Rutherfurd, having celebrated at some length the growth of an English cathedral town (Sarum, 1987) and the turbulent history of Russia (Russka, 1991), offers a massive survey in fictional form of London's long history. Like the work of his likely inspiration, James Michener, Rutherfurd's novels are distinguished by admirable research and a propulsive plot. This latest follows the growth of London from its origins as a Celtic encampment through its emergence as the Roman capital in Britain and on to its long climb to preeminence as England's (and, for a time, the world's) greatest city. Interwoven with the private (and rather melodramatic) adventures of a half-dozen families over a 2,000-year span are most of the events that shaped England (from the Norman invasion up to the Battle of Britain). These incidents tend to be announced portentously (""England's great Peasant Revolt had begun"") and the characters, to fill in the historical background, sometimes offer speeches packed with an alarming (and unlikely) amount of information. There are obligatory cameos by everyone from Shakespeare to Dickens. Still, this is a vigorous, colorful narrative, a pleasant if unsurprising entertainment.