An American adventurer and his Egyptian wife join the search for a fabled object.
Ethan Gage was once a spy for the British and the French but is now loyal only to his family. After barely escaping the 1805 battle of Trafalgar, he searches for his wife, Astiza, and their son, Harry, who are working their way from France to Prague on the trail of the mythical Brazen Head, an automaton that foretells the future. Arriving in Venice, Ethan tries to raise money for his search by gambling. He runs afoul of Baron Wolfgang Richter, a card sharp who cheats him out of his money. Ethan steals it back, barely escaping the Baron and his minions as he flees to Vienna. Unfortunately, he arrives just as Napoleon’s troops take over the city. Napoleon, who knows Ethan’s plausible patter well, uses the American's skills to keep the enemy negotiating a truce, giving himself time to gather his troops and put them in the best tactical positions. Hoping to sneak off and continue his search, Ethan steals a uniform in order to lose himself among the troops, but his plan fails, and he ends up fighting in the battle of Austerlitz. Shot in the back by an anti-Semitic French trooper he ran afoul of by defending Gideon Dray, a Jewish soldier, he is saved by Gideon and his peddler father, who take him to Prague's ghetto, where he continues to seek clues to his family’s whereabouts. In the meantime, Astiza and Harry have also arrived in Prague and been granted permission to study at the university by Primus Fulcanelli, a Latin scholar who turns out to be Ethan’s nemesis Baron Richter, head of a secret society seeking the Brazen Head.
The latest rousing adventure from Dietrich (The Barbed Crown, 2013, etc.) shows antihero Ethan Gage, his exotic wife and a varied cast of characters grappling with an especially tumultuous historical period.