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The Ghosts of Athens (Death of Rome Saga Book Five) [Kindle Edition]

Richard Blake
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description


612 AD. No longer the glorious cradle of all art and science, Athens is a ruined provincial city in one of the Byzantine Empire's less vital provinces. Why, then, has the Emperor diverted Aelric's ship home from Egypt to send him here? Why has he included Priscus in the warrant? Surely, they have more important business in Constantinople. Isn't Aelric needed to save the Empire's finances, and Priscus to lead its armies against the Persians? Or has the Emperor decided to blame them for the bloodbath they presided over in Egypt?

Or could it be that Aelric's latest job just to manage a council of Eastern and Western Bishops more inclined to kick each other to death than agree to a wildly controversial position on the Nature of Christ?

When did Heraclius ever explain his reasons - assuming he had any in the first place? The only certainty is that Aelric finds himself in a derelict palace of dark and endless corridors and of rooms that Martin, his cowardly secretary, assures him pulse with an ancient evil.

Add to this a headless corpse, drained of its blood, a bizarre cult of the self-emasculated, embezzlement, a city rabble on the edge of revolution - and the approach of an army rumoured to contain twenty million starving barbarians.

Is Aelric on a high level mission to save the Empire? Or has he been set up to fail? Or is the truth even worse than he can at first imagine?

This fifth novel in the series blends historical fiction with gothic horror. Not surprisingly, Aelric may find even the vile Priscus a welcome ally. Or perhaps he won't....

Product Description


Devious plotting, superb period detail and the joy of being transported back in time by a born storyteller, and the dangerous, dying Roman Empire comes alive in all its bloody technicolour. Warfare, intrigue, politics, betrayal and the devious, deadly Aelric...Blake's perfect recipe for a sumptuous Roman Feast. (Fleetwood Today)

Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore are enhanced by his unfamiliar choice of period. Nasty, fun and educational. (Daily Telegraph on THE TERROR OF CONSTANTINOPLE)

He knows how to deliver a fast-paced story and his grasp of the period is impressively detailed (Mail on Sunday on THE TERROR OF CONSTANTINOPLE)

A rollicking and raunchy read . . . Anyone who enjoys their history with large dollops of action, sex, intrigue and, above all, fun will absolutely love this novel. (Historical Novels Review on THE TERROR OF CONSTANTINOPLE)

'Fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.' (Derek Jacobi 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. (Matt Coward, The Morning Star on THE SWORD OF DAMASCUS)

Book Description


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1272 KB
  • Print Length: 449 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1444709704
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (7 Jun. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008258Z0M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #322,319 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Richard Blake is a historian, broadcaster and university lecturer. He lives in Kent with his wife and daughter.

For Hodder & Stoughton, he has written the following six historical novels: Conspiracies of Rome (2008), Terror of Constantinople (2009), Blood of Alexandria (2010), Sword of Damascus (2011), Ghosts of Athens (2012), Curse of Babylon (2013). These have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Slovak, Hungarian, Indonesian, and Chinese.

He also writes as Sean Gabb. His latest novel written under this name, The Break, has been nominated for the 2015 Prometheus Award.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
There is something fascinating about the fortune of western Europe during those years of mystery that lay between the Roman and Carolingian empires. Centuries of decline and decay, caused and aggravated by abandonment by the Roman authorities, now based in Constantinople, and attack by the northern tribes. Arguably, the one hope for those living amongst the ruins lay in the new Christian order which flourished in the West, just as it did in the East. Unfortunately, with the bishops not able to agree about even the nature of Christ, union seemed impossible and even undesirable.

It's in this 7th-century world that we meet Aelric - senator and advisor to the emperor in Constantinople, troubleshooter and troublemaker, handy with fist and pen, with one eye open for attractive female company and the other for enlightening literary or theological texts. Having failed to keep the peace in Alexandria, Aelric is sent with Priscus, a deeply unsavoury general, to Athens. They are there to be either executed (or at least have their eyes burnt out) for having failed their master or to rule over an unhappy meeting of bishops and prelates designed to bring the western and eastern churches together. The fact that the novel is over 400 pages long indicates the latter.

The historical setting of The Ghosts of Athens is superb. The descriptions of Athens are compelling. The remains of the glory days can still be seen, admired and visited while the decayed city streets are filled with an ugly, diseased and impoverished population, as far removed as is possible to be from those famously godlike Athenians of antiquity. You can almost taste the rot. This is compounded by a description of a garden frog stew that put me off food for a week.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Latest Aleric 13 May 2013

I have I believe been fortunate to read all of Richard Blake's novels, since the release of The Column of Phocas, later re-released as Conspiracies of Rome in 2008.

Every novel has been a delight for a reader of Historical fiction and also those who love conspiracies with twists and turns and deep intrigue. I wont say that you come to love the hero of this series Aleric, but you learn to follow him and his adventures and his growth through the roman world.

The Author Richard Blake (AKA Sean Gabb) is a Historian, his depth of knowledge come across clearly in the books, his attention to detail is to a level that breathes life into the Roman world (for some it may seem too much, but stick with it, this sin some dusty history lesson, this is history come to life).

Our Hero (Aleric) is a complex man, part cultured Roman, part ass kicking semi sociopathic barbarian, just as capable of delivering a fine oration as he is of stabbing you in the groin and watching you bleed out. There is however no gratuitous violence, only the violence that fits the plot and the period, this is not the PC modern world. A man lived by his wits, brains, skill with weapons and reputation, as well as his perceived station on the Roman world.

This is not the world of Caesar, this is the decline of the Empire, Just as Rome descended into a mire of corruption and ineffective aloof leaders who cared nothing for the commons, the east , the last bastion of the roman world is heading the same way, the chaos and confusion of Byzantine politics abounds, corruption is the watchword of politics. Add in religion and you have an explosive world teetering on the edge of collapse.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inflected into an indifferent world 25 July 2012
The complex beauty of Richard Blake's writing is the fine line the author treads between classicism and barbarism. On the one hand, our hero Aelric demurs with his eyebrow at former students for using impersonal Latin verbs in a personal way, and on the other hand, he stabs crass lumpen Anglo-Saxon peasants in the eye with rusting six-inch knives for daring to deliver him a discourtesy. It's all done in the best possible taste, of course, in a cornucopia of smells, tastes, sounds, and verbal effluence which delights both the cerebrum's lobus frontalis and the brain stem's medulla oblongata, and all ambrosic points in-between. This blends in well with the world that Aelric finds himself belched into, which teeters between the differing Roman empires of Caesar and Charlemagne. Our hero drowns in a Varangian smorgasbord of complex Byzantine politics blended into the universal and basal political corruption clearly visible around us currently, in our failed centrally-planned world, in which paper-money currencies, socially-desirable orthodoxies, and politically-correct holy cows are crashing down in a manner highly reminiscent of the enslaving inflationary mess that the original Roman Empire descended into, in its final spasmodic death throes. This is perhaps best summed up by my favourite line in 'Ghosts of Athens': "I'll grant you that it's hard, in most settled places, to tell the difference between tax-collectors and bandits." On a less intellectual level, 'Ghosts of Athens' is simply a superb yarn of an irascible intelligent man dealing with a blindingly confused world, similar but different to the yarns of Cornwell's Lieutenant Sharpe, O'Brian's Captain Maturin, or even Pratchett's Wizzard Rincewind, the egregious professor of cruel and unusual geography. Aelric is an egregious professor of the cruel and unusual human soul, and I highly recommend the contemplation of his latest inexcusable adventure in 'Ghosts of Athens'.
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