Shef, the One King, is a visionary and warrior. His accomplishments have changed the history of the Dark Ages as we know it - he has defeated the English, the Pope's army and the Norse in turn. Now, he must face the reborn power of the Holy Roman Empire.
While the Gods of Asgard continue to use him as a plaything Shef must defeat Bruno, the German emperor, who wields the Holy Lance which pierced Christ's side. The terrible invention of Greek Fire threatens Shef's fearsome Viking navy, and he must turn to the East to seek new wisdom. Finally, his quest may lead him to the Holy Grail itself.
As Harry Harrison's highly-acclaimed series reaches its climax, not even the gods can predict victor and vanquished.
From a veteran like Harrison, readers expect a well-researched historical fantasy full of challenging speculations about the growth and nature of technology. And that's just what they get in this final volume of the trilogy that also includes Hammer and the Cross and One King's Way. Set in an alternative Dark Ages, it continues the story of Shef, risen in the late 800s to kingship over England, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Shef's religion, the Way, which involves a worship of Norse gods, is gaining ascendance over Christianity. Meanwhile, his support for "new knowledge, or old knowledge recognized" illuminates the Dark Ages with developments such as paper, arithmetic, distilled alcohol, advanced armaments and even manned flight. The plot depicts war and political intrigue among Shef, the Greek Emperor Basil I, the Roman emperor, the Caliph of Cordova and the heretic Cathas, who may hold the secret of the Holy Grail. Supernatural forces seem to be involved in the play of events; the entertaining, intelligent play of the novel, however, stems from Harrison's natural talent, as evident here as in his first novel, Deathworld, published 36 years ago.