The second book in Richard Blake's brilliant series featuring Aelric, the six-century English adventurer, combines an expert's knowledge of the Roman world with intrigue, sex, black comedy and extreme violence. 610AD. Invaded by Persians and barbarians, the Byzantine Empire is also tearing itself apart in civil war. Phocas, the maniacally bloodthirsty Emperor, holds Constantinople by a reign of terror. The uninvaded provinces are turning one at a time to the usurper, Heraclius. Just as the battle for the Empire approaches its climax, Aelric of England turns up in Constantinople. Blackmailed by the Papacy to leave off his career of lechery and market-rigging in Rome, he thinks his job is to gather texts for a semi-comprehensible dispute over the Nature of Christ. Only gradually does he realise he is a pawn in a much larger game. What is the eunuch Theophanes up to? Why does the Papal Legate never show himself? How many drugs can the Emperor's son-in-law take before he loses his touch for homicidal torture? Above all, why has wicked old Phocas taken Aelric under his wing? To answer these questions, Aelric has nothing but beauty, charm, intellectual brilliance and a talent for cold and ruthless violence on his side.