Byzantium, 1096. When a mysterious assassin looses his arrow at the Emperor, he has more than a man in his sights; the keystone of a crumbling empire, the Emperor is the solitary figure holding its enemies in check. If he falls, then the mightiest power in Christendom will be torn apart. Aware of the stakes, the Emperor hires Demetrios Askiates, the unveiler of mysteries, to catch the would-be-killer. But Demetrios is entering an unknown and mysterious world, a bubbling cauldron of princes, slaves, mercenaries, pimps and eunuchs. From the depths of the slums to the golden towers of the palace, and from the sands of the hippodrome to the soaring domes of Ayia Sophia, he must edge his way through a glittering maze of treachery and deceit before time runs out. Nor are all enemies within the city walls. With the Turks rampant across Asia, the Emperor has sent to the west for mercenaries to reinforce his position. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when a great army, tens of thousands strong, appear before the gates. The first crusaders have arrived, intent on making their fortunes in war, and they have no allegiance to an empire they eye with jealousy and suspicion. As the armies of east and west confront each other, and the assassin creeps ever closer to his prey, Demetrios must untangle the golden web of intrigue which surrounds the Emperor before the city - and the empire - are drowned in blood. A gripping historical epic that transports the reader back to an eventful and exhilarating era: the violence and intrigue of the Middle Ages.
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About the Author
Tom Harper is the pseudonym for author Edwin Thomas. Writing as Thomas, he won the Crime Writers' Association debut award in 2001 for his swashbuckling naval historical novel The Blighted Cliffs, the first book in the 'Reluctant Adventures of Lieutenant Martin Jerrold' series. This is his second novel and his first as Tom Harper.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Mosaic of Shadows based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
In 1096 Constantinople, at the heart of the Byzantine Empire, the royal court is shaken by an assassination attempt on the emperor. Demetrios Askiates, a former bounty-hunter now turned detective, is hired to find the killer, along with the help of the fierce royal guard.Books about the Byzantine Empire are not all that common, unfortunately. I love the culture of it - part Middle Eastern, part European. So needless to say, I was excited to read this book. It turned out to be pretty average, and while I'm not sorry I read it, I most likely won't pick up the next one in the series.The main problem I had with "The Mosaic of Shadows" was that it was so slow moving. Many things are very drawn out, and characters are always discovering some breathlessly exciting puzzle piece to the mystery, and then leaving the scene. It's mostly to return home for the night and get some sleep. I know that people have to sleep at some point - but it happened often, and I felt that it really hindered the feeling of excitement from being allowed to emerge.I certainly wouldn't call this book exciting, or a page turner. It was a book I kept putting down without looking forward to coming back to.I also really couldn't see Demetrios as a detective. He just wasn't believable in that regard. The reasons why the royal investigators themselves would hire him in particular are never given, and frankly we never see any spark of brilliance that would lead us to think it was because he had a dazzling crime-solving resume. Demetrios never once recalls other crimes or detective work he has done, or anything of the sort, which I thought odd. He does, on the other hand, refer quite often to his previous job as a bounty hunter. From what he tells us, it seems that he was good at it even if he disliked the work. Alright, so he's a fighter, then? Well, no. Demetrios never kills anyone, and seems to avoid violence. The few times he is forced into physical combat, he is pitifully overpowered, and quite easily. So he doesn't come across as an assassin either. To me, Demetrios just seemed like an average, usual guy trying his best to solve a mystery.I would have thought that he would use his wits and quick thinking to tackle the clues and witnesses, as it seems the palace's way of doing things is through intimidation and force. Isn't that why they hired him, after all?Demetrios does rely on reason and logic to get somewhere in the case, but the problem is that it doesn't work, especially whenever they encounter actual people.Sigurd, a huge royal guard, usually sees that Demetrios's calm reasoning is getting nowhere, and does something drastically threatening or violent, which always works. While Demetrios politely knocks on doors (no success), Sigurd plows through them in a chaotic shower of splinters and bellowed threats (success!). Demetrios' attempts at having an "interrogation" were laughable. Hasn't Harper ever watched ANY crime dramas? When it proves useless, Sigurd cuts in with a huge axe, some light torture, and threats of making a eunuch of the man right there. Success again - the man relents and tells them all that he knows.I don't think the author intended to give the message that violence goes further than intelligence (or at least I hope he didn't), but that's how it came across.Anna, a female doctor who Demetrios falls for, seemed very modern to me in both her attitude and her profession. The romance between them seemed relatively obligatory, as well.On the good side, I loved the setting of Byzantine Constantinople. Illustrating the scene with rich historical detail is at least one thing that Harper does quite well. I felt that after reading this book, I had learned something about the time period and had more of a feel for it. The whole thing with the palace guards and different races hired or forced to do the job over the years was also quite interesting.This book is alright. But if you are looking for a thrilling, quickly paced mystery, I would advise you
