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    THE SHADOW OF ARARAT: BOOK ONE OF THE OATH OF EMPIRE by Thomas Harlan(see his website)

    Tor Books, Tom Doherty Associates, 1999

    Real magic works, Rome didn't fall, the ancient gods still hold sway, but all is not well in the Roman Empire of 622 A. D. Plagues have decimated the population of the Western Empire while invaders have struck deep into the Eastern half of the Empire threatening even Constantinople. The two emperors, Galen Atreus in the west and Heraclius in the east, create a daring plan to destroy the Persian empire entirely, freeing Rome forever from their ancient enemy.

    Maxian Atreus, youngest brother of Galen, has discovered a terrible secret that has hollowed out the core of Roman society. An ancient curse and blessing lays over Rome, embedded in the lead that floats through the aquaducts, but distinct from it. It protects Rome from its attackers while preventing any change for the better. Dahak, a Persian wizard, his dead body animated only by the powers of his magic, sucks the life from entire cities. And Dwyrin, a young Hiberinian half-trained in the temples of Egypt, must face terrible threats that would have destroyed a far more powerful mage.

    Thomas Harlan (see more reviews of novels by this author) weaves in some of the great characters from history (Julius Caesar, Mohammed, and Alexander the great) with characters of his own imagination. THE SHADOW OF ARARAT unfolds across a gigantic canvas, the entire ancient world from Rome to Constantanople to the furthest reaches of Persia unconquered by Europeans since Alexander himself. Each of the many primary characters (Harlan introduces dozens) has unique strengths and each has powerful weaknesses he or she must battle and to which they sometimes fall. THE SHADOW OF ARARAT is a huge novel (over 500 pages of small print in the hardback version), but will keep you turning the pages.

    Three Stars

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