All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was excited to start reading this because I remembered liking A Brightness Long Ago very much, back when I read it. What I didn't account for was the fact that although by objective time, having read that one in April 2019 isn't that long ago in book publishing time, I have forgotten everything I loved about that one except for vague impressions and, of course, my own review.
Which made for a frustrating feeling of not quite getting the impact that I should be getting out of this book. Sure, it's wonderfully written: a brilliant tapestry of many different yet ordinary lives that affect each other, of futures that shift and change with each person's rather humdrum decisions, whether they are the ex-slave Lenia Serrano, her Kindath merchant partner Rafel ben Natan, or the famed Folco d'Acorsi. I have also not caught up on any of the other stories set in this world--which, if looking at other reviews, might also have impacted my reading experience. This is despite the fact that All the Seas of the World is touted as a standalone. It may have been meant to be, but it didn't always feel that way.
All the Seas of the World starts with an assassination-turned-heist with a side of murder and unintended consequences. It ends with a siege and battle. In between, it explores the intersections of faith and race with identity--and how changing one's faith and name could change your fortunes, but also how faith is often tied to race and vice versa. It also looks at fate and timing, and how being somewhere at a certain time could make or break your future--and how our reactions and unexplainable impulses can set us on a different path altogether. But ultimately, it is also a story of revenge, of people being driven by revenge, and that thirst for retribution for past wrongs.
Like A Brightness Long Ago, the narrative shifts between POVs, though the majority of it is in Lenia & Rafel's POV (third person). But added to the mix is a first-person narrative from Danio which jumps out at the reader suddenly with no explanation, musings from the dying, an omnipotent narrator with Opinions, as well as strange foretellings of what is to come. I remember some of this from A Brightness Long Ago; I feel that I was okay with it then, but there's something about it that irks me now. Then again, taste is a subjective and ever-changing thing.
All in all, All the Seas of the World is a good, thoughtful read, but probably best read and enjoyed in relation to his earlier books. It may come across as a little slow and ponderous, though it is definitely not as repetitive as some of Brandon Sanderson's narratives.
Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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