Reviews On-Line

Press Reviews for THE STORM OF HEAVEN

In Campbell Award nominee Harlan's third, grittily realistic installation of the Oath of Empire series (Shadow of Ararat and The Gate of Fire), imperial Rome under Emperor Galen is simultaneously in the midst of war with Persia and fighting a new and God-aided battle against the forces of Mohammed the prophet, while the magical protective "Oath" is in danger of shattering. Prince Maxian has, until now, been trying to break the oath laid on Rome in the hope of helping the Western Empire. To his dismay, he learns that he has been deceived by powerful magic and is actually bringing about the empire's defeat. In an abrupt about-face, he recants the path of evil to find a way to strengthen the oath. In the meantime, the two men Prince Maxian raised from the dead, Gaius Julius Caesar and Alexandros of Macedonia (Alexander the Great), are using their skills to Rome's advantage. Alexander starts to build an army to aid the west, while Gaius Julius schemes his way into the inner circles of Roman power. This is an epic novel, with lots of power-mongering, glorious battles and the fate of the Roman Empire squarely at the center. Some series books can be picked up easily this is not one of them. Regardless of the introduction, the plot is so diverse and the characters so numerous that reading the two earlier books is a must. Harlan portrays the ancient Roman world in exquisite detail; the battle scenes in particular are so vivid you can almost taste the blood and dust. -- From Publishers Weekly

Yet another huge historical fantasy, Harlan's Oath of Empire saga, reaches its third stout, readable volume. Its sixth-century setting is still torn by a three-cornered fight between Mohammed, Persia, and the strategically allied eastern and western Roman empires, which makes for a plot full of action, intrigue, and murderous great battles. The eastern Romans are leaderless, and the western empire has been devastated by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The Persian sorcerer Dahak and the Roman sorcerer Prince Maxim are locked in a deadly struggle, and the latter realizes that he must change his technique. Furthermore, their duel is beset by kibitzers in the forms of the ghosts of Julius Caesar and Alexander of Macedon. And there are a great many other details in the book that will almost certainly appeal more than they appall. Or at least they will appeal to historically informed readers, especially those who have followed Harlan's big yarn through The Shadow of Ararat (1999) and The Gate of Fire (2000). ~ Roland Green for BookList, Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

Another doorstopper-size continuation of Harlan's overheated, overplotted, overpopulated but unusually fascinating epic about power and magic in the seventh century, that, with another volume in the works, is not over yet. When a bunch of ragtag desert vandals led by Mohammed-yes, that Mohammed-summons up a windstorm that literally blows away thousands of Eastern Imperial troops, and their attendant sorcerers, the entire Late Classical world, from the Gothic forests along the Danube to the Scythian plains of Kazak. Has Constantinople so sadly lost its mojo that the scheming Persians can finally conquer it? Meanwhile, the Western Empire in Rome has been hobbled by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that, thanks to fate (who is that badly burned amnesiac woman who has fallen in with a band of traveling acrobats?), and the dark sorcery of Western Imperial Prince Maxian, who used his eerie powers to resurrect Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great from their graves in Gate of Fire (2000), hasn't killed off quite as many characters as Harlan's editor may have hoped. With every high-fantasy plot trick possible-mixed-up paternity, forbidden fruits, strange quests, miraculous devices that allow the magically inclined to perform the tricks of gods-and a sweeping knowledge of the Late Classical art and battle garb, Harlan keeps his mighty saga flowing toward a cataclysmic attack on Contantinople. Pocked with melodramatic dialogue ("Tiamat's dugs, you fool!" swears a pompous prince) and gross-out gore, Harlan's thwarted, intelligent, and rather clever main characters, say, the first dozen or so, remain compelling. ~ Kirkus Review of Books
 

Reviews for The Shadow of Ararat and The Gate of Fire can be found on their own review pages.