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Publishers Weekly, 2005-02-07 Set in the dark final days of the Roman Empire, Dietrich's rousing fifth novel (after Hadrian's Wall, etc.) chronicles the bid of the charismatic Attila the Hun to conquer the West and dominate all of Europe. Standing in his way are the crumbling vestiges of the Roman Empire, now divided between West (Rome) and East (Constantinople) and still struggling with the adoption of Christian faith. The story of Attila's western march is given additional human dimension by a romance between Jonas Alabanda, a scribe assigned to an embassy mission to Attila from Theodosius II, emperor of the Eastern Empire, and Ilana, a gorgeous Roman taken by the Huns as a slave. Because of a foiled Roman plot to assassinate Attila, Jonas finds himself held hostage, but with the aid of a cunning and intrepid dwarf jester, Zerco, he manages to steal a legendary giant sword and upset Attila's plans and fortunes long enough for the Roman general Aetius to assemble the Germanic tribes into an effective defense force. Because the period is comparatively undocumented, the historical background is somewhat thin, and the standard-issue romance doesn't quite fill in the blanks. Still, the story unfolds swiftly and satisfyingly, and the confusing array of tribes and leaders are deftly presented-no mean feat. Agent, Andrew Stuart. (Mar. 18) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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