$24.99, ($4.99 for eBook available for all eFormats) 316 pages
The scene is set in 9th century Kyiv (the capital of present day Ukraine) and some of its outlying environs inhabited or occupied through invasion by Slavs or Vikings. The focus is on Constantinople, (in present day Turkey), the second Rome and the seat of Eastern Christianity. The strategy involves a military excursion down the Dnipro River and traversing the Black sea with all its perils to Constantinople in search of vengeance. Slav traders had been slaughtered by the rulers of Constantinople.
Along the journey numerous characters are developed and many places are visited including Khersones in Crimea particularly notable a century later where Kyivan Prince Volodymyr adopted Christianity for himself and his people and was baptized there. The protagonists are Viking and Slav leaders with Star Wars' like names, but many actually forged in history or at least legend. The main plot involves a joint military venture. Subplots abound full of conspiracies and intrigues including a palace plot in Constantinople with the Emperor away on his own military excursion attempting to subdue his neighboring enemies. Often the subplot involves historical personages.
Hnatyshyn does a masterful job of weaving fictional narrative with historical, yet little known facts. The average American, Canadian, Englishman or anyone else for that matter who reads in English should enjoy the conflicts, strategies and battles. But, the Ukrainian English speaking reader is afforded so much more. The author's research was painstaking. Frankly, I was unable to discern between historical veracity and fiction, simply because there is so much detail as well as because, as the author himself explains, in his Foreword “there really is not a wealth of information on most of the historical characters involved”.
Read it simply for the adventure or for the history you neglected to learn when you studied ancient Ukrainian history in Ukrainian school or at home. For the average English speaking person, it’s an enjoyable read. For the English speaking Ukrainian, it's a must read. It's a window into the history of the Ukrainian people which was seemingly only slightly ajar, but which the author opened significantly more. The ending begs for a sequel and I have been advised by the author that this is the first book in a planned series culminating with the destruction of Kyiv by the Mongols in 1240.