THE EMPRESS OF THE LAST DAYS

Jane Stevenson, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (360p) ISBN 978-0-618-14914-8

Stevenson makes a daring leap from 17th-century Europe to the present in this strong final volume of her trilogy (The Winter Queen ; The Shadow King ), framing the tumultuous past with a surprisingly passionate tale of modern academic scholarship. Historical research shakes off all mustiness as the investigations of Michael Foxwist, a young don at Oxford, lead him to an amazing discovery: a secret marriage between Elizabeth of Bohemia and a former African prince named Pelagius. This is the story told in Stevenson's previous two volumes, and it takes a surprising turn when Michael comes to the conclusion that the descendant of this union would be the rightful monarch of England. Even more shockingly, the true queen turns out to be a young black scientist living in Barbados named Melpomene Palaeologue. On an impetuous trip to Barbados to meet Melita, as she is known, Michael finds she captures more than his intellectual curiosity. Solid historical knowledge enlivened by restrained but genuine emotion render this dense novel of ideas an unexpected page-turner. Agent, Joy Harris. (Nov. 3)

Forecast: Many novels are compared to A.S. Byatt's Possession, but this comes closer than most, while retaining its own voice. Booksellers can confidently recommend it to fans of academic-world romance and intrigue.

Reviewed on: 10/18/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-09-928665-3
Hardcover - 360 pages - 978-0-224-06142-1
Hardcover - 611 pages - 978-1-58724-929-7
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