By Guys Gavriel Kay



496pp/$28.00/May 2022

All the Seas of the World
Cover by Lisa Jager

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 2019, Guy Gavriel Kay published A Brightness Long Ago, which detailed the exploits of mercenary commander Falco Cino. Although All the Seas of the World builds on Falco's legacy, he is not the focus of the novel, instead acting as a patron to Rafel ben Natan, a Kindath merchant, and Nadia bint Dhiyan, a former Jaddite slave. Looming over their stories is the fall of the City of Cities, Sarantium, as detailed in Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors. The result is a tale of vengeances.

While the characters in All the Seas of the World pursue their own personal revenge, whether it is Rafel's feeling of loss over the expulsion of the Kindath from Esperana, Nadia's desire to kill Asharites to make up for her degradation as a slave, or the High Patriarch's desire to avenge the fall of Sarantium, Kay's focus, in many ways, is on the mechanism of story telling. The novel opens with Ghazzali al-Siyab, a story teller in the market place in the city of Almassar. Throughout the novel chapters end with a meditation on how stories are told and the fact that all of the minor characters have their own tales, which Kay drives home by providing synopses of minor characters' life stories when their role in Nadia and Rafel's story has ended. Occasionally, portions of chapters are related in the first person, as written years after the fact by the Seressan Guidanio Cerra.

All the Seas of the World does not feel as focused as many of Kay's novels. As often happens, the characters are swept along by events, but with his focus on a Kindath trader and a woman, their volition is hampered. Rafel's options are limited by the laws and customs that prescribe the movement and status afforded to members of his religion. Nadia, who elects to go by her birthname of Lenia Serrana in one of her first decisions, as a former slave still finds the concept that she can decide her own fate a daunting task, especially when she finds that a plethora of options have opened up for her.

Kay's world is in a state of flux, with massive forces moving its history forward as the Jaddite and Asharite faiths vie for control, military, mercantile, and religious, around the basin of the sea the forms the focus of this novel. And the Jaddites and Asharites are not monolithic in their aims. The ibn Tihon brothers who rule Tarouz and have their sights set on more of the Asharite world with the perceived support of Gurcu, conqueror of Sarantium/Asharias are as likely to attack their fellow Asharites as they are to raid in Jaddite realms. The Jaddite kings of Ferrieres and Esperana have, at best, an uneasy truce and may not prove trustworthy for the endeavors of the High Patriarch. Against this background, Nadia and Rafel must try to keep their business going and figure out what their roles are after their actions initiated changes in their world on both the macro and micro level.

More than other novels that detail the history of Kay's Renaissance analog, All the Seas of the World feels like a transitional novel. The political balance is changing, although it isn't entirely clear what the outcome will be. Nadia forms a unique relationship with a young girl, Leora Sacchetti, which ultimately is unexplained and seems to be setting the stage for additional upheavals in the world and changes to Nadia's relationships with various other people in her life seem to be moving on, but with plenty of room for additional growth. Although All the Seas of the World is not billed as the first novel of a diptych and it reaches its own satisfactory conclusion, it also feels as if a companion volume will eventually appear.

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