Sailing to Sarantium - Guy Gavriel Kay
As far as I can recall, I don't think I've ever read anything else by this author, although I've seen their books (and particularly those comprising the Fionavar series) around. This one was another charity shop pick, the blurb summoning up just enough interest to make me shell out £1 for a decently thick trade paperback.

The main character in 'Sailing to Sarantium' is Crispin, a mosaicist who has been summoned to the eponymous city at the behest of the emperor and who is woefully unprepared for the political intrigues into which he finds himself thrust. It has to be said from the outset that Kay has clearly based his worldbuilding on Rome and Byzantium, which is both comforting because of its familiarity and a little aggravating because of the infodumps that happen every so often courtesy of the research fairy.

It also feels a little like the writer had various ideas he wanted to get in to the story, whether or not they really fit - the birds that Crispin's friend makes being one of them, which I guess may figure more in the second half of the story? In themselves, those birds are an intriguing idea and it seems a shame that they're subsumed into another storyline altogether.

Anyway, I have picked up the second book in the series (duology?), 'Lord of Emperors', from the local inter-library loan scheme and look forward to seeing how this all works out. I've seen a few reviews on Amazon that also say this isn't the author's best work, so I may well check out some more stuff by him at some point...