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The Mosaic of Shadows

by Tom Harper

Series: Demetrios Askiates (1)

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1695121,712 (3.79)13
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, he 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 world, a babbling 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 the 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, appears 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.… (more)

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Showing 4 of 4
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. ( )
  justabookreader | Oct 6, 2010 |
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. ( )
1 vote BruderBane | Feb 3, 2010 |
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. ( )
  FicusFan | Jan 11, 2009 |
An interesting read - a little sluggy but overall a good seris ( )
  ckNikka | Mar 26, 2008 |
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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, he 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 world, a babbling 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 the 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, appears 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.

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