The Mosaic of Shadows had a perfect setting, Byzantium, a mystery which I was willing to accept under the guise of historical fiction, and some interesting characters. Unfortunately, the story fell a bit flat for me.In Byzantium in 1066, an assassin narrowly misses the emperor with an arrow. Knowing the implications if the emperor were to die, the palace wants the assassin found. Demetrios Askiates, a man known for uncovering mysteries, is called to the palace and given orders to uncover the assassin¿s plot and catch the would be killer. Demetrios, whose usual cases have to do with finding lost items, ends up in an unknown world dealing with princes, slaves, and mercenaries. When an army summoned by the emperor appears at the city¿s walls, the hunt for an assassin takes on a new urgency.The setting of this book was wonderful but the characters, with the exception of one, weren¿t so wonderful. Demetrios is in over his head and doesn¿t seem like a person you would hire for this type of job unless you wanted him to fail. He has a family but they¿re mostly an afterthought and the love interest is barely thought of until she¿s needed. All of this made Demetrios rather unappealing. He was supposed to be a solver of mysteries but he was more like a bumbling detective you would hire to find a cat in a tree. I wanted to like him but I couldn¿t find his redeeming value.Some of the more interesting characters didn¿t get developed as much as I would have liked. The Varangians, who guard the emperor, are known for their fierce devotion and fighting abilities and the captain of the emperor¿s guard, Sigurd, was a character I would have liked to have seen more of. The ending, however, was exciting and I was glad that I stuck around for that. Unfortunately, the mystery part of the story didn¿t feel much like a mystery for me. The person who ¿did it¿ was a person I wanted to see gone anyway so it¿s wasn¿t much of a surprise when his association with the killer was revealed.This is the first book in a series and I don¿t know if I will be following up with the others. However, if I find out that the Varangian guards are featured, I may change my mind.
While not as tantalizing as his second book on the crusades ¿Knight of the Cross¿, Tom Harper¿s ¿The Mosaic of Shadows¿ does an excellent job of portraying daily life and murderous secrecy in Constantinople at the time of the first crusade. It was nice to find out why Demetrios is so well respected by the Emperor, ¿The Mosaic of Shadows¿ gave me the depth and background I was missing from the second novel. What I especially enjoyed were the interactions between the barbarous Franks and the civilized and cultured elite of the empire. Great opportunity for high drama and Mr. Harper picked up the gauntlet well.
A very slow first effort. The story is set in 1095 Constantinople during the reign of the Emperor Alexios. The POV of the story is a man known for his brains, Demetrios Askiates. He is called to the palace to join the search for the man who tried to kill the Emperor in the street, with an exotic weapon from the West. They also are looking for the powerful people who set the plan in motion. So its an historical mystery.While the intrigue is going on in the city, the first crusade has arrived outside the city walls. Barbarians from the West, who are ostensibly there to kill Turks and free the Holy City of Jerusalem. In actuality, they are looking to loot, rape, plunder, and carve out land for themselves. Those in the city know this, and must play a subtle game with the outsiders.The writing is good, and the characters are done well. Its the story that is very slow. There is lot of time spent with the POV going back and forth with very little story movement. The setting is well done, and not too overwhelming with description. If the story was tighter and shorter it would be a very good page turner. As it is, it is one of those books that you just want to end.
A millennium has past since the west fell, but Byzantium still keeps alive the tradition of the Roman Empire. However, by 1096, corruption amongst the royal family and their retinue has weakened the leadership and subsequently the Byzantium Empire. Only the icon of the Emperor keeps the country from collapse. However, someone using a much more powerful arrow than ever seen before tried to assassinate the serene majesty Emperor Akexios and killed an armored guard with this weapon. Concerned for his ruler and his empire, Chamberlain Krysaphios hires Demetrios, unveiler of mysteries, who found the Eparch¿s daughter when everyone thought she was dead. Adding to Krysaphios worries is the great army just in from the west to help battle the Turks resides outside the city with no one knowing where their loyalty lies. The Chamberlain wants Demetrios to uncover the identity of the assassin and who this killer works for before any other incident occurs. Demetrios makes inquiries inside the hedonistic palace, pleasure brothels, and the military camp, but at each point he finds a very complex seditious conspiracy that if successful could leave the Byzantium Empire flowing in a bloody civil war with Turkish invaders waiting to pick apart the remains. --- THE MOSAIC OF SHADOWS is a an exciting historical mystery that uses late eleventh century Byzantium as the backdrop to the tale. The story line reflects a teetering society seemingly in trouble from its excessive indulgences at a time when threats are coming from the east for sure and probably the west too. Reminding readers of Saylor¿s Gordanius and Roberts¿ Decius, Demetrios is an interesting protagonist who escorts readers on a terrific tour during his dangerous investigation.--- Harriet Klausner