It's no wonder the Book-of-the-Month Club has selected Edmond Taylor's chronicle of Europe's Old Order, for what a tale, what a tapestry unfolds. The events may be sprawling but the assessment is succinct; a tour de force of scholarship and sophistication, always informative, highly intriguing, one of those historical recreations putting many a novelist in the shade; a witty anatomy of the socio-political structures which have produced our 20th century Gatterdammerung. Covering the years 1905-1922, the survey centers on the four doomed dynasties, the Ottomans, Romanovs, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns; it extends from the Eiwardian Era to the post-WWI debacle. Its portraits include those of the great; grizzled Franz Joseph and his Austro-Hungarian stronghold; the mock-heroic Kaiser Wilheim, a ""born ham""; harem-harbored Abdul Hamid, deposed by the Young Turk movement; Czar Nicholas' schoolboyish charms and contradictions; and Rasputin, old Russia's spiritual scourge and confidante extraordinaire of the Czarina. All existed in a cultural circus over which stretched the tight-rope balance of power; all indulged in diplomatic skulduggery or comic-opera pacts; none understood the need for liberal reform; and all paved the way for the S tragedy whose anarchist assassin ushered in the new age of radicalism and revolt, of blood and thunder ideologies, of political psychopaths like Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini. And all have been superbly researched, splendidly revivified. A hit.