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Emperor: Time's Tapestry Book One    by Stephen Baxter order for
by Stephen Baxter
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

The cover of Emperor bills Stephen Baxter's Time's Tapestry series as an alternate history epic. This is good for readers who are familiar with the period in time that Baxter is altering, but not so good for non-history buffs.

Emperor concerns a prophecy that was delivered in Latin through a Brigantian woman during childbirth in the same year that Jesus was born. It tells of three Roman emperors who will come to Britain, and the effect they will have on the people. The first emperor is Claudius who conquers the island, the second is Hadrian who builds a wall along the Northern reaches, and the third is Constantine who spreads his version of Christianity. During each of these distinct time periods, the holders of the prophecy realize that it is coming true and try to use it to their own advantage, never really understanding what it means. Eventually, the prophecy is lost.

Baxter seems to have a good handle on Roman history and culture, and also the culture of the first inhabitants of what is now England. Unfortunately, while I love Roman history, I do not know much about their military conquests or anything past the first emperors. Because of this, I found myself wondering throughout the novel what was fact and what was fiction, and it took me a while to get into the story. Another thing that hindered my enjoyment of Emperor is that at the beginning, Baxter throws in a lot of historical information (whether real or his own creation I don't know) which makes that part read more like a history book than a story. Further on, the book becomes more story-like with only necessary background history snuck in here and there as needed.

While I did find this a more tedious read than similar novels, I am curious as to how the subsequent books in the Time's Tapestry series will be presented. The prophecy has been thoroughly covered in Emperor, so I wonder if there will be a new one for the next episode or if it will cover the results of what happened in Emperor. I think Baxter has a great idea with his Time's Tapestry, but only wish I knew more about the period in history he is altering.

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