Mesopotamia, 3157 BC. A bloody tyrant is dead in Akkad, and the city is ruled by erstwhile wild man, Eskkar, and Trella, his farsighted young wife. Eskkar has much to learn, chiefly about himself; persuading the entrenched nobles to accept changes in government is irksome. When he leaves the city to bring the benefits of Akkadian protection to distant villages, he stays away longer than is wise. Not solely for the sake of the villagers; he has found a woman, the only one he has wanted since his union with Trella.
Korthac, a rare Egyptian visitor, arrives in Akkad. Fair-dealing and plausible, he is permitted to trade in gemstones. Trella is mistrustful but her spies cannot fault him. Before Eskkar returns, unspeakably dreadful damage has been done.
The opening of Empire Rising is inevitably leisurely, sometimes repetitive, as the author ensures that readers may empathise with the longings and aspirations of a people so remote in time. As the book progresses, excitement builds up to the final battle for the city, a blow-by-blow account, long-drawn-out but superbly choreographed and vivid almost beyond bearing. Eskkar’s nail-biting river journey is worth waiting for.
The sex is explicit but never gratuitously so. There are scenes of merciless violence and horribly effective torture; of love, loyalty and courage unto death. This is how empires are born and how they grow.