Sequel to the 11th-century historical fantasy Shards of Empire (1996). The First Crusade is under way: A mixed force of Normans, Franks, and other northerners under Bohemond has assembled, intending to attack the Holy Land and wrest Jerusalem from the Turks. To Byzantine Emperor Alexius, however, surrounded by enemies, the Crusaders are just as threatening as the Turks themselves, so he engages linguist and warrior Theodoulos, adoptive son of his old friend and rival Leo Ducas, to accompany the Crusaders and report back. Alexius also appoints Binah, Leo's magic-powered adoptive daughter, to be a companion for his fiercely ambitious daughter Anna. Along the way, Theodoulos finds his own magic powers awakening (like his sister, he's the offspring of a goddess), and almost against his will he begins to like the barbarous but good-hearted northerners. As the Crusaders draw ever nearer to Jerusalem, Binah teaches Anna magic, while the latter schemes and plots and prepares herself to seize the throne when the opportunity presents itself. Though Shwartz's sympathies and interests manifestly lie with Anna, much of the book is simply a fictionalized account of the First Crusade. The upshot is schizophrenic and only moderately engaging. --Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.