favourite GGK book is usually the one I'm reading, but the Sarantine Mosaic has a huge, special place in my heart. It, and Lions are my absolute favourites - I think partly because they deal with a time and place that I also deeply love.

Having said that, a few points:

Sad Scenes

Sadder for me, by far, than Petrus' death was that of Linon - the second time. When she speaks in the grove after Zoticus sacrifices himself - well, I fall apart almost every time. For a character that is in less than half of the first book, I have always held her as maybe my favourite of GGK's characters. I bought this pedant, and wear it almost every day because of her.
http://ny-image2.etsy.com/il_fullxfull.110560510.jpg

Also, Scortius' reaction to the death of Thenais broke my heart, quietly; as did Gisele's quiet acceptance of the fact that her two closest companions would have to die for her, without her there.

It's those quiet moments that normally don't get a lot of consideration, and may not until a re-read, that just kill me.

Things I love (more than usual)

Crispin and his slow transformation - and his ability to transform others - from angry, embittered man to something else. Still capable of righteous anger, but thoughtful nonetheless. His ability to inspire love and care in all he meets - even Alixana, if you look for it - especially in Pardos, Vargos and Artibastros, makes me love him all the more. I agree with you Dav, I loved most, I think, that his gifts were his ability to think things through to a logical answer; to move beyond logic and think with his heart when necessary; his ability to translate colour and texture, smell and sound even to mosaic - he's a real man, and it made him easier to like than say...Brandin. :p Rodrigo Belmonte is the same kind of man. Impossible not to love.

The chariot racing was in fact, epic. The connection between chariot racing and holiness, to the heart of the city and the people, really resonated with me - and Scortius made my heart sing when he raced. That is all.

The tiny moments in time where GGK brings context to a story by introducing, so breifly, characters and stories that have nothing to do with the real one he's telling - and yet, everything to do with it at the same time. For example, the villagers who end up with Zoticus' leather strap and walking stick, or the family whose men die before the harvest. Just as earth shattering - to them - as the death of an Emperor.

Re: Aliana/ Alixana

She had a true love and appreciation of Petrus - as he did of her. Their portrayal of a couple who have grown together as their relationship has grown over time is kind of what I aspire to - it's a level of quiet love and understanding that you don't often see, in my opinion. That they were childless was simply a fact - it was never allowed to be more than that.

That being said - there was always a clear thread of attraction on Crispin's part, and interest, or maybe, appreciation, in Aliana's part in their encounters.

If you'll recall when he first sees her, he's almost knocked over - not just by her beauty, but by her cleverness. And is, again, and again, rocked by an appreciation and desire for her - and again, not just for her beauty and sexual appeal, but also for her Byzantine mind - her ability think and act based on small facts to affect a bigger picture.

While there's certainly no opportunity, or even desire to act on that appreciation (and how inappropriate, considering who she is and who she is with) - it's there. There's also a mutual respect.

With her, you can tell he intrigues her - he challenges her, with his anger, his own intelligence and inability to back down from dangerous actions or trains of thoughts. She comes to him in the Sanctuary - not exactly a common act. She gets him to speak of his wife and children when no one else in Sarantium may have known about them. She asks him - how does he keep living? Because he's the only one who knows how she's feeling at that moment.

For each other, both of marriages with people who loved them truly and unconditionally, and who they loved the ame way - I don't this as a non sequitor at all. I see it more as an acknowledgement of what could happen when all the social barriers are stripped away, when all of the things that made them who they were where they were - what could be.

As for Rustem - Crispin was told he could be useful. I'm not sure that Zoticus knew how or why. And he was. Not to Crispin directly, but he brought Pardos back to Crispin and indirectly influenced actions that affected his entire life, chief among them, the news to Aliana.

Davian93
10-14-2010, 08:29 AM
Sadder for me, by far, than Petrus' death was that of Linon - the second time. When she speaks in the grove after Zoticus sacrifices himself - well, I fall apart almost every time. For a character that is in less than half of the first book, I have always held her as maybe my favourite of GGK's characters. I bought this pedant, and wear it almost every day because of her.

