Mase Everard is a man with a mission. As an Unattached Agent of the Time Patrol, he's to go anyplace - and anytime! - where humanity's transcendent future is threatened by the alteration of the past. This is Manse's profession, and his burden: for how much suffering, throughout human history, can he bear to "preserve"?
Wanda Tamberley is a Patrol member in search of her mission. Recruited from sunny California in the late 20th century, she'd rather serve as a scientist in the research branch, exploring Earth's flora and fauna in epochs long past. But as hints accumulate from the Patrol's mysterious leaders uptime, it's beginning to look as if a lot of human history depends on her personal decisions - and Manse's.
Meanwhile, the Exaltationists are on the loose, determined to revise human history and rule Time forever and Manse Everard is sworn to stop them, no matter what the heartbreaking cost!
For 35 years Hugo and Nebula award winner Anderson ( The Boat of a Million Years ) has written stories about the Time Patrol, whose members are charged with keeping history on track, unaltered, accidentally or deliberately, by time travelers. With this first novel set in that universe, Anderson vividly demonstrates his mastery of ancient cultures and history. After several grueling cases, agent Manse Everard is taking leave of the Pleistocene Age when it is discovered that history beyond the mid-12th century has changed drastically. Manse moves uptime to the new 1980s, an era in which the Renaissance has never happened, in which the Church, via the Inquisition, has stifled most dissent and scientific development, and the New World has barely been colonized. Everard and his new love and protegee, Wanda Tamberly, determine that the key to the change lies in the premature death in battle of Roger II, count of Sicily, grandfather of Frederick II, who has thus never been born. Although the Time Patrol saves the count, they are not able to redirect history to its conventional course. Ensuring the birth of another key figure, Pope Gregory IX, becomes critical. Anderson has produced a lively, thought-provoking tale.