Hmmm. The trouble with trying to write a review about Guy Gavriel Kay is that he is a talented author who has written some wonderful novels – TIGANA, YSABEL, UNDER HEAVEN & RIVER OF STARS – so when he doesn’t meet the high bar of that work, it is inevitable that we are going to feel disappointed.
I didn’t think the SARANTINE MOSAIC was his strongest work, but it was saved by several well-drawn characters such as the mosaicist Crispin, the Emperor Valerius II, his Empress Alixana, Emperor Valerius III and his wives Styliane & Gisel. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for THE LAST LIGHT OF THE SUN.
I loved how this story opened. I loved how a young man one morning (very early) blearily stole a fabulous horse just before the funeral rites of its august master (at which it would have been burned alive). This act causes great agitation amongst the community, as the funeral has to be postponed. What makes the theft even odder is that it occurs on a small island. So the authorities are bound to find the thief aren’t they?
We then are transported into a different location, with different characters and different problems. How I loved the feisty princesses, daughters of King Aeldred (based upon Alfred the Great) with their booted feet and judicious kicks that shows they can deal with any young man who bothers them.
But we aren’t allowed to know these characters well because the story cuts back and forth between the Erlings/Vikings (the story of the young man with the horse), the Anglcyn/English court of King Aeldred (the story of the princesses and their brothers) and the Cyngaels/Welsh. It ends with three marriages, one for each of these communities.
Of course the writing is magnificent, but this novel lacked a spine. There were far too many characters, and even though I enjoyed being interrupted by minor characters whose lives were so deftly laid before us, I did find it confusing (particularly as an audio listener) to keep straight Bern (the young man with the horse) from Brynn (a Welsh lord) from Brand (a captain of one of the Viking ships.)
What a pity that this novel drifted on with its predictable fights, petty jealousies and quarrels, without a clear focus to guide it. Three stars.