In a small village in Northern England in the 5th century, a woman is in the throes of a long arduous labor. At the moment she gives birth to her son, Nectovelin, she begins to babble a stream of Latin words, a language unfamiliar to her. A druid in attendance scribbles down her words just before she dies. The druid is convinced the woman has spoken a prophecy foretelling the death of an emperor, a prophecy that will change the destiny of the Roman Empire. Emperor follows Nectovelin and his descendants as they struggle to make the prophecy come true.
Stephen Baxter is a highly acclaimed science fiction author who has transitioned into alternate history with this novel. To write a historical epic that spans four centuries, multiple generations, and numerous characters in only 384 pages is a daunting, almost impossible task. I found this especially true in this case. With too many characters that appeared and disappeared over the lengthy span of time, characterization was weak, which left me feeling disappointed. The opportunity to know and understand the historical characters and eras through the experiences, values, and beliefs of the times did not present itself. I’m sorry to say I found I found this book a tribulation rather than an enjoyable read.