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Read an Excerpt From Guy Gavriel Kay’s All the Seas of the World


Read an Excerpt From Guy Gavriel Kay’s All the Seas of the World

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Read an Excerpt From Guy Gavriel Kay’s All the Seas of the World

On a dark night, along a lonely stretch of coast, a small merchant ship sends two people ashore: their purpose is assassination.


Published on April 15, 2022


On a dark night, along a lonely stretch of coast, a small merchant ship sends two people ashore: their purpose is assassination.

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay, out from Berkley and Viking Canada on May 17th.

On a dark night, along a lonely stretch of coast, a small merchant ship sends two people ashore: their purpose is assassination. They have been hired by two of the most dangerous men alive to alter the balance of power in the world. The consequences of that act will affect the destinies of empires as well as lives both great and small.

One of those arriving on that stony strand is a young woman who had been abducted by corsairs as a child and sold into years of servitude far from her home. Having escaped, she is trying to chart her own course—and is bent upon revenge. The man who will bring the others out from the city on his ship—if they survive their mission—still remembers being exiled as a boy with his family, for their faith; it is a moment that never leaves him. In what follows, through a story both intimate and epic, unforgettable characters are immersed in the fierce and deadly struggles that define their time.




The memory of home can be too far away, in time, in distance across the vastness of the earth, or of the sea.

It can fade or blur for us as the years pass. And there is often pain in that, too. In their dreams some travel back to remembered voices, sounds, scents, images. But many do not dream, or not of the place they came from. Too much loss, too old and hard a sorrow. And some who have such dreams forget them in the morning’s light where they find themselves. That can be a blessing.

There will be others who cannot forget. Who wrap themselves in memories as in a heavy cloak. They will walk a street in a far city at twilight and hear a stringed instrument down a laneway, and it takes them back. They might decide to go up that lane, towards where a spill of light suggests a tavern, or perhaps someone’s home with a courtyard where music is being offered at day’s end.

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All the Seas of the World
All the Seas of the World

All the Seas of the World

Most often they do not. They do not do that. Perhaps it isn’t, as they listen, the remembered instrument from their childhood. Nor the tune of a song their mother sang to them at bedtime after prayers. There are no orange blossoms here. No oleanders, mimosas, no jacaranda trees with blue-purple flowers. There might be fountains in this distant city, but not like the ones remembered from that time before they were forced to go away, uprooted like a tree torn from its earth.

For someone else, their memories, or the dreams pushed away at sunrise, might be very different, but just as hard. From a time, say, before they were stolen as a child from a place with other sorts of trees and flowers, but home.

There are many different ways for a home to be lost, and for the world to become defined by that loss.


There are also many different ways into a tale.

Whose voice, whose life will start it off ? (Whose death?) Where are we when the ship of our story moves from shore towards open water, past rocks that need careful navigating? Or, where are we when someone does decide to walk up a darkening laneway towards the pull of music, and listens at an open doorway? And finds…

These things matter for the reader or the listener—and so for the teller. They matter, whether it is being written down on a creamy parchment bought in a canal-side bookshop in Seressa, to be set in type and printed and bound one day, or if it is being told to a smaller or larger crowd in the storytellers’ quarter by the marketplace of some city, between the morning and the midday summoning to prayer.

There are women and men here, ready to step forward into what light we have. There are others circling them, with affection or malice (or doubt as to which of these will prevail). We might even go back, start with people expelled from their beloved Esperaña. Or to a girl taken by raiders from her family home far to the east of that land. Or to the man who—

But see. Look now. Even as we speak of these things, as we consider the differences shaped by choosing one opening note or another to play, there is a ship in the night, sailing without lights along a coast, the last lantern just now doused by order of the captain.

They are laying into a shallow bay on the long coast of the Majriti. Not far from the city of Abeneven, but it should be far enough. They are alone here, under stars and the white moon, before the rising of the other one. Being unseen is imperative for what they are here to do.