Yes, that is a very sad scene...it was one of those "DAMN YOU GGK, I LOVED THAT INTERACTION WHY!????" moments for me that he's so good at. You lull yourself into hoping that maybe, just maybe that will be Crispin's cool talent and help...he's got this voice of experience/reason inside of him the entire time and that's why he's gonna be able to handle himself at the Sarantine court...but then you later realize that he doesn't need it. He already had that ability. Also, I think losing Linon pushed him along the path of acceptance towards losing other females that he loved (daughters, wife).

One of the best scenes in the books and one of my favorites was Crispin's first interaction at the court where he's describing/explaining the use of light and color. It was very "soulful". I cant think of a more apt description of it. I agree on the Rodrigo Belmonte comparison...both were amazing men and at least Crispin got to live (though Rodrigo's death made Lions the best of his books I think or at least put it in a close tie for Tigana).

Also, Scortius' reaction to the death of Thenais broke my heart, quietly; as did Gisele's quiet acceptance of the fact that her two closest companions would have to die for her, without her there.

Definitely, both of them were very tough scenes. The Emperor really got me because there was that last second hope that maybe, just maybe he'd somehow survive and maybe, just maybe, Alixana would too and they'd be together but he was, of course, cut down in true GGK fashion.

The chariot racing was in fact, epic. The connection between chariot racing and holiness, to the heart of the city and the people, really resonated with me - and Scortius made my heart sing when he raced. That is all.

He truly captured the reality of 6th century Constantinople with that juxtaposition...and the chariot racing was simply impeccable. This is probably blashemy but I think GGK is a better descriptive writer than RJ in many ways. Its been a week and I'm still enthralled just thinking about the writing.

The tiny moments in time where GGK brings context to a story by introducing, so breifly, characters and stories that have nothing to do with the real one he's telling - and yet, everything to do with it at the same time. For example, the villagers who end up with Zoticus' leather strap and walking stick, or the family whose men die before the harvest. Just as earth shattering - to them - as the death of an Emperor.

I agree 100% with this and he does it in every one of his books. The tiny little vignettes that he tosses in there are amazing. I loved the one about the Courier becoming a prophet in the deserts of Arabia. I loved the brief throw in of Ashar on his way to the Mountain. He has this entire massively complex world in his mind and he gives us just the briefest glimpses of his minds eye.

She had a true love and appreciation of Petrus - as he did of her. Their portrayal of a couple who have grown together as their relationship has grown over time is kind of what I aspire to - it's a level of quiet love and understanding that you don't often see, in my opinion. That they were childless was simply a fact - it was never allowed to be more than that.


I agree and this is why I had such a problem with Crispin and Aliana ending up together. Petrus & Aliana were the perfect couple. He was strong where she wasnt, she was strong where he wasnt. They complimented each other and together they were this amazingly strong, compassionate person. They had become one in the truest sense of the word. Petrus was willing to sacrifice his entire empire and the future out of his love for her. Aliana would have rather died in the Nika riots than have them run away. She was clever but Petrus was a genius also. It was a perfect soulmate match in many many ways. Even the inability of Petrus to father an heir (though they didn't know it was him...or at least, HE didn't know it was him) brought them closer. We can look to history and see many examples of a man in his position doing the exact opposite (Henry VIII being only the most notable example in Western history). Petrus didnt care, he loved her completely. Aliana's only thought when she realized that Petrus was doomed was to revenge him or die trying.

That's why I have trouble with her ending up with anyone else. Crispin had a love match as well and loved his daughters deeply. They died, he mourned heavily and was able to finally set that grief free with his mosaic work on the dome of the Hagia Sophia (sorry for intermixing real history for some sites/names). I thought his match with Shirin made a bit more sense in that aspect. I feel like I lost something of the purity of the Petrus/Aliana relationship when she suddenly ends up with Crispin in Varena.

As for Rustem - Crispin was told he could be useful. I'm not sure that Zoticus knew how or why. And he was. Not to Crispin directly, but he brought Pardos back to Crispin and indirectly influenced actions that affected his entire life, chief among them, the news to Aliana.

