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Muscular, blood-and-guts sequel to Barone’s first novel (Dawn of Empire, 2006) finds the fourth-century BCE Mesopotamian settlement of Akkad besieged by Egyptian marauders.

Familiar from the first work, Akkad (formerly Orak), a newly rejuvenated city thanks to the impermeable wall built by the warrior Eskkar and his former slave, now-pregnant wife Lady Trella, is still perilously perched on the banks of the Tigris, and at the mercy of roving bandits envious of its prosperity. In this novel, brave, humane leader Eskkar sets out for a several months’s mission to neighboring settlements of Dilgarth and Bisitun to clear the land of bandits and protect the farmers and herders who supply Akkad with its food and trade. However, Egyptian bandit leader Korthac has dragged what’s left of his fighting force across the desert in search of this legendary city, and he plans to take it by force and instill himself as its leader. Eskkar rides off with his best fighting men for Dilgarth and discovers that the marauders have recently brutalized the village, killing the men and raping the women; he establishes himself there as the benevolent savior, regaining the trust of the people. He retakes Bisitun by force, routing its corrupt tyrant Ninazu in a bloody battle. Once Eskkar is absent from Akkad, however, Korthac moves in, presenting himself as a trader in gems to Lady Trella, who is suspicious and has him spied on. The action alternates between different camps: In Bisitun, Eskkar accepts the sensuous hospitality of the comely widow Lani, and he grows reluctant to return home. Meanwhile, Korthac and his minions seize their chance, taking the undefended Akkad by storm and Lady Trella as prisoner. After his rather feminist first work, in which Lady Trella assumed a noble, fighting role, this book introduces the troublesome themes of Eskkar’s adultery and abandonment of wife and home—correctible in the end, perhaps, but disappointing.

Stuffed with slaughter, sweat and viscera.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-06-089246-3
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2007