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    THE GATE OF FIRE by Thomas Harlan (see his website)

    Tor Books, Tom Doherty Associates, May 2000

    Persia has been conquered, but all is not well with the world. THE GATE OF FIRE follows THE SHADOW OF ARARAT in Thomas Harlan's Oath of Empire series. Galen, Roman Emperor of the West, returns home in triumph. His youngest brother, Maxian, continues his efforts to overcome the curse/blessing that preserves Rome at the cost of progress--only to learn that this curse is fully embedded in the body of Galen. His efforts to help Rome have led him to kill innocent people, betray his friends, and raise the dead. Finally, he must confront what he has become--and decide if he is worse than what he is fighting. Dahak, the great Persian wizard, works to raise the Persian Empire from the destruction into which Rome has thrust it. A new force, led by Mohammed, rejects both empires and marches on the Eastern Roman Empire.

    Thomas Harlan (see more reviews of novels by this author) has created a compelling and complex world. Multiple strands, in the Eastern Empire, Persia, Arabia, and Rome itself interweave and separate. Harlan's characters are complex and flawed. Dahak is certainly evil, but is he more evil than Maxiam? The Eastern Empire betrayed its client state of Palmyra, but Mohammed and Zoe (heir-apparent to the Palmyran throne) go beyond normal revenge in their desire to take revenge against it--especially when Dahak remains alive and powerful.

    If anything, THE GATE OF FIRE is even more disturbing than THE SHADOW OF ARARAT. Before, mighty nations tore one another apart. Now, brother is set against brother, friend against friend. Sometimes betrayal is the only way to serve. This alternate history, in which magic works and Christianity never took hold, will capture the readers attention.

    Three Stars

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