I see where you could go this way and its fine I suppose. I just didnt want it all to end so suddenly. I wanted more of the Rustem character and the Rustem/Crispin relationship I suppose.



Another sad (but not to the level of the others) moment: When Crispin returns to Varena and Martinian tells him, "BTW, they kinda tore down your mosaic here too". It was one of those, "Wow, this guy simply doesnt catch a break, does he?" things.

I wish GGK would have given us a deeper glimpse into this world and his interpretation of it...a trilogy would have been perfect.

Imagine if he wrote WoT...it would have been maybe 3 books, 900 pages at most and Mat & Nynaeve would have been the only 2 to live out of the original Two Rivers group.

Ishara
10-14-2010, 10:24 AM
Also, I think losing Linon pushed him along the path of acceptance towards losing other females that he loved (daughters, wife). That's something I hadnt really considered - and I think you're right. She was hard for him to love - and I feel that by losing her, he was able to reconcile loss a little better than he could before. As well as the fact that the world, and the supernatural are GROSSLY unfair, and that really, fairness doesn't enter into the equation at all. It just is the way it is.

Oooh! One thing I desperately wish that I had more of was the evil bird. Where did she come from? Who made her? Who was she? *shudder* My skin actually crawled a bit thinking of her, but I'd love to know more...

That's why I have trouble with her ending up with anyone else. Crispin had a love match as well and loved his daughters deeply. They died, he mourned heavily and was able to finally set that grief free with his mosaic work on the dome of the Hagia Sophia (sorry for intermixing real history for some sites/names). I thought his match with Shirin made a bit more sense in that aspect. I feel like I lost something of the purity of the Petrus/Aliana relationship when she suddenly ends up with Crispin in Varena.
That, I totally accept. I think I don't feel the same is only because I know that really, if either one of them could have their first wife/ husband back - they would. In a heartbeat. They are choosing to love perhaps in spite of loss, and because of it. The thing with Shirin is that it would have been a terrible match - she was too...mercurial. She just wasn't a good match for Crispin, even when he was prepared to stay in Sarantium. Fun, yes. Lovely, yes. Intuitive, sure. (and I loved Danis) Just not the right woman for Crispin.

I see where you could go this way and its fine I suppose. I just didnt want it all to end so suddenly. I wanted more of the Rustem character and the Rustem/Crispin relationship I suppose.
If it helps, I have always seen Rustem and Shaksi as Rodrigo's ancestors - it fits for me, given that Diego's power is so similar to Shaksi's...it makes me feel as if I got to know them better later on.

I wish GGK would have given us a deeper glimpse into this world and his interpretation of it...a trilogy would have been perfect. LOL. His respnse - and he actually responds to fans on his site - would be that he wrote all he needed to write about the story. That the loose ends are there because he doesn't want to demean readers by giving them all the answers. What would a trilogy have given us beyond extra - unnecessary to the larger story - details? It took me a while to accept, but I love that this way I can imagine for myself what happens next...

Imagine if he wrote WoT...it would have been maybe 3 books, 900 pages at most and Mat & Nynaeve would have been the only 2 to live out of the original Two Rivers group. One of the things that frustrates me about WoT sometimes is the lack of consequence. There's power - and lots of it - but where is the balance? Even the people that die come back to life. Ugh.


Oooh! I meant to ask you what your opinions of Leontes and Styliane were? ;)

Davian93
10-14-2010, 11:48 AM
Oooh! I meant to ask you what your opinions of Leontes and Styliane were?

Styliane is a tough one. She demonstrates Petrus's arrogance in his own ability and belief in a better world. He let her live because he thought she could be changed by his vision of the future. She never was. She plotted his downfall from the start. Becoming Empress was secondary to her...revenge was her primary motivator in the plot (thus the use of Fire as an assassination tool). She probably realized that Petrus's endgame was to elevate Leontes as his successor but she didnt care as revenge was first asnd foremost on her mind. Also, she probably couldn't stand the thought of having Petrus and his dancer wife giving her anything. Styliane is probably Petrus's greatest failure as Emperor.

