Cover image for The shadow of Ararat
The shadow of Ararat
Harlan, Thomas.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tor, 1999.
Physical Description:
510 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates Book."
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In what would be A.D. 600 in our history, the Empire still stands, supported by the Legions and Thaumaturges of Rome. Now the Emperor of the West, the Augustus Galen Atreus, will come to the aid of the Emperor of the East, the Augustus Heraclius, to lift the siege of Constantinople and carry a great war to the very doorstep of the Shahanshah of Persia. It is a war that will be fought with armies both conventional and magical, with bright swords and the darkest necromancy. Against this richly detailed canvas of alternate history and military strategy, Thomas Harlan sets the intricate and moving stories of four people. Dwyrin MacDonald is a Hibernian student at a school for sorcerers in Upper Egypt, until he runs afoul of powerful political interests and is sent off half-trained to the Legions. His teacher, Ahmet,undertakes to follow Dwyrin and aid him, but Ahmet is drawn into service with the queen of Palmeyra. Thyatis is a young female warrior, extensively trained by her patron in the arts of covert warfare. And Maxian Atreus is Galens youngest brother, a physician and sorcerer. He has discovered that an enemy of Rome has placed a dreadful curse on the City, which must be broken before Rome can triumph. Woven with rich detail youd expect from a first-rate historical novel, while through it runs yarns of magic and shimmering glamours that carry you deeply into your most fantastic dreams

Author Notes

Thomas Harlan  is the author of the highly regarded "Oath of Empire" fantasy series, as well as being an internationally-known game designer.  He lives in Salem, Oregon.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Harlan debuts with an alternate-history yarn driven by magic that, while it has its faults, bodes well for his future. It opens at about 600 A.D. as our reality reckons things. The Roman emperors of the eastern and western empires forge an alliance to lift the Persian siege of Constantinople and thereafter embark on an effort to emulate Alexander the Great and conquer Persia. (The Sassanid Persians finally seem to be getting their share of the action in sf and fantasy.) For this adventure, the emperors need not only the swords of the legions but some potent dark sorcery, which is described in action in considerable detail that shows off Harlan's knowledge of history and folklore. The viewpoint character for all this is a young Irishman studying sorcery in Egypt when the story begins. Harlan embellishes a conventional plot with many creative touches, characterization is not a problem for him, and only pacing and dialogue should have been worked on a bit more. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 historyÄfor example, references to a religious group crucified for not worshipping Roman godsÄwhile 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As Roman Emperor Galen Atreus journeys to Constantinople to aid the emperor of the Eastern Empire in an all-or-nothing war against the Persians, his magically gifted brother Maxian remains behind in search of a means of lifting a lingering curse that eats away at the heart of Rome. Caught up in this dual struggle of sorcery and military might, a half-trained Celtic battle mage, a warrior-queen, and a young woman skilled in the covert arts find their talents tested on the altar of honor and sacrifice. Set in a world in which the Roman Empire survives the barbarian invasions, Harlans first novel features powerful and evocative prose as well as a strong cast of characters, a wealth of vivid detail, and a conclusion that leaves plenty of room for sequels. Highly recommended for fantasy collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Delphi, Achaea: 710 ab urbe condita (31 B.C.) The Greek woman raised her arms and her face, pale and regal, was revealed as the purple silk veil fell away. Deep-blue eyes flickered in the dimness of the narrow room. A mass of raven hair cascaded down over her pale shoulders. The smokes of the crevice rose up around her as she stood in supplication. Far away, behind her, the low beat of a drum echoed in the sun-baked little plaza in front of the temple. She waited, patient and calm. Finally, as the irregular drumming settled into her blood and she grew light-headed in the haze of bitter-flavored smoke, a figure stirred in the darkness beyond the glow of the brazier. Strands of long white hair gleamed. Withered fingers brushed against the lip of the corroded bronze tripod. A face appeared in the smoke, and the queen barely managed to keep from flinching back. Unlike the gaudy display at Siwa, here there was no grand chorus of priests in robes of gold and pearl, no vaulting hallway of Stupendous granite monoliths, only a dark narrow room in a tiny building on a steeply slanted Grecian hillside. But at Siwa, when the oracle spoke, there had been no stomach-tightening fear. Here the Sybil was ancient and wizened, her eyes empty of all save a sullen red echo of the flames now leaping in the pit below. The mouth of the crone moved, but no sound emerged. Yet the air trembled and the queen, to her utter horror, felt words come unbidden to her mind, forming themselves pure and whole in her thought. She flinched and staggered back, her hands now clawing at the air in a fruitless attempt to stop the flood of images. She cried out in despair. The empty face faded back into the darkness beyond the tripod and the crevice. The fire sputtered and suddenly died. The Queen lay, weeping in bitter rage, on the uneven flagstones as her guardsmen entered the chamber to see what had befallen her. The vision had been all that she desired, and more. Copyright (c) 1999 by Thomas Harlan Excerpted from The Shadow of Ararat by Thomas Harlan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.