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The Terror of Constantinople (Death of Rome Saga Book Two) (Aelric 2) Hardcover – 5 Feb 2009
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Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore are enhanced by his unfamiliar choice of period. Nasty, fun and educational. (Daily Telegraph)
He knows how to deliver a fast-paced story and his grasp of the period is impressively detailed. (Mail on Sunday)
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)
The best historical novel I've ever read. (L. Neil Smith on Conspiracies of Rome: Death of Rome Saga Book One)
The second in the brilliant new trilogy set in the dying days of the Roman Empire, introducing the most interesting anti-hero since Flashman.See all Product description
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"Terror of Constantinople" marks the second outing for Aelric, a young Saxon nobleman transplanted to early seventh century Rome from England. Initially sent on a mission with his mentor, the priest Maximin, to collect books for the Roman Church in Britain, clever, cynical Aelric has proven a useful tool for the venal, power-hungry clerics of the Church in Rome, and is not planning on returning to his bleak, benighted homeland anytime soon.
His previous assignment as investigator and hatchet man for the Dispensator of the Church of Rome successfully completed, Aelric looks forward to settling into his nice new home in one of the few remaining suburbs of Rome still in working order. He's coining it on the trading market, collecting books by the dozen for his library, and about to marry his pretty, ditzy mistress and become a father. Life looks good.
However the Dispensator hasn't finished with Aelric yet, and blackmails him into accepting a new assignment, this time in Constantinople. Aelric soon finds that beneath its sophisticated veneer the city is suffocating in fear, controlled by a terrifying secret service which scoops up people at random on charges of treachery, sending them to torture and death in the cells beneath the sinister Ministry. Agents provocateur infiltrate all levels of society and citizens are encouraged to denounce each other at will. Wives tired of their husbands, sons wanting their inheritances in a hurry, business rivals, and envious neighbours all find a ready ear in the Ministry's Black Agents. Divide and rule is the policy of Emperor Phocas, a paranoid megalomanic under threat of losing his position and his head to the next claimant to the throne. Danger lurks at every turn. Despite his overweening confidence in his own golden good looks, charm and intelligence, Aelric has to admit that even he might have stepped over his head into a cesspit this time. Will quick wits, a sexy smile and a sword be enough to save him?
Conspiracies of Rome was one of my historical fiction finds of 2008, and "Terror of Constantinople" is another winner. Blake's erudition and political savvy create a convincing framework for an irreverent, bawdy historical thriller, written with élan and full of non-stop action, intrigue and suspense. The period is unusual and fascinating, as Blake himself says, "just at the transition between late antiquity and the mediaeval period," and Aelric makes a compelling protagonist. He's conceited, ruthless, amoral and hedonistic. He also has a contagious zest for life, a passion for knowledge, and a distaste for narrow-minded religious dogmatism. He's generous and protective of his motley mix of retainers as befits a Saxon lord, and has the Saxon warrior's boundless capacity for alcohol, love of a good, brutal fight and zeal for blood-feud if he or his are injured in any way; a complex and contradictory character who always leaves the reader guessing.
Bring on "The Blood of Alexandria"!
Aelric is a young, smart and rather cynical Briton that gets embroiled in a web of conspiracies woven by the Church and the Emperor. He is sent by the Pope's right-hand man to Constantinople, but soon realises that his official mission is mere cover for something far more sinister and dangerous. Through ambushes, some raunchy escapades and double-games of deception, he fights tenaciously to overcome the obstacles lain in his path. His primary objective is to save his own skin. His secondary objective is to save the Empire, the Church and Civilisation itself.
Why read heroic fantasy when you can have something equally exotic set in our very own history? Through meticulous research and repeated trips to the region, Richard Blake has reconstructed an incredibly detailed, evocative and realistic universe where our hero moves with agility. This is not a time and place of which you have learnt at school: history textbooks gloss over these centuries in one line or two - yet this epoch has so much to teach us.
Some doomsayers say that our Western civilization has entered a phase of terminal decay and its fabric is starting to tear up at the seams. What would it feel like to live in an age of turbulence where politically connected elites spend more time plundering us than protecting us? Reading The Terror of Constantinople is the fun way to find out.
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