Leontes is far from the "Golden boy" that he is portrayed to be. He reminded me somewhat of Galad in that he stubbornly did the right thing as he saw it...but then he cheats on his wife with Gisele (and a host of other women most likely) and accepts a loveless marriage. He likes being in control of everything too...something shown even in his method of sexual congress. He's basically a hypocrite who portrays the pious faith of a true believer/saint while doing whatver he pleases from time to time.

If it helps, I have always seen Rustem and Shaksi as Rodrigo's ancestors - it fits for me, given that Diego's power is so similar to Shaksi's...it makes me feel as if I got to know them better later on.

Yeah, I thought that too...particularly with the "he became a rancher and quite good at it" line in the epilogue. Seemed liked a pretty big hint of that future.

One of the things that frustrates me about WoT sometimes is the lack of consequence. There's power - and lots of it - but where is the balance? Even the people that die come back to life. Ugh.


I tend to agree. It would be nice if there were some real consequences to actions...bringing back dead characters can be quite annoying.

Ozymandias
10-20-2010, 08:37 PM
Firstly, I thought that Crispin ending up with Alixana proved a much more moving and effective end than Shinin would have been. Because its both of them coming full circle; Crispin finally letting someone truly back into his life and fully accepting it, and Alixana realizing that power isn't everything and that there is a life outside of being an Empress (which if you recall her comments about preferring to die in the purple than live on the streets, is a realization for her).

Great books. As for GGK's abilities as a writer... he's good, nothing more. Its really difficult for me to call him anything more than a decent storyteller when he doesn't really create so much as rename. He does a good job at showing the progression of the characters through the story, but he also doesn't have to do much world building or character developing for anyone outside of Crispin. Its like watching him stand in front of a movie about late 6th century Byzantium...

I mean, come on. Have the decency to either set your book in Byzantium, or show the reader enough respect that you change the names of people/places by more than a syllable. Bassanid vs Sassanid? Almost insulting.

Davian93
10-20-2010, 08:49 PM
Firstly, I thought that Crispin ending up with Alixana proved a much more moving and effective end than Shinin would have been. Because its both of them coming full circle; Crispin finally letting someone truly back into his life and fully accepting it, and Alixana realizing that power isn't everything and that there is a life outside of being an Empress (which if you recall her comments about preferring to die in the purple than live on the streets, is a realization for her).

Great books. As for GGK's abilities as a writer... he's good, nothing more. Its really difficult for me to call him anything more than a decent storyteller when he doesn't really create so much as rename. He does a good job at showing the progression of the characters through the story, but he also doesn't have to do much world building or character developing for anyone outside of Crispin. Its like watching him stand in front of a movie about late 6th century Byzantium...

I mean, come on. Have the decency to either set your book in Byzantium, or show the reader enough respect that you change the names of people/places by more than a syllable. Bassanid vs Sassanid? Almost insulting.

I get what you're saying but GGK's ability is more with the stories of the common people and their personal relationship set on that backdrop. Renaming/slightly changing things allows you to drop some of the more difficult historical issues and just focuse on that story. The history isnt the story, the people are.

Tigana is a great example of that.

Ozymandias
10-22-2010, 12:52 AM
I get what you're saying but GGK's ability is more with the stories of the common people and their personal relationship set on that backdrop. Renaming/slightly changing things allows you to drop some of the more difficult historical issues and just focuse on that story. The history isnt the story, the people are.

Tigana is a great example of that.

I understand where you're coming from. But as someone decently well versed in Byzantine history... he DIDN'T drop the history. Everything but the assassination of Valerius/Justinian could have been out of a textbook.

And I think the brilliance of writers like RJ and GRRM is in their ability to make a world full of fantastical things seem as real as the world we interact with every day. Its not like WoT has some incredibly revolutionary plot. Its a masterpiece because the world is, in many ways, as detailed as our own.

