Captured and castrated as a boy, Zeno is sold into slavery in Constantinople. Bought by the greatest scholar of the age, he is soon drawn into a labyrinth of sex, heresy, murder and intrigue. Though the empire is threatened by a heretic uprising and a barbarian invasion, its rulers think only of themselves. In the cruel and glittering city of Constantinople, a ruthless general, a bisexual boy-emperor, a worldly patriarch, a peasant usurper and a half-Viking empress all vie for power. Unknown to them, the real power lies elsewhere, among the devious and decadent eunuchs of the palace. Zeno conspires, deceives, manipulates and murders, his divided loyalties leading him deeper into danger until he is forced to betray those he loves.