SHARDS OF EMPIRE by Susan Shwartz


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Historical fantasy set in the Byzantine Empire of the 11th century, from the author of Empire of the Eagle (1993, with Andre Norton). In A.D. 1071, at Manzikert, Turkey, the Byzantine armies of Emperor Romanus face the Seljuk Turks under Alp Arslan. The Byzantine reserves, commanded by Andronicus Ducas and his young nephew Leo, desert the battle at the crucial moment; only Leo springs to defend his emperor, who is wounded and captured. Later, having been handled honorably by Alp Arslan and ransomed, Romanus finds himself the prisoner of a new emperor, Michael. Soon, treated viciously and finally blinded, Romanus dies a miserable death. Leo, too full of rage and grief to remain in Constantinople, travels east as a caravan guard and by chance meets up with Nordbriht, one of Romanus's Varangian guards and, as it turns out, a werewolf; along with Asherah, the beautiful Jewess who helped tend the dying Romanus; Kemal, the friendly Seljuk who took Romanus and Leo captive; and Meletios, a mad but impressive holy man. Now, the province of Cappadocia is menaced by new invaders, wild, brutal Turkmen Turks wholly unlike the civilized but lately dead Alp Arslan. Leo's community faces extinction--until they discover the lost entrance to an underground city, within which they will find danger, magic, and--perhaps--the means to save themselves from their enemies. The historical section at the start is decidedly superior, with a well-researched, persuasive, and engaging backdrop. Too bad Shwartz didn't simply continue, since the remainder--werewolves, magic, lost cities and all--works hard but carries less conviction.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 075921297X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Tor