It seems as good a place as any to begin. The night sea, this bay, stars, moon, remembered music. We will act as if this is so. We will not set out to sea, after all. We will lower a small boat and send it ashore, instead, to a stony beach. Three men, one woman, a light breeze, spring night. Men waiting for them on that strand.

* * *

Nadia watched as Ghazzali al-Siyab rode off with those who had met them, as Rafel had arranged. Rafel was good at these things; she had learned that in three years.

Al-Siyab would head south for two days, then turn east, avoiding villages, and after two more days, on camels by that point, start back north, to enter Abeneven through the landward gates.

He was arrogant, young, too aware of how handsome he was, but he’d come to them specifically for this undertaking, and he was greedy and ambitious—which was good for their purposes. He was to be paid only when they were done. He wasn’t going to run off. It was possible he’d betray them, but unlikely.

Neither she nor Rafel knew al-Siyab, but the men who had hired them had also hired him for this, and if you trusted no one you couldn’t do very much in the world, and they were doing something significant now, or hoping to.

Well, yes. Assassinations did tend to be significant, she thought, amusing herself. She didn’t laugh (she didn’t laugh much) but she smiled in the dark.

She was glad to be ashore. She’d spent a great deal of time at sea since killing someone herself and escaping, but she was happier on land. It was simply a truth. She had been born inland, well away from the coast. That ought to have offered protection against what had happened to her.

You didn’t necessarily live your life in the ways that made you happiest, of course. She hadn’t been happy killing Dhiyan ibn Anash, but it had occurred to her that she’d been a slave for longer than she’d been free, and that had come to seem… unacceptable. A kind man who had bought you at a slave market and had taught you skill with words and numbers, then had you trained with weapons to guard him, was still a man who owned you and made you do things he wanted done, whenever he wanted that.

Really, what did happiness have to do with anything? Rafel might propose an answer. He had an answer for most such questions, had read a great deal. Sometimes (not always) she thought what he said was wise. He could make her smile sometimes.

He also annoyed her, drove her nearly mad at other times, but they worked well together, had done so since he had accepted her on board the Silver Wake and hidden her. A real risk for him, and she’d known it. She’d acted as a guard, gradually took on other roles. She did know numbers, though he was better with them. But she was useful for certain things: Jaddite-born, and so better for some tasks on the northern side of the Middle Sea where they worshipped the sun god. She was a partner now, with a share in the ship and their profits. Small at first, it had grown, because she was even more clever than she was good with knives, and Rafel ben Natan of the Kindath was the sort of man who could see that, even in a woman. That wasn’t a thing she would ever forget.

They had survived, made some money with the Silver Wake. They traded along both coasts, north and south. Rafel was an occasional emissary of the khalif of the city of Almassar in the far west, at the gateway to the wide, wilder sea. The Kindath often played that sort of role among the Asharites. They were trusted, in part because they had few paths to success beyond trade and diplomacy. Well, perhaps piracy, in their case licensed by that same khalif, who urgently needed money and claimed a share of whatever they took in raids.

Whether you called yourself a corsair or a merchant or a smuggler or an emissary, or moved back and forth between all of these as opportunities arose, you could do well enough if you were shrewd (and fortunate) along this part of the Middle Sea, with the Majriti coastline to the south and Esperaña or Ferrieres north.

Not Batiara, however, not for her. She had made that clear from the start. If Rafel proposed going there for any reason, she’d disembark somewhere first. They could pick her up on their way back. It had happened twice.

After so long a time there was no going home for her, Nadia had decided.

There was no home to go back to. Only memories and the dead. There was no her to go back, she’d told Rafel once when he’d asked about Batiara. He asked many questions, answered only few about himself. He’d started a reply, she remembered, a disagreement, of course—about needing to put the past behind you, build your life forward—but he’d stopped himself. He was not an insensitive man, and had losses of his own, she knew. She wondered if he’d done it himself: put the past behind him. She didn’t ask.

