Another alternate-world yarn from an author who specializes in historical might-have-beens (How Few Remain, 1997, etc.). This time we're in Mesopotamia at the dawn of the Bronze Age--but in Turtledove's version, gods, ghosts, and demons are irksomely, and sometimes alarmingly, real! Young merchant's son Sharur of the city Gibil hopes to marry the lovely and willing Ningal, earning the bride-price out of profits from his family's trading caravan to Alashkurru, where Gibil's matchless bronze weapons are much in demand. Gibil's deity, Engibil, allows a human ""lugal"" to rule in his name, but elsewhere people are merely the puppets of their gods. And now, Sharur discovers, the gods of Alashkurru will no longer permit trade with Gibil. The Alashkurru gods fear human independence, of course; but they've also poured much of their power into a common clay cup that now resides in Engibil's treasury--and they want it back. If Sharur can obtain the cup, his power to bargain with the gods themselves will be immense. And if the gods of Alashkurru have put their power into an everyday object, Sharur wonders, maybe other gods have done the same, and thereby also rendered themselves vulnerable. Historically intriguing, splendidly textured, and full of stimulating ideas, though with two persistent flaws: remarkably stupid gods with no plausible motivations; and Turtledove's habitually vapid characters.