- Publisher: GOLLANCZ (2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0575073780
- ISBN-13: 978-0575073784
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 240 g
Ford makes a few elegant changes in the course of history (which are never spelled out, the reader being flung in at the deep end and left to work it out for themselves), and then develops the logical consequences of these changes with uncompromising realism (and considerable wit - merely as a matter of incidental detail, for example, we discover that Christianity never took root and is now a minor and largely-forgotten heresy). Life is as nasty, brutal and short as it presumably was in the real 15th-century, and the protagonists are complicated, messed-up, and thoroughly believable human beings (the book even includes that rarity, a female leading character who isn't terminally bland), despite or because of which the book is hugely enjoyable and great fun.
Definitely not for those looking for another slice of pseudo-Tolkien questing, but highly recommended for anyone interested in something a little more challenging. It demands more thought than the average fantasy, but richly rewards the effort. A real treat.
The novel is set in an alternate history Europe, where either Constantine never converted to Christianity or Julian established the equality of all faiths, and the Byzantine Empire never declined, but in fact by the middle of the XVth century controls most of Eastern Europe and is trying to get as much of the West as possible. And magic works, and vampires exist also. I don't usually like alternate history, the real historical characters usually look unlikely next to the alternate bits, but this novel handled it perfectly, and the real historical characters of the XVth century (Richard III of England, his mother, and brothers, the Earl Rivers, Louis XI of France, the Medicci, the Duke of Urbino) are a joy to read about if you have met them before.
Great novel, deserving of a far better review than this one.