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The Shadow of Ararat (Oath of Empire, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – May 15, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Oath of Empire Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Thomas Harlan's impressive first novel, The Shadow of Ararat, delivers big-screen entertainment. It's an alternate history with babes, battles, and believable magic theory and technology, not to mention political intrigue and major spectacle. Think Spartacus meets Merlin by way of Frankenstein.

The Roman Empire has reached our 7th century without falling or becoming Christian. Galen Atreus, Emperor of the West, and Heraclius, Emperor of the East, join forces to overthrow Chroseos II, Emperor of Persia. The book follows four major characters. Dwyrin MacDonald, a young Irishman learning sorcery, is prematurely initiated and sent to fight with the Roman army, though he can barely control his gift for calling fire. The Roman Thyatis Julia Clodia, a covert warfare specialist, leads her unit behind enemy lines. Ahmet, an Egyptian priest/sorcerer at Dwyrin's school, sets out to rescue Dwyrin but meets Mohammed (yes, that Mohammed). They join Roman allies Nabatea and Palmyra, desert cities facing superior Persian forces without Roman aid. Finally, Maxian Atreus, Galen's youngest brother, a healer-magician, discovers a "curse" protecting the State from inimical magic but also preventing nonmagical progress. He sets out to lift it at any cost, resurrecting canny Julius Caesar and searching for Alexander the Great--an even greater source of magical power.

Harlan's ability to evoke cinematic images makes scenes come alive. There's plenty of action and an ending that both satisfies and promises lots more to follow. --Nona Vero --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers 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 historyAfor example, references to a religious group crucified for not worshipping Roman godsAwhile 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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oath of Empire (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy; Reprint edition (May 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812590090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812590098
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #771,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Shadow of Ararat impressed me as a first novel in a genre - alternate history - that is one of my current favorites. It had many of the elements I most like in a work of epic fiction such as:
Disparate plot lines of which most, but NOT all, converge in time and space
Protagonists whose motivations can differ greatly from those individuals driving events and who come across as people, not icons, even when the details of their life story remain sketchy.
A sense of verisimilitude that convinced this reader that the events were taking place in a different place and time, not the world of today with different costumes and names.
There were elements that were not to my taste. The work is wordy in some sections, at times reading like a set description with more detail than is required about the nature of clothing worn or the texture of mud. It paints a very clear picture, but one my mind's eye could have filled in the details of from a more sparse description, and at times I found myself muttering "get on with it" when I wanted to find out where the constantly intriguing plot was going. Some descriptions gave this reader no information that aided understanding of characters or events, but only served only to this reader to establish a point of difference previously established, such as the frequent descriptions of who wore makeup and who did not.
My biggest complaint is one of personal preference only. I wanted much more of the back story of how Mr. Harlan's world diverged from our own. I expect much of this will be found in the later works of the series, but I always want to know more about the point of divergence in an alternate history novel.
All in all I recommend this work to lovers of epic fiction, military fiction, historical fiction, and just plain good yarns.
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Format: Hardcover
as one of Harlan's characters might say, as they seem incapable of realistic speech. Seriously, a good try for a first novel--nothing to be ashamed of--but I hope Mr. Harlan works on his characters and forbears from pushing the plot around just to get from point A to point B in his next book. We have a character introduced in a manner that suggests he's a fairly young boy, no older than 11 or 12, then we suddenly find out in the middle of the book that he's 16. 16, dammit! We have a character wondering time and again why the men under her command accept her as a leader, but golly, they just do. We have a character who gives no hint of his ability to stand up to the major supreme meanie on the block, but he almost does, not once, but twice. His attempts seem to cause more harm than good by the way--and just how does his body end up back within city walls when he falls outside them in single combat, surrounded by the enemy? A few other things that happened off-stage took me quite by surprise. Oh, I also hope he eases up on the fashion show. I was getting to the point where one more description of a plain tunic with stitching at the collar and cuffs would have had me hurling the book across the room. And it's a library book. That wouldn't have been nice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shadow of Ararat is book 1 (of 4) in what is shaping up to be an epic in today's fantasy/sci-fi genre's.
The author does an extremely fine job of detailing all surroundings, no matter how trivial, so as you can paint the best possible picture in your mind. The varying landscapes of this novel are a joy to read.
The characters, for the most part, are interesting, and you soon take on a few favorites. However, some (not all) are very cliche, the same type you see over and over again in these types of novels. And a few of the names are hard to pronounce (because of thier heritage). Lastly there are soooo many characters to keep track of, it may get confusing at times who is on who's side, and who is related or connected to someone else.
The novel itself is good, but what makes this very interesting is that there are multiple stories going on concurrently, and one overall 'big picture'. I found that the introduction of the book was fun and showed a lot of promise, but soon the story takes on a more lethargic tone, and it seems to take forever. Only until the last 100 pages, where once again the book picks up in action and resolves some plot lines. This is where the book is made, and now I MUST buy the second to see how things pan out.
I personally would have liked to see much more involvement of the Egyptians, both in characters and in landscape. Though this is a book about the Roman Empire, a large portion of the book does not take place anywhere near Rome or Egypt, but Persia.
Overall this 510 page book, probably could have been just as good, or better, by cutting out some non-essential occurences (maybe they were meant to flesh out chracters) and bringing it down to 350-375 pages.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read the entire series...and on the whole I liked it. The setting is set up historically so that not much time is spent on it...at least not on the Roman part. The maps were both helpful and puzzling. I may just be less adept at reading battle maps. But the world maps were good, and I learned things from both the map and the story that I'd never known before. I learned about Nabateans. There were other things, but most were things that I already knew. I think it's great when you can learn real world facts from fiction. However, as I said, the reader must commit to reading this series. There were times when the detail or the slowness of plot or even the lack of interest in a character would make me want to quit. I,at least, had to come up for air to clear my head many times...and I found that even though I was not crazy about some of the topics (necromancy, in particular), I was interested enough and invested enough to finish. I'm just glad that I had all 4 books at the time, or I probably wouldn't have completed the series. It's both interesting and irritating. I love to read very long books if they are well-written... as this is in most parts. I'm not usually that interested in alternative history...but I gave it a chance and I'm glad that I did. I felt like I'd accomplished something by the time I finished this book because at times it felt like real work. It wasn't all difficult...and I really did end up liking most of it...and I did conquer.
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