The Gate of Fire
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The Gate of Fire

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by Thomas Harlan

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The Gate of Fire continues Tom Harlan's remarkable fantasy epic, following the increasingly dangerous conflicts both military and sorcerous. The sorcerer Dahak plots from his hidden citadel to regain the Peacock Throne. Prince Maxian, having raised both Julius Ceasar and Alexander the Great from the dead, now considers how to use them to free Rome from the

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The Gate of Fire continues Tom Harlan's remarkable fantasy epic, following the increasingly dangerous conflicts both military and sorcerous. The sorcerer Dahak plots from his hidden citadel to regain the Peacock Throne. Prince Maxian, having raised both Julius Ceasar and Alexander the Great from the dead, now considers how to use them to free Rome from the curse of the Oath. Thyatis has fled with the widowed Queen of Persia to a hidden island; Dwyrin's thaumaturgic unit is shattered as Zoe discovers the destruction of Palmyra and, as its new queen, vows revenge against Rome. And in Mecca, Ahmet's friend and Palmyra's lieutenant Mohammed receives a vision, and a command, and the power to strive against the forces of darkness.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This is undeniably a page-turner, one infused with a feel for the historical that bodes well for its successors.” —Booklist

“There's no doubt about it: Thomas Harlan is a marvelous talespinner” —Locus Review
Magic in a Turbulent Past
A prodigious and sprawling novel from a powerful new voice in the alternate history/fantasy subgenre, Thomas Harlan's The Gate of Fire, Book Two in the Oath of Empire series, is as rife with political intrigue and magic as its highly impressive predecessor, The Shadow of Ararat. This sweeping new epic will leave readers awestruck at the sheer abundance of nefarious schemes, grandiose battles, and surprising plot twists to be found within its pages. Harlan presents the reader with several engaging, historically familiar elements that are soon cultivated in the breadth of his imagination. Here we have numerous political complexities, hundreds of characters, and a tense milieu that grows ever tauter until the world itself lies on the brink of annihilation. Harlan draws his readers deep into his alternate worlds; his narrative voice continues to sharpen and his skill at providing a highly innovative but authentic tapestry develops even further.

Here's a little background: At the beginning of the seventh century, the vast Roman Empire hasn't fallen or converted to Christianity. Rome is divided in two, with the East ruled by Augustus Heraclius and the West governed by Augustus Galen Atreus. When Chroseos II, the shah of Persia, leads an army against Rome, Heraclius and Galen establish a truce and join forces. Together they march upon Constantinople, where their ranks are infiltrated by spies, traitors, and other hidden enemies.

In this world, magic works; Maxian Atreus, Galen's youngest brother and a healer, is hard-pressed to battle sorcery and a curse set upon the empire; this curse protects Rome from various magics but also impedes its industrial progress. Maxian, along with sorcerer Dwyrin tackle, engage in a vast and dangerous undertaking that, if successful, will resurrect the greatest emperors of all: Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. Meanwhile, in Persia, Galen and Heraclius must contend with the hellish armies of the disguised demon Dahak, a foe whom Dwyrin faced before and barely escaped. Dahak, in hiding, licks its wounds, while Maxian and Dwyrin ready themselves for further political strife. Queen Zoe of Palmyra seeks revenge upon the prince of Rome, while the exiled Mohammed, in Mecca, has a powerful mystical vision that shows him how he must soon become a key player in the war between good and evil.

Thomas Harlan has entered the alternate history realm full blast with an incredibly well-researched novel of challenging complexity; The Gate of Fire is packed with savory imagery and poignant story threads that wind together against a detailed backdrop of magic and war. Real historical figures and events propel the story line at a savage rate. Harlan piles skirmishes and incidents one upon the other, threading them together to weave a powerful tale of intrigue that is both fantastical and real. The huge cast calls for a dramatis personae (at the front of the book), as viewpoints rapidly switch from person to person, country to country, peasant to soldier, scholar to nobleman.

