Alternate-world fantasy from newcomer Harlan. At the beginning of the seventh century, in a world where magic works and the Roman Empire never fell, the Western and Eastern Roman Emperors (respectively, Galen and Heraclius) pledge to combine their forces against Rome’s greatest foe, Persia. At Constantinople, they will gather their troops, discuss politics, deal with plots, catch spies, and spread deceptions. Galen sends the young Roman woman Thyatis Julia Clodia, a spy-catcher and covert operator, and her Dirty Dozen team on a secret mission deep into Persia. After various adventures, trainee fire-bringer Dwyrin MacDonald joins the Third Ars Magica in Persia, where he’ll attempt to douse the sacred fires of Ahura Mazda. Back in Rome, meanwhile, Galen’s brother Maxian discovers a corrosive curse at work upon the city, so powerful and insidious that anyone learning of it is immediately consumed; only Maxian and the Persian sorcerer Abdmachus survive long enough to investigate its source. Needing high-energy help, they raise Julius Caesar from the dead! At the same time, the two emperors have formed an alliance with the fierce Khazars, but in attacking Persia, they’re forced to abandon some cities to Persian armies already in the field. This allows Dahak, a demon in human guise previously encountered by Dwyrin, to work abominations and raise ensorcelled armies. Abdmachus advises Maxian that they’ll need enormous power to break the curse, so they must locate the lost sarcophagus of Alexander the Great—and raise him from the dead, too! Slow to start but eventually absorbing: a notably assured and well-organized debut. Stay tuned for the inevitable series.