A stand-alone epic, this was Lawhead's first straight Historical Fiction novel. But far from being a dry, academic study, this edge-of-the-seat rollercoaster ride starts in Twelfth Century Ireland, rockets through Viking-Age Scandinavia, and reaches a climax in Byzantium. Faith, doubt, suffering, and true calling are depicted in a setting of bloodshed and draconian political manoeuvring, with an ending that will leave you breathless.
Born to rule
Although born to rule, Aidan lives as a scribe in a remote Irish monastery on the far, wild edge of Christendom. Secure in work, contemplation, and dreams of the wider world, a miracle bursts into Aidan's quiet life. He is chosen to accompany a small band of monks on a quest to the farthest eastern reaches of the known world, to the fabled city of Byzantium, where they are to present a beautiful and costly hand-illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells, to the Emperor of all Christendom.
Thus begins an expedition by sea and over land, as Aidan becomes, by turns, a warrior and a sailor, a slave and a spy, a Viking and a Saracen, and finally, a man. He sees more of the world than most men of his time, becoming an ambassador to kings and an intimate of Byzantium's fabled Golden Court. And finally this valiant Irish monk faces the greatest trial that can confront any man in any age: commanding his own Destiny.
The narrative has the excitement of a good fantasy novel, a vivid historical setting and a lengthy, credible and satisfying plot -- just the elements, in fact, that have made Lawhead a commercial success time and again.
Engrossing with plenty of plot twists... Worthwhile for Lawhead regulars and historical-fantasy fans alike.
-- Kirkus Reviews
Here, in the story of a great gift and an even greater journey, is summoned all the magic and splendor, the brutality and the innocence of a lost era -- the not-so-Dark Age when faith ruled men's hearts.
Not merely a gripping yarn -- and it certainly is that -- this is also a novel about faith and the tests life plants in its way. Lawhead, author of the popular Pendragon cycle of fantasies, here makes a sure move into mainstream historical fiction.