"Hardrada aided me in Scicily, don't forget that."
"And still you put him behind bars. There is no love lost between you, that is certain."
"The man has ambitions. he has grown tired of Byzantium and needs to find his own way, have songs sung about him, not us. He cannot be trusted."
"Yet he did vanquish the Scythians. Without his influence, the Varangians would never have come and crushed those heathen dogs, and Michael would still rule."
Mankiakes studied the dregs of his wine, declining to answer or lend support to the holy man's words.
Stuart Yates’ brilliant Varangian left us at a crossroads regarding the Byzantine throne; the perverse and tyrannical Michael V had been deposed and Harald Sigurdsson and his Varangians had proved their usefulness in helping oust the incumbent and defeat his Scythian Bodyguards. If Harald thought for a moment that this has improved his position at court he was sadly mistaken.
Nature abhors a vacuum and with Michael blinded and exiled and his backers removed, those with the mutual cause of plotting his downfall begin to pick at the bonds that tied each to the other. This is Byzantium – New Rome - a city of political intrigue and deceit. Those who once were useful tools now become threats to be disposed of, while those once ignored become pawns to be moved on the shadowed chess board.
Layer upon layer of plots, deceit and double dealings abound, as different factions scheme; allowing us (the readers) to reacquaint ourselves with characters met in Varangian including the Patriarch Alexius, General Maniakes and his ex-lover and hand maiden to Zoe – Leoni. Those who deposed Emperor Michael now are the subject of plots against themselves, as others attempt to pull the strings of the would be puppet masters. Despite her best efforts Leoni is denied a semblance of a normal life as she is dragged back into the intrigue – but she has guile and weapons of her own honed during her time at court. The attractions of sex, wealth and power, are an intoxicating brew for all the characters and will lead once more to betrayal and murder.
Meanwhile as Byzantium looks within itself threats grow on the borders of the Empire as Bulgars and Normans grow increasingly bold in their hunger for Imperial lands. But even these incursions could prove useful to those with thoughts of ambition or revenge.