The basis for this series is the idea that Constantinople was a city largely owned and run by vampires. Vampires far more focused on creating a 'civilization' than the modern clans are, i.e., the have a dream of their own. Religion plays an unexpectedly large part. It drives the decisions of Malachite, who was a bishop while alive, and an intensely worshipful Nosferatu in his undeath. The worship has been displaced, however onto Michael on of the rulers of the city, who is a true elder.
But the city of the dream has come to naught. In 1204 the invasions of the crusades come to the walls of Constantinople, and Christian knights, Turks, and even pagan barbarians overrun the city. Malachite, entering the city to find Michael and try to save the dream must face the horror of invading kine and kindred come to kill and plunder. Malachite's quest for understanding is the sum of the story, as Fleming uses him to introduce the themes that will haunt this series.
As a character, Malachite has some shortcoming. He is a 300 year old vampire in the service of one of the rulers of the city, and all he seems to be able to think of is finding someone who will set things right. That and worry on perpetually about the state of his scions. I would have preferred some stronger at the center of the story rather than someone who is always looking under a rock (or a tomb) for what to do. He also shares a common trait of Camarilla vampires - a tendency to mourn his state as a fallen creature.
No doubt Fleming will make something more of Malachite before the series ends. The purpose of this book is to outline the focus of the series, and set a scene where mysticism, insanity, and betrayal are the great themes. And while the book starts very slowly, it eventually accomplishes exactly that as it picks up speed. The world is divided into those who will want to read this series no matter what (like me), and those who, if they read this, will go no further. Being a vampire never seems to be any fun anymore.