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And so...

Prince Maxian, younger brother to Galen, Emperor of the Western Empire (Rome), and Heraclius, Emperor of the Eastern Empire (Constantinople), has returned to Rome to disrupt the magical power of the centuries-old oath of allegiance to the Emperor that all legionnaires take. Maxian believes the oath constrains citizens to a narrow path, stifling creativity as well as any thought of disobedience, and he intends to use all his sorcerous power--and the help of Alexander the Great and Gaius Julius Caesar, whom he has raised from the dead--to succeed.

Mount Damawand from the valley below

The Empire, meanwhile, is threatened by multiple enemies: The insane Persian necromancer Dahak is determined to raise an army by any means to regain the Peacock Throne toppled by the Empire. ZoŽ, niece of Palmyra's Queen Zenobia, and her ragged but determined followers plot revenge on Rome for allowing the Persians to sack and destroy their beloved city. And in the deserts of Iraq, a man named Mohammed is driven by a prophetic vision to build an army against the Empire. Harlan's attention to detail is impressive, at times overwhelming, as he fills the broad canvas of his hypothetical Roman Empire.

Readers with the stamina to follow every thread of the multitudinous plot lines here will find a vigorously imagined, thought-provoking story.

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