One of Charlemagne’s 12 paladins, Sebastian embarks on vital expeditions, wrestles with personal problems, and grows disillusioned with the ways of the world.
This second installment of a historical fiction series presents readers with a more mature, restless Sebastian. His life is turned upside down when he learns in 785 that Konrad, his nemesis cousin and first husband of his wife, Adela, is not dead as was widely believed. Despite Konrad’s abuse of Adela and evil reputation, the devout woman leaves Sebastian for a convent. In the eyes of the church, she is still Konrad’s wife. At first, Sebastian goes after Konrad, unbeknown to Charlemagne, barely escaping with his life. Back at court, he sidesteps a proposition by the king’s new young wife, Fastrada. Sebastian gladly sets out on a number of scouting and spying operations before Charlemagne sends him on a major diplomatic mission to Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Baghdad. While his work for Charlemagne eases his brooding over Adela, he also tries to bond with his eldest son, Milo, by bringing him along. Like Odysseus, Sebastian sees many wonders, encounters myriad dangers, faces a temptress, makes friends and enemies, and meets with unexpected betrayals and support as he overcomes obstacles in his attempt to return home. As Sebastian’s existential crisis grows, Milo urges him to visit Magdala, a young mystic and seer in Jerusalem. She sends him into the desert near Gethsemane, where Sebastian, like Jesus, fasts and finds some inner peace. As in the first installment, Steger’s (Sebastian’s Way: The Pathfinder, 2013) brilliantly executed narrative is filled with allusions and historical details, vibrantly bringing to life the people and places of the eighth-century world (“Charlemagne loved learning and luxury, listening to stories, singing, laughing, and swimming. But he was a singularly focused monarch. At this point in his life, he was still very ambitious, ruthless in the pursuit of his goals, supremely confident and fearless. He was the most important man in the realm, and he knew it. It filled him with satisfaction”). And once again, the author gives readers a stand-alone volume starring a multifaceted protagonist while deftly creating anticipation for future episodes. This lively series, packed with action and intrigue, is a continuing delight for fans of historical fiction and well-crafted tales of adventure and derring-do.
An impressive historical novel featuring a complex hero on a perilous diplomatic mission.