By Guy Gavriel Kay.
This book seems to lack focus a bit. Allegedly, it concerns a mosaicist named Crispin traveling to Byzantium, err, Sarantium to create a mosaic for the emperor. Unfortunately, the author seems to starting off each chapter with a new character and taking the book in all different directions, with the result that it falls apart in the end. (I know there is a sequel, but I haven't read it.)
The style reminds me most strongly of Bujold; the world Kay has created (or borrowed) is rather easy to immerse oneself in. However, I don't think his work is quite as good. The ending, to say the least, is disappointing. (Once again, this may be rectified by the second installment.) The author also uses an annoying narrative trick where, just about every time Crispin starts to get distracted by another project, someone knocks him out and carries him further towards Sarantium. It might have worked once, but more than that is too much.
The alchemy, or rather magic, reminds me of The Secrets of Jin-Shei; it is somewhat different, but expresses similar limitations. It also has an inevitably sad outcome.
An OK book, but it probably won't keep you awake at night.