Claire built a device to fold space and time. It had a flaw...
When the smoke clears, she finds herself halfway across the world, thousands of years in the past, and no device in sight.
In bronze-age Florence, war has lasted for generations. All Claire wants to do is get home, but she’ll need help from the locals. She wins an ally in Marcus Diophantus, a pickpocket turned soldier turned general, who hopes to turn into something more than just her champion.
If Marcus is going to help Claire, he’ll have to survive. Peace has upset the balance of power in the capital city. The king stands increasingly alone against: the Constantines, a commercial enterprise as much as a clan, who aim to profit from peace as they have from war – the warrior nobles, descended from the founders of Florence and quick to turn against a weak throne – and Reburrus, the high priest of Florence, convinced Claire answers to hostile foreign gods. As the city comes to a boil, Claire and Marcus – and Marcus’s formidable army – will have to decide where their allegiance lies.
Claire becomes a reluctant participant in a savage campaign. While Marcus leads the battles, she tries to gain control of the unimaginably powerful Ctesiphôn – a ghost tower in the heart of Florence, shrouded in magic and myth.
Maidman ties Claire’s uncertain fate—“Do well, and Ambrosius may get you home. Fail, and he most likely dies”—to the fortunes of Ambrosius’s reign, and the bulk of the novel concerns the politics of Florence, as Claire faces the city’s brutal ways, factionalism, and a brace of memorable adversaries with complex motives. These include a high priest who sees her arrival as “an invasion by a foreign god”; Cleon and Barbarossa Constantine, disgusted at the ascent of “alley rat” Marcus; and most memorably Lady Vara, of the marvelously barbed tongue.
Maidman steeps readers in the era with thrilling oratorical dialogue, rich historical detail, finely tuned prose, and a commitment to the textures of ancient life. The story bursts with scheming, sieges, debates, and portents, all vividly evoked, but the pacing’s more thoughtful than potboiler. The book’s long, demanding commitment, and the choice to keep much of Claire’s backstory a mystery—her plans and feelings about her plight feel distant —may test that resolve for many readers. Still, the twists and surprises (including much ado over Claire’s menstrual cycles) will reward patient readers of serious historical fiction with a touch of the fantastic.
Takeaway: An immersive time-travel epic of politics in Bronze Age Florence.
Comparable Titles: Conn Iggulden, Mary Renault.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
A spellbinding mashup of military, romantic, and metaphysical fantasy. Bloodydamn glorious.