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Greg Barron
The Last Days of Dom Sebastian
Greg Barron, author
How can I rest until this story is told? Can I let such a tale slip unnoticed into history? Or allow men to take liberties, inventing lies about that which is precious to me? I, Luis Pereira, Dom Sebastian’s friend and confessor, can alone let the truth stand for posterity… Dom Sebastian, the deposed king of Portugal, after losing the battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco, flees to the East on board the Nossa Senhora dos Anjos. After months on the ocean, her crew ravaged by disease and starvation, the ship drifts towards Australian shores, pursued by the highly trained guarda-costras, minions of Cardinal Henrique, who has seized the throne. Together with the beautiful Nicolá Massane, of Lisbon University, Australian archaeologist Francis da Costa follows a trail of relics and myth to a valley surrounded by cliffs of red stone. Yet, the Kimberley landscape and its people have memories of their own. The past, written in blood on the soil, is deeply malevolent. The medieval and modern threads build towards a shattering and simultaneous climax that will thrill the reader and resonate long after the book is closed. The Last Days of Dom Sebastian is a story of adventure and conflict: a rumination on the darker side of the psyche, and on the unseen marks each of us leaves on the landscape when our time on earth is done.
Threading medieval and contemporary stories together, this epic archaeological adventure from Barron (Whistler's Bones) opens in 1554, when Prince Sebastian is born to the recently widowed queen of Portugal. The court astrologer gives his mother a haunting pronouncement upon the prince’s birth: Sebastian will be a world-changing king, remembered through the ages, but he would also die violently—and young. In the modern day, Australian archaeologists Francis da Costa and Lauren Hart search the eastern coast of Kimberly for remains of the ships that first brought Europeans to Australia. Their hard work pays off when they find a sixteenth-century Portuguese barca. To assist with their discoveries, they enlist the Lisbon-based scholar Dr. Nicolá Massane, whose research has uncovered a sect of contemporary Sebastianists convinced that Dom Sebastian will return to save Portugal in its hour of need.

Barron’s century-spanning epic thrill readers who love history, archaeology, and a mystical twist: The sect has dwindled over the centuries, but the traumatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have revitalized its hope in a savior who will solve the problems plaguing the modern world. His prose and storytelling shine as he carefully balances two narrative modes that are widely different in content and form. The majority of the book’s first half follows the modern story of da Costa, Hart, and Massane, all fully-rounded and compelling characters. Romance fans are sure to enjoy the sparks that fly between da Costa and Massane, while history lovers will appreciate how Barron delivers well-researched facts with flair.

Barron fluidly shifts perspectives to an account of Dom Sebastian’s reign, told in the voice of a friend and confessor, vividly bringing the past to life. The two plots converge in one final discovery that satisfyingly ties up loose ends. The Last Days of Dom Sebastian combines the best elements of The Count of Monte Cristo with The Da Vinci Code, resulting in an adventure sure to grip readers from start to finish.

Takeaway: Filled with both romance and history, this archaeological adventure twining past and present is a must-read for fans of thoughtful epic thrillers.

Great for fans of: Will Adams’s The Alexander Cipher , Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land, Sean Pidgeon’s Finding Camlann.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B-