Review: The Sign of the Blood by Laurence O’Bryan

The first Christian emperor faces ruthless enemies on his journey to power.

Cool mist settles over the legion advancing toward the Persian army. Constantine, the son of an emperor, the Roman officer leading the attack, tells his men to halt – something is wrong. Before long, the battle rages. He frees a slave named Juliana. She is half Persian and half Roman. As they are pursued to Britannia over land and sea, he learns that she can see the future – his future.

It is 306A.D., long before Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and became the first Christian emperor.

To ensure he survives, he must eliminate his enemies. But who must die first? The priestess, Sybellina, who joined them in Rome and practices dark and seductive magic? Or the brutal legion commanders who surround his father? Or, as Juliana suspects, are those who want him dead even closer?

A gripping historical novel about Constantine’s bloody rise to power, the woman who helped him, and the real reason he supported a persecuted Christian minority, a decision which changed the world into the one we know. 

Praise for The Sign of the Blood

“Exciting and original.” – SJA Turney, author of Praetorian.

“It is an enthralling story from start to finish…” The Coffee Pot Book Club

My Review

Ever wonder how Constantine got to the throne? Wonder no more! I knew he served in England, but I never realized how convoluted his early story was. And this is only part one; we have a way to go before he sees the mystical dream of the cross before the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Although he was the oldest son of the Western Emperor Chlorus, Constantine was not the favored one, for his father had put aside Constantine’s mother Helena and married an aristocrat, Theodora. The new empress wanted her own son to be the heir—though at the time of this story he was only a child—and did everything in her power to quash Constantine and his mother. Initially, Chlorus sent Constantine east to serve under the nasty and brutish junior Emperor Galerius, which is where the story begins. Constantine survived the nefarious court and returned to his father, expecting to be welcomed back. He was in for a rude awakening!

His father exploded. “You’re starting the wrong way with me, Constantine. I didn’t plan to tell you this now, but I perhaps I should.” He stood over Constantine, daring him to rise up against him. His finger poked Constantine’s shoulder. “After the festival is over you will go to Treveris. There you will be appointed a Prefect of the city and you’ll learn the art of administration. Then perhaps you’ll understand why we appreciate our governor at Massilia.” His tone had turned dismissive.
 “What!” Constantine spat out the word.
His father stepped back and was examining him coolly, his hand by his dagger. Constantine tried to calm himself. He could die here if he pushed things too far. He’d heard stories of fathers who’d killed their sons during minor disagreements.

With all this background, Constantine is not the central figure in this novel. Our protagonist is the fictional Juliana (we learn that in the Historical Background), a slave girl rescued by Constantine and purchased by his friend Lucius. Juliana is a bit stand-offish and very protective of her own dignity and chastity. She travels with the royal party all the way to Britain, acknowledged by Constantine but rarely speaking to him—at least at first. Much of the drama is seen through her eyes. Just to complicate matters, an alluring priestess/spy/enchantress named Sybellina visits Chlorus’s court, who drives much of the action and has her own agenda; Juliana quickly gets on her bad side when she refuses to cooperate with her.

So what we have is a young Constantine who hasn’t found himself yet, his friend Lucius, a Christian surreptitiously pushing his religious agenda, an ailing emperor of the West who wants to do the right thing but who squirms under the influence of his wicked empress, a scheming priestess whose motives are difficult to fathom, and a slave girl whose background activities influence events. There’s a lot of jumping between scenes and a few diversions, complex plot lines and multi-layered intrigues. Surviving his second major threat, Constantine has nowhere to go but forward!

Buy Link: Amazon

Meet Laurence O’Bryan

I spent twenty years studying Roman history and reading every book about Constantine the Great I could find. I also visited numerous sites where my Roman series is set, including in London, where I lived for ten years, Jerusalem, Rome, Trier, York, Nicomedia and Istanbul.

The first novel in the series, The Sign of The Blood, is about the rise to power of Constantine the Great, the women who helped him, and the others who wanted him dead.

The Road to The Bridge, the second novel in the series, is about the lead up to the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D. and how Constantine the Great lured Maxentius, his rival emperor, out of Rome.

The third novel in the series, The Cursed City, is about the dedication of New Rome, later to be called Constantinople, and how Constantine fell out with his wife, Fausta, and his son Crispus, and what he had to do to survive.

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There are five novels in the puzzle series, The Istanbul Puzzle, The Jerusalem Puzzle, The Manhattan Puzzle, The Nuremberg Puzzle and The Cairo Puzzle. There is a story link from The Istanbul Puzzle to The Cursed City.

My books have:
* Achieved #1 ranking on Amazon,
* Been translated into 10 languages.

My roots go back to a small estate deep in the Mountains of Mourne near the Silent Valley, in County Down, Northern Ireland. I went to school in Dublin, drank way too much, studied English and history, then business, then IT at Oxford University.
My research has taken me all over the world, from San Francisco to deep in the Muslim world. There are secrets everywhere. I enjoy writing about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them.

Connect with Laurence: Twitter

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