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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Monday 13 August 2018

The Walls of Byzantium

As ever I am a sucker for historical fiction set in the Balkans. James Heneage has started a series that I will be drawn to with the first book 'The Walls of Byzantium'.

The hero is the relative of a Varangian who fled Constantinople in 1204 with some form of treasure that he is supposed to have deposited in Mistra. I visited this city in May during my tour of the Peloponnese and it is stunning.

The castle at Mistras

The city below

The story proper starts in the Spring of 1392, just as the Ottomans are putting pressure on Constantinople. Our hero, Luke Magoris, lives in the coastal rock city of Monemvasia, nominally Byzantine, but run by the trading family the Mamonas. They have judged that the Ottomans are the rising power and are secretly collaborating with them.

Our hero is forced to flee the city and ends up in the Aegean island of Chios, ruled by Genoese families. The island has a number of trading advantages, not least the production of mastic. Our hero is drawn into the intrigues between the Mamonas family, Venice, Byzantium and Ottomans. There is some romantic interest as well.

This all culminates in the crusade and Battle of Nicopolis in September 1396. A major Ottoman victory at which our hero is of course present.

This is without doubt a complex tale, with many sub-plots. However, it is told well and has all the key ingredients of good historical fiction. Perhaps not in the same class as Cornwell, but well worth a read. I will follow the series through.

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