In the 6th century AD, the Near East was divided between two great empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on, and one had vanished for ever, while the other was a dismembered, bleeding trunk. In their place, a new superpower had arisen: the empire of the Arabs. So profound was this upheaval that it spelled, in effect, the end of the ancient world. But the changes that marked the period were more than merely political or even cultural: there was also a transformation of human society with incalculable consequences for the future. Today, over half the world's population subscribes to one of the various religions that took on something like their final form during the last centuries of antiquity. Wherever men or women are inspired by belief in a single god to think or behave in a certain way, they bear witness to the abiding impact of this extraordinary, convulsive age - though as Tom Holland demonstrates, much of what Jews, Christians and Muslims believe about the origins of their religion is open to debate. In the Shadow of the Sword explores how a succession of great empires came to identify themselves with a new and revolutionary understanding of the divine. It is a story vivid with drama, horror and startling achievement, and stars many of the most remarkable rulers ever seen.
in the shadow of the sword
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Robert Williams Buchanan (1841-1901) was a Scottish poet, novelist and dramatist. Buchanan senior, a native of Ayr, Scotland, lived for some years in Manchester, then moved to Glasgow, where Buchanan junior was educated, at the high school and the university, one of his fellow-students being the poet David Gray. His essay on Gray, originally published in the Cornhill Magazine, tells the story of their close friendship and of their journey to London in 1860 in search of fame. His first book was Poems and Love Lyrics which although undated was almost certainly published in 1858. After a period of struggle and disappointment Buchanan published Undertones in 1863. This tentative volume was followed by Idyls and Legends of Inverburn (1865), London Poems (1866), and North Coast and Other Poems (1868), wherein he displayed a faculty for poetic narrative, and a sympathetic insight into the humbler conditions of life. In 1876, The Shadow of the Sword, the first and one of the best of a long series of novels, was published.
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Terry Brooks's The Measure of the Magic. The fate of a world rests on an unlikely hero. . . . Tucked away in peaceful Shady Vale, the young half-elf Shea Ohmsford gives little thought to the outside world. Yet far to the north, the evil Warlock Lord has dispatched shadowy Skull Bearers, creatures twisted by dark sorcery, to hunt him down. At the same time, a black-cloaked giant of a man appears in Shady Vale. He claims to be the mysterious Druid known as Allanon, a wizardly wanderer of vast knowledge and power–and he has come to see Shea. For Shea, he says, is the last descendant of an ancient Elven king. Only he, in all the world, can wield the fabled Sword of Shannara. And only the Sword can stop the Warlock Lord from destroying all that lives. The Sword lies far from Shady Vale, in the Druid castle of Paranor. And Paranor has fallen under the shadow of the Warlock Lord. Yet all is not lost. Shea will rise to the challenge. Together with Allanon and a handful of brave companions, he begins a desperate quest into the very heart of evil. . . .
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"Rohan, Rohan! Can you not hear me call? It is time to go. Come, come! It frightens me to look down at you. Will you not come up now, Rohan?" The voice that cries is lost in the ocean-sound that fills the blue void beneath; it fades away far under, amid a confused murmur of wings, a busy chattering of innumerable little newborn mouths; and while the speaker, drawing dizzily back, feels the ground rise up beneath her feet and the cliffs prepare to turn over like a great wheel, a human cry comes upward, clear yet faint, like a voice from the sea that washes on the weedy reefs of blood-red granite a thousand feet below. The sun is sinking far away across the waters, sinking with a last golden gleam amid the mysterious Hesperides of the silent air, and his blinding light comes slant across the glassy calm till it strikes on the scarred and storm-rent faces of these Breton crags, illuminating and vivifying every nook and cranny of the cliffs beneath, burning on the summits and brightening their natural red to the vivid crimson of dripping blood, changing the coarse grass and yellow starwort into threads of emerald and glimmering stars, burning in a golden mist around the yellow flowers of the overhanging broom, and striking with fiercest ray on one naked rock of solid stone which juts out like a huge horn over the brink of the abyss, and around which a strong rope is noosed and firmly knotted.
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