From the Publisher
"What lies in the shadow of Ararat, that mountain far to the east of Rome? I'll leave that for you to discover, along with the multitude of fascinations in this extraordinary debut." Locus
"Vivid, clever, and complexwar and treachery in a Rome where magic works!" David Drake
"Harlan's command of military strategy and tactics is thorough and vividly realized. When Roman and Persian armies clash in these pages, we can feel the dust sting our eyes and the ground shake beneath the rush of cavalry charges....The Shadow of Ararat is not only an ambitious debut novel, but a first-rate alternate history by any standard." Amazing Stories
"Thomas Harlan takes on the Roman Empire and wins! High and low, male and female, nice and supremely nasty...it's all here in intriguing detailincluding swift flashes of humor and a well-grounded feel for everyday life, whether in the bedroom or on the battlefield." Ellen Kushner
...[Gives] alternate history the vividness of the real thing and magic the combination of visceral and intellectual impact of the hottest new science...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his ambitious first novel, Harlan combines fantasy and alternate history to create a rich depiction of an ancient empire. Set in what would be our A.D. 600, the narrative depicts a Roman empire that is still standing, thanks to the prowess of its military legions and of its thaumaturges. The book's many subplots stir into action when the empire's Western emperor joins his Eastern counterpart in a war against Persia. Characters include stock villains and unrelievedly heroic heroes, such as the Roman Prince Maxian, who is both a fighter and physician. Fortunately, most of the other major characters are more rounded; they include a female assassin whose cunning patron sends her into the royal army, an emperor who returns from the dead, a young Hibernian thaumaturge who is prematurely thrust into battle, a Hermetic priest who mentors his inexperienced pupil in the art of magic and a powerful sorcerer who turns against his country. Harlan incorporates allusions to real history--for example, references to a religious group crucified for not worshipping Roman gods--while twisting history's consequences in other arenas, such as in his descriptions of the effects of lead in Roman drinking water. Even if the novel often lacks the lush detail of similar fantasy and historicals, it adequately evokes the period's landscape, everyday manners, eating and housing. This book marks the start of a planned Oath of Empire series, and most readers of this volume will look forward to the second. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This is the first volume in an alternative history series. In this book, it is 600 AD, and the Roman Empire is alive and healthy. The Emperor of the West, Augustus Galen Artreus, is joining forces with the Emperor of the East, Augustus Heraclius, to lift the siege of Constantinople and invade Persia. This venture is aided by magic in the form of a legion of soldiers with power, the Third Ars Magica, and Heraclius' brother Maxia, a healer and wizard. In the Third Ars Magica is a young Hibernian, Dwyrin MacDonald, only partially trained at an Egyptian school, and sent out before he has learned to control his powers. He is much sought after by the magicians from the Persian side for his power with fire. Maxia has brought Gaius Julius back from the dead, and is trying to lift a fatal curse placed on the Roman people. Another plot thread involves Thyatis, a female centurion/spy/mercenary, who is sent with her band to go behind Persian lines and infiltrate the Shah's forces. As they approach the Persian forces, the band is attacked. Thyatis and her second Nikos escape. Nikos is later captured by a Persian sentry, and Thyatis must find supporters and rescue him. There is much more to this book than there is room to describe here. This series is involving and ambitious, judging by this first volume. The author is able to keep all the plot threads in line, and has drawn the characters well. (Book One of The Oath of Empire) KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Tor. 793p, 18cm, 99-24484, $6.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Gail E. Roberts; Coordinator, Youth Scvs., New Bedford P.L., New Bedford, MA, September 2000 (Vol. 34No. 5)
As Roman Emperor Galen Atreus journeys to Constantinople to aid the emperor of the Eastern Empire in an all-or-nothing war against the Persians, his magically gifted brother Maxian remains behind in search of a means of lifting a lingering curse that eats away at the heart of Rome. Caught up in this dual struggle of sorcery and military might, a half-trained Celtic battle mage, a warrior-queen, and a young woman skilled in the covert arts find their talents tested on the altar of honor and sacrifice. Set in a world in which the Roman Empire survives the barbarian invasions, Harlans first novel features powerful and evocative prose as well as a strong cast of characters, a wealth of vivid detail, and a conclusion that leaves plenty of room for sequels. Highly recommended for fantasy collections.
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 Greatand 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.
Read an Excerpt
delphi, achaea: 710 ab urbe condita (31 B.C.)
The Greek woman raised her arms and her face, pale and regal, was revealed as the purple silk veil fell away. Deep-blue eyes flickered in the dimness of the narrow room. A mass of raven hair cascaded down over her pale shoulders. The smokes of the crevice rose up around her as she stood in supplication. Far away, behind her, the low beat of a drum echoed in the sun-baked little plaza in front of the temple. She waited, patient and calm.
Finally, as the irregular drumming settled into her blood and she grew light-headed in the haze of bitter-flavored smoke, a figure stirred in the darkness beyond the glow of the brazier. Strands of long white hair gleamed. Withered fingers brushed against the lip of the corroded bronze tripod. A face appeared in the smoke, and the queen barely managed to keep from flinching back. Unlike the gaudy display at Siwa, here there was no grand chorus of priests in robes of gold and pearl, no vaulting hallway of Stupendous granite monoliths, only a dark narrow room in a tiny building on a steeply slanted Grecian hillside. But at Siwa, when the oracle spoke, there had been no stomach-tightening fear.
Here the Sybil was ancient and wizened, her eyes empty of all save a sullen red echo of the flames now leaping in the pit below. The mouth of the crone moved, but no sound emerged. Yet the air trembled and the queen, to her utter horror, felt words come unbidden to her mind, forming themselves pure and whole in her thought. She flinched and staggered back, her hands now clawing at the air in a fruitless attempt to stop the flood of images. She cried out in despair. The empty face faded back into the darkness beyond the tripod and the crevice. The fire sputtered and suddenly died.
The Queen lay, weeping in bitter rage, on the uneven flagstones as her guardsmen entered the chamber to see what had befallen her. The vision had been all that she desired, and more.
Copyright © 1999 by Thomas Harlan