So they’d raided and traded, sometimes using the small ports and bays that were havens for corsairs, and for smugglers avoiding customs officers and duties. They sailed into larger city harbours when they had legal goods to trade. They had people on both coastlines with whom they banked some of their profits. Rafel looked after that, using his Kindath brethren or a Seressini bank. She let him do this for her, as well.

Other than the khalif of Almassar, who provided them with some protection, they’d kept a careful distance from major figures who could be dangerous.

Until now. Until this task, this night landing. Because two of those major figures had found them, and had made a proposition one evening back in Almassar. She had dressed as a man for that encounter. It was unlikely anyone in Almassar would recognize an escaped slave girl in a woman from a merchant ship, but better to be safer when you could. Rafel was always saying that.

They might, he had said when they were alone again after that meeting at someone’s home (they never knew whose), be able to just about retire on what they’d earn from this. No longer live on the sea. Or become entirely respectable merchants if they wanted, no piracy. He among the Kindath, she wherever she wished, back in Jaddite lands. She could get married. Let others brave the wind and waters for them, he’d said. Or she could let him buy out her share of the Wake, pursue whatever path she wanted in the world.

He had been staked to the ship by Almassar’s khalif and some older Kindath merchants originally, but over years he’d made enough to buy it from them. It was his ship now, and she was the one staked to a part-owner’s share, and expanding it with their profits. She wasn’t far from having a quarter share after three years.

It was a life. It was not a home. There was no home, but she was free.

“Is that what you’d do?” she’d asked. “Stay ashore?” She’d ignored the part about her marrying.

He’d shrugged. She hadn’t expected a reply.

He was a few years older than her, had two sons, it was said. Maybe three. No one was certain as to Rafel ben Natan’s life. He sent money to Sillina, the Kindath quarter outside the walls of Almassar. His parents were there, she knew that much. It was remarkable to her that she didn’t even know if he had a wife. But a discreet man was more likely to be a trustworthy partner. And Rafel was discreet, and clever. So was she. He knew it, to be fair.

One of the three men who had come to the beach with her was now rowing the small boat back to the ship alone. Al-Siyab had gone inland. The remaining man would join her, riding on the mules that had been brought for them, heading to Abeneven.

She disguised herself in the moonlit night, soft red wool cap, over-tunic, hooded cloak, Muwardi mouth veil. Her hair was short and tucked under the cap. She was wearing leather boots. She had bound her breasts before leaving the ship. She was slim-hipped, and tall for a woman. They’d be joining the main road along the coast before daylight, and it was better to be disguised ahead of the need for it.

With her smooth cheeks, she could pass for a boy on the edge of manhood. She’d done it before.

What would follow in Abeneven, if all went as planned, they had never done.

But she didn’t mind killing Asharites.

* * *

Watching from the railing, Rafel lost sight of the small boat before it reached shore. He wasn’t worried. It was good that the night was dark. He worried about many things, it was his nature, but not, as it happened, about Nadia. Or at least not as to her getting to the strand, dividing the party as planned, and making her way into Abeneven.

When the boat returned and was made fast again, he ordered Elie to weigh anchor and lay a course to the east. No point lingering, some slight danger in doing so. (Why was a trading ship at anchor here? Were they smuggling something on or off ? Were they worth raiding?) Without being told, Elie had the lamps lit again. He knew this coast better than Rafel, who knew it well. They kept a respectful distance from the rocky shoreline as they went.

The lights were lit because they were not hiding. The Silver Wake was a merchant vessel, based in Almassar, headed for Abeneven to trade in that city, and perhaps conduct some diplomatic affairs for the city’s khalif. The ship’s owner, the well-known Kindath merchant Rafel ben Natan, would call at the palace, as usual, with gifts. It was what they did.

It was what they did. Mostly.


Excerpted from All the Seas of the World, copyright © 2022 by Guy Gavriel Kay.

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