My problem with guys like Terry Goodkind isn't the plot, or even in his case the ridiculous preaching and moralizing inherent in every single sentence, but the fact that its such a weakly thought out world. The basic premise of the geography, the history, and underlying assumptions that drive the plot... they're all inconsistent and change to fit whatever story he's trying to tell. Jordan is a visionary for the very reason he's lambasted; his stories spend so much time building a believable world for his characters to inhabit that sometimes it sacrifices the narrative. And I appreciate that.

GGK does a good job imagining how life might have been like for a normal person (though not really, since all his characters have the tendency to interact with the higher levels of power more than would have been possible). But I can't respect him to the same degree as an RJ or Gene Wolfe because frankly, he doesn't do as much as they do. Or rather, I think his writing inhabits a different plane of talent. He's very good at what he does... but its like saying the cellist in the college orchestra is on the same level as Jacqueline du Pre... yeah, you can say both of them are amazing cellists, but it means something completely different when applying the adjective to one or the other. An even more apt analogy, since like du Pre, RJ died at the pinnacle of his talents and before finishing his life's work.

Davian93
10-22-2010, 12:35 PM
I actually love Byzantine history and it simply didnt bother me. Yeah, it was a bit over the top at times but it didnt detract from the story for me.


I definitely agree on his inability to truly world build though. Its simply not something he attempts to do.

Ishara
10-22-2010, 12:37 PM
I understand where you're coming from. But as someone decently well versed in Byzantine history... he DIDN'T drop the history. Everything but the assassination of Valerius/Justinian could have been out of a textbook.

And I think the brilliance of writers like RJ and GRRM is in their ability to make a world full of fantastical things seem as real as the world we interact with every day. Its not like WoT has some incredibly revolutionary plot. Its a masterpiece because the world is, in many ways, as detailed as our own.

My problem with guys like Terry Goodkind isn't the plot, or even in his case the ridiculous preaching and moralizing inherent in every single sentence, but the fact that its such a weakly thought out world. The basic premise of the geography, the history, and underlying assumptions that drive the plot... they're all inconsistent and change to fit whatever story he's trying to tell. Jordan is a visionary for the very reason he's lambasted; his stories spend so much time building a believable world for his characters to inhabit that sometimes it sacrifices the narrative. And I appreciate that.

GGK does a good job imagining how life might have been like for a normal person (though not really, since all his characters have the tendency to interact with the higher levels of power more than would have been possible). But I can't respect him to the same degree as an RJ or Gene Wolfe because frankly, he doesn't do as much as they do. Or rather, I think his writing inhabits a different plane of talent. He's very good at what he does... but its like saying the cellist in the college orchestra is on the same level as Jacqueline du Pre... yeah, you can say both of them are amazing cellists, but it means something completely different when applying the adjective to one or the other. An even more apt analogy, since like du Pre, RJ died at the pinnacle of his talents and before finishing his life's work.

In his works set in this particular universe, I don't disagree that he uses history - real history - a lot to help shape his stories. GGK's favourite term (that someone else came up with) is that "he takes history and twists it a quarter-turn" to allow for his stories to progress in a way that they wouldn't naturally.

As for his inability to create worlds, I have to disagree vociferously. His goal with the books set in this universe is to create layers - if you read Lions or Arbonne, or Last Light - you'll know that the books are all set in the same universe and that they are layered into one another - sort of grace notes if you will.

His Fionavar Tapestry is set in what he terms the first world, and I would suggest to you that he does create an entire world, and in fact, an infinite number of others - something he learned to do from the master himself, Tolkein. Just because he chooses not to focus on the world, and instead on the problems of the people living in that world in most of his books is not a failing. Especially when he proves he can do it well in the past.

I'm just not sure that GGK and RJ are comparable. I love both, but they both have such different genres. RJ is undeniably the master of epic high fantasy. What GGK does is called fantasy - sometimes - only because it's not historical fiction. He's one of those writers that I would argue defies the concept of genre (beyond fiction of course). You can't necessarily categorize him. But I don't see that as a failing.

p.s. I loved what you said about Crispin and Aliana - makes perfect sense to me.