In The Gate of Fire, characters come alive in an ancient world with queens, devils, and prophets galore. Harlan's staggering and immense imagination has extrapolated historical facts and fused them to exciting and compelling scenes of arcane carnage. His ability to keep the action taut while dealing with so many separate stories and events is incredible in its own right; not only does the novel deal with the Roman and Persian empires but also involves the Celts and Egyptians, an element that further illuminates the narrative. Like Shadow of Ararat, The Gate of Fire earns high marks; it's alternative history/fantasy that will stand out for years to come.

--Tom Piccirilli

Library Journal
As Prince Maxian attempts desperate measures to free Rome from a powerful curse, his brother Galen, emperor of the Western Roman Empire, returns from the war with Persia to a trouble-filled city. In the East, a merchant prince known as Mohammed answers a divine call and gathers followers to his holy cause, while a sorcerer traffics in dark magics in pursuit of earthly power. Harlan's sequel to The Shadow of Ararat continues an epic tale of alternate history set in a seventh-century setting where the twin Empires of Rome rule the known world through might and magic. Strong storytelling and complex characters make this historical fantasy a good choice for most libraries. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Second installment of Harlan's fantasy (The Shadow of Ararat, 1999) set in an alternate world where magic works and the Roman Empire never fell. Prince Maxian, Emperor of the Western Empire, has raised Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great from the dead: he needs high-octane help, you see, to rid Rome of the baneful curse known as the Oath. The empire, meanwhile, is threatened by the wicked sorcerer Dahak and by a traditional foe, the Persian Empire. No synopsis, alas, but different and worth investigating.

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Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Oath of Empire Series, #2
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Gate of Fire

By Harlan, Thomas

Tor Fantasy

Copyright © 2001 Harlan, Thomas
All right reserved.

the shrine at delphi, achaea,
710 ab urbe condita (31 B.C.)
The sun beat down, hot, on the narrow courtyard between the house of the Oracle and the columns of the Place of Waiting. The woman stumbled a little on the steps of the house--the stones were deeply grooved from the passage of tens of thousands, and the footing was tricky in her elegant shoes. Guardsmen caught her arms and held her up. She smiled, though her face was bleak, and rewarded them with a light touch on their bronzed shoulders. After the smoky darkness of the Oracle's residence, the brilliant sun and the shining, colorfully painted walls of the temple complex stabbed at her eyes. She drew a veil of dark red silk over her face and walked, slowly, toward the end of the courtyard that faced the south.
There, a line of graceful columns framed a long view of the mountainside plunging down to a gleaming blue limb of the sea. Far below, the water sparkled like a coat of silvered iron. The air seemed tremendously clear to her as she leaned against one of the columns, her hand resting on the dark orchre surface. Paint crumbled away under her touch, leaving a tiny smear of pigment on her fingertip. She felt worn and old; tired--attenuated--by the long struggle. Unseen by her guards, or the servants that had crept out from the House of Waiting to join her, tears seeped from the edges of her kohl-rimmed eyes. She blinked andlooked to the west, down the long tongue of water that led to the Middle Sea.
At the edge of vision, smoke rose curling and dark, the breath of wood, tar and canvas.
The release of our dreams, she thought, Apollo and Ra have called them back to the heavens.
The tears cut narrow tracks through the artfully applied paints and powders that subtly accented her strong beauty. She stood away from the pillar and turned toward the captain of her guardsmen.
"Rufus, we must..." She paused, seeing the servants part. A small figure waddled through the crowd of women, each tiny hand held by a smiling maid. Her heart caught, seeing the wide eyes and beatific, innocent face. The guard captain stepped back, his black eyes flitting over the crowd. One scarred hand rested lightly on the copper pommel of his short sword. The Queen knelt, forgetting to keep the veil across her face.
"Oh, beautiful boy..." She held out her arms and her son climbed into them. She stood, swinging him to rest on her hip.
One dream remains on earth, she thought, and the lines on her face smoothed and an iron spark returned to her eyes. I will have victory yet
Copyright 2000 by Thomas Harlan


Excerpted from The Gate of Fire by Harlan, Thomas Copyright © 2001 by Harlan, Thomas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Thomas Harlan is the author of the highly regarded "Oath of Empire" fantasy series, as well as being an internationally-known game designer. He lives in Salem, Oregon.

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