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The Sword of Damascus (Aelric) Paperback – June 19, 2012
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As always, Blake writes with immense historical and classical erudition, while displaying an ability to render 1500-year-old conversations in realistically colloquial English.
―C4SS on The Blood of Alexandria
Blake's plotting is as brilliantly devious as the mind of his sardonic and very earthy hero. This is a story of villainy that reels you in from its prosaic opening through a series of death-defying thrills and spills.―Lancashire Evening Post on The Ghosts of Athens
Fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.―Derek Jacobi on Conspiracies of Rome
I can't resist recommending this first volume of a promised trilogy. Set during the last pangs of Imperial Rome, with a vivid account of the machinations of the early Church, it is well-informed, atmospheric and beautifully written.
Literary Review on Conspiracies of Rome ―Literary Review on Conspiracies of Rome
It would be hard to over-praise this extraordinary series, a near-perfect blend of historical detail and atmosphere with the plot of a conspiracy thriller, vivid characters, high philosophy and vulgar comedy.
―Morning Star on The Sword of Damascus
[Blake's] plotting can seem off-puttingly anarchic until the penny drops that everyone is simultaneously embroiled in multiple, often conflicting, scams. Aelric's survival among the last knockings of empire in Constantinople depends not on deducing who wants him dead, but who wants him dead at any given moment.
―Daily Telegraph on The Terror of Constantinoplea
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...Until he is sucked back once again into the politics of clashing empires.
The Umayyad Caliph Muawiya, having defeated the partisans of Ali in a civil war, reigns from the recently conquered city of Damascus. The Caliphate conceals barely suppressed political divisions, as the family and close associates of the Prophet simmer with resentment back in the Hejaz, and Muawiya creates a new aristocracy of his own from converted Greeks and Syrians. Of course the Byzantine Empire, shrunk to a core of the City and its European provinces, has its spoon in the political stew of the Caliphate. And all these factions, each for reasons of its own, want Aelric -- who once saved the City with his invention of Greek Fire -- in Damascus.
The first-person perspective, from Aelric's extreme old age, of the transitoriness of human affairs, and overshadowed by the prospect of his mortality, give this story bittersweet overtones lacking from the others.
The background for Aelric's story includes enlightening discussions concerning origins and progressions of religions (and differences in Christian doctrine)along with the turbulent struggle for control of the area by a number of different peoples and their empire-building leaders.
Not only does the author take the reader through this wonderful progression, but he also supplies an excellent mystery and espionage novel. Plots are intricate and the reader can often be surprised at how things credibly fit together along the way and at the story's end.
Finally, in The Sword of Damascus, Mr. Blake makes adventures and his story-telling much more challenging by telling the story of Aelric at a time when the character's age is very advanced and he is physically infirm. The author's handing of the physical actions throughout the story are wonderful.
The Sword of Damascus passed the ultimate test. I just completed reading the novel and cannot wait to read the next installment. Accordingly, I ordered the next book in the series earlier today.
If you are considering this series, you will be well-served by reading them in order. Enjoy!
I first encountered these books out of sequence and was quite confused at first.
The comment made by another reviewer that this book deserves an "R" rating really applies equally to the series as a whole; they are not for the squeamish - but then again, neither is the history of that time. Like most readers, I had little prior knowledge of this period, but I have been inspired to find out more. The interweaving of the historic facts, e.g. the invention and deployment of Greek Fire, is masterly. I concur with the reviewer who appreciated the craft of telling this tale as an extended flash-back, and the plot has surprises right to the end of the third book of Lucretius.