This is the final volume in the Belisarius series. The Malwa empire, twisted into evil and strengthened by the evil entity Link from the far future. is finally on the ropes. Exhausted by defeats from Axum and Rome, weakened by rebellion in India, for the moment it is on the defensive. But the cost to bring it the rest of the way down will be high.
The cost has already been high. The young king Eon of Axum has died in battle, leaving an infant heir and a young bride behind. Politics and the personal combine to require a good solution to ensure Axum’s future. Belisarius’ aide, a young officer blinded in battle has stayed on as historian and correspondent, publishing dispatches describing the war to the home front. There is an interesting subplot of his initially embittered wife trying to travel to the front but on the way becoming an alternate Florence Nightingale with the injured and wounded along the way. This is enthusiastically supported by Aide and Belisarius, once the situation is brought to their attention.
The stalemate is finally broken when Lord Damondara revolts, supported by Rana Sanga and his army. Their families hidden by the devious eunuch Narses, and with Link far away at the front, they make a stab at the capital city. Can they take it before Link returns with reinforcements?
Belisarius sees his chance when Link leaves the front facing him with a small force. If he can trap Link, Malwa will fall to his rebelling allies. But can they capture Link before it jumps to a new host and assure that the far future creatures that send Aide will exist?
This is a great series. I also like the fact that the focus is increasingly on the personal rather than huge battles as in some of the middle books. Instead of a continual ‘Can I Top This’ battle strategy narrative, events turn on Belisarius concentrating on having people act as individuals – even the traitor Narses who becomes an ally as he uses his love of plotting and ambition to serve his purposes. When you are fighting a being that wants to end individualism forever, having the key events be the character of a few men on both sides seems very fitting.