Ariantes is a Sarmatian, a barbarian warrior-prince, uprooted from his home and customs and thrust into the honorless lands of the Romans. The victims of a wartime pact struck with the emperor Marcus Aurelius to ensure the future of Sarmatia, Ariantes and his troop of accomplished horsemen are sent to Hadrian's Wall. Unsurprisingly, the Sarmatians hate Britain--an Island of Ghosts, filled with pale faces, stone walls, and an uneasy past.
Struggling to command his own people to defend a land they despise, Ariantes is accepted by all, but trusted by none. The Romans fear his barbarian background, and his own men fear his gradual Roman assimilation. When Ariantes uncovers a conspiracy sure to damage both his Roman benefactors and his beloved countrymen, as well as put him and the woman he loves in grave danger, he must make a difficult decision--one that will change his own life forever.
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Set during an uneasy, second-century alliance between the marauding, scalp-taking Slavic Samartians and the Roman empire, Bradshaw's fifth historical novel (after Horses of Heaven) is a vivid, atmospheric work that follows the Samartian prince Ariantes and his cavalry troops to Britain, where they are to serve under Roman command. When Ariantes discovers that some of the Samartians plan to support a Druidical uprising against the provincial government by the British queen Bodica, he forms an alliance with the newly emergent Christian sect in order to foil the plot--while saving his life and the lives of his loyal troops. Fluidly written, well researched and luxuriant with colorful authentic detail, this fact-based chronicle of a proud tribe of legendary horsemen and their gradual assimilation by the empire will engage readers with an interest in the history either of Rome or of its most exotic outposts.