In the Shadow of the Sword

Written by Tom Holland
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

This is certainly a book with a difference. It is cited as fiction, but I would suggest that that is far from the truth. With In the Shadow of the Sword, the author charts the history of the first millennium with the rise and fall of the various empires which existed then, in particular those of the Persians and the Romans. The Persian Empire eventually died out altogether, while that of the Romans divided into two camps with the Emperor Constantine establishing his own capital in Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople. From this period and Constantine’s conversion came the establishment of the Christian church alongside that of Judaism and the stories told in the Old Testament, and later Islam with the teachings of Mohammed.

I found this to be a fascinating story but definitely founded on fact and painstakingly researched. There is no specific characterisation and no dialogue. It is purely and simply a story retold by the author. I did not find it a particularly easy book, as it needed the reader’s constant concentration to absorb all the details, but it is certainly well worth reading.