In this historical novel set in fifth-century Constantinople, a young princess struggles to defend the Eastern Roman Empire after her father’s death.
When the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Flavius Arcadius Augustus, suddenly dies at the age of 31, a dire crisis of succession presents itself. He left behind three daughters and only one son, Theodosius, who is only 7 years old. The predicament is a perilous one—the Western Empire is under siege by enemies, and “dour-faced” Arcadius’ rule was generally regarded as “disastrous.” In addition, there are persistent rumors that Theodosius is an illegitimate heir to the throne—his mother, Eudoxia, now dead, wasn’t known for her virtue. Pulcheria, Theodosius’ 9-year-old sister, though, is as remarkably precocious as she is protective of her little brother and is anxious to secure both the Eastern Empire and her family’s rule over it. As a girl, she’s barred from ever ruling herself, but she establishes herself as her brother’s closest adviser, asserting an indirect power by way of her influence over him. Anthemius, the second most powerful figure in the Eastern Empire, is appointed regent until Theodosius reaches the age of majority and plans to achieve his own foothold by marrying his rash grandson, Isidorus, to Pulcheria. In this sequel to Twilight Empress (2017), Justice chronicles, with a skillful blend of historical rigor and dramatic action, the extraordinary efforts of Pulcheria to outmaneuver her adversaries and defend Theodosius. The prose is razor sharp, and the tale is as impressively unsentimental as it is genuinely moving: “The one history lesson she learned over and over again was that the emperor was always in danger. That knowledge was a curse. As she had after her mother’s death, Pulcheria struggled with a sense of helplessness. She was a young girl with an impossible task.”
A gripping tale of a royal sister’s fraught political machinations.