All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

In All the Seas of the World, seasoned Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay returns to the world depicted in A Brightness Long Ago and Children of Earth and Sky. As Kay notes in the acknowledgements section, this novel was inspired by Earth’s Renaissance era, though it clearly takes place in a different, imaginary locale, a world with two moons and unique geography, religion, and customs.

Rafel ben Natan, a Kindath merchant, and a woman who goes by the name Nadia bint Dhiyan, formerly of Batiara, are among the featured characters of All the Seas of the World. Returnees from A Brightness Long Ago include mercenary commander Folco Cino D’Acorsi, high-ranking Seressan official Guidanio Cerra, and Antenami Sardi of Firenta, son of a prominent banker, all intriguing characters in their own right.

All the Seas of the World begins with an assassination plot against Keram al-Faradi, the khalif of Abeneven. This action causes a chain of events to unfold, culminating in a confrontation that could tip the balance of power within the world.

Kay’s novel is contemplative, proceeding at a less frenetic pace than some. That’s not to say it is without action. Characters find themselves in hazardous situations and must deal with those, with sufficient frequency to keep the pace going, and there is plenty of suspense baked into the plot. But All the Seas of the World also provides the reader with the opportunity to immerse themselves in a richly detailed and convincingly rendered imaginary world. The story is told from the viewpoint of various individuals, which aids in building suspense as well as providing context. Kay’s lyrical prose and his knack for storytelling add to the enjoyment of the novel.

Not unlike many cultures in our own world, the lands depicted in All the Seas of the World have their prejudices. In some locales, for example, Rafel’s Kindath people are required to display visible indicators of their ethnicity and are treated as second-class citizens. Adherents to the main two religions, the Asharites and the Jaddites, often give preferential treatment to their own. Wars have been fought, and conquests made, in the name of religion, including the recent sacking of the city of Sarantium, formerly a holy Jaddite city, by the Asharites. Also within relatively recent history, the Asharites have been exiled from Esperaña by the Jaddites, who conquered the area some time ago. Kay gives us a flavour for how these prejudices and these occurrences affect people at the individual level, in their daily lives, their allegiances, and how they either seek vengeance or work within the system.

The theme of exile—from country, and from family—is woven into the story. Rafel’s family was thrust out from Esperaña as part of an expulsion of non-Jaddite peoples. Nadia’s father was killed by Asharites, and she herself was enslaved for a period of time. The shame of what she endured creates a conflict for Nadia as she struggles with whether it would be better to seek a reunion with her brother—if he’s still alive—or let him believe she is dead.

All the Seas of the World includes reflections on life and living and illustrates the way in which the fates of different people can become entangled as a result of choice and chance. Though the book could readily be enjoyed by fans of A Brightness Long Ago, it can also easily be read as a one-off.


GUY GAVRIEL KAY is the internationally bestselling author of fourteen previous novels, including the Fionavar Tapestry series, Tigana, and most recently, A Brightness Long AgoChildren of Earth and Sky, and River of Stars. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in the literature of the fantastic and won the World Fantasy Award for Ysabel in 2008. In 2014, he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. His works have been translated into more than thirty languages.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Viking (May 24 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 528 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735244715
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735244719

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Lisa Timpf

Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.

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