cover image The Shards of Heaven

The Shards of Heaven

Michael Livingston. Tor, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8031-9

Historian and author Livingston (At the End of Babel) dramatically retells the familiar story of the downfall of Marc Antony and Cleopatra through the eyes of minor historical figures. Featured are the scholarly Numidian prince Juba, adopted by Caesar and harboring a secret desire for revenge; Caesar and Cleopatra’s noble son, Caesarion; Cleopatra and Antony’s headstrong daughter, Selene; Didymus, the chief librarian of Alexandria; and Vorenus and Titus Pullo, old Roman veterans loyal to Antony. Livingston impressively makes these less famous personages feel more interesting and vivid than the usual headliners. A fantasy twist comes in the form of the titular shards, artifacts of great power and possibly divine origin. Juba learns to wield one in the form of a trident, with horrifying results; another is mounted on the armor of Alexander the Great; the most powerful is contained within the Ark of the Covenant. As the battle of Actium rages and Alexandria falls, these characters scramble to protect the shards, possess them, or both. This multipronged tale is dense with action and incident; it’s grounded in history, mythology, and religion, but not weighed down by them. Agent: Evan Gregory, Ethan Ellenberg Literary. (Nov.)