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“A sprawling fantasy saga . . . Caleb Carr boldly goes where he’s never gone before.”—USA Today
Legend meets history in this mesmerizing novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Caleb Carr. Demonstrating the rich storytelling, skillful plotting, and depth of research he showcased in The Alienist, Carr has written a wildly imaginative, genre-bending saga that redefines the boundaries of literature.
Some years ago, a remarkable manuscript long rumored to exist was discovered: The Legend of Broken. It tells of a prosperous fortress city where order reigns at the point of a sword—even as scheming factions secretly vie for control of the surrounding kingdom. Meanwhile, outside the city’s granite walls, an industrious tribe of exiles known as the Bane forages for sustenance in the wilds of Davon Wood.
At every turn, the lives of Broken’s defenders and its would-be destroyers intertwine: Sixt Arnem, the widely respected and honorable head of the kingdom’s powerful army, grapples with his conscience and newfound responsibilities amid rumors of impending war. Lord Baster-kin, master of the Merchants’ Council, struggles to maintain the magnificence of his kingdom even as he pursues vainglorious dreams of power. And Keera, a gifted female tracker of the Bane tribe, embarks on a perilous journey to save her people, enlisting the aid of the notorious and brilliant philosopher Caliphestros. Together, they hope to exact a ruinous revenge on Broken, ushering in a day of reckoning when the mighty walls will be breached forever in a triumph of science over superstition.
Breathtakingly profound and compulsively readable, Caleb Carr’s long-awaited new book is an action-packed, multicharacter epic of a medieval clash of cultures—in which new gods collide with old, science defies all expectation, and virtue comes in many guises. Brimming with adventure and narrative invention, The Legend of Broken is an exhilarating and enthralling masterwork.
Praise for The Legend of Broken
“An excellent and old-fashioned entertainment . . . The Legend of Broken seamlessly blends epic adventure with serious research and asks questions that men and women grappled with in the Dark Ages and still do today.”—The Washington Post
“[A] colossal effort . . . a fantasy epic . . . meant as an allegory, a cautionary tale for our precarious times. To make his points, Carr has summoned a dream team of soldiers, wizards, and tiny forest folk.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Carr keeps the action hurtling along with a steady diet of gruesome murders and political betrayals. And he clearly wants modern readers to see something of their own world in the political corruption and greed that ultimately doom Broken.”—The Boston Globe
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Caleb Carr is the critically acclaimed author of The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness, The Lessons of Terror, Killing Time, The Devil Soldier, and The Italian Secretary. He has taught military history at Bard College, and worked extensively in film, television, and the theater. His military and political writings have appeared in numerous magazines and periodicals, among them The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in upstate New York.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
November 3, 1790
Are there reasons to count the central elements of the tale credible?
There are. First, the location of the small but evidently powerful realm of Broken can easily be calculated: The narrator’s mention of it as lying outside the northeastern borders of the western Roman empire place it somewhere in Germania, while his descriptions of the dramatic countryside call to mind not only the fertile fields of the Saale and Elbe River valleys, but, even more pointedly, the dense, timeless forests of Thuringia and Saxony, in particular the Harz mountain range—the highest point of which is a summit called Brocken (the “c” was evidently dropped in the Broken dialect, with the result that the word was pronounced much as it would have been, and is, in Old and Modern English). This mountain has ever been infamous as the supposed seat of unholy forces and unnatural rites,† and its physical attributes conform closely to the mountain atop which the city of Broken is said to have stood (particularly its summit of stone, which bears some resemblance to the Gallic stronghold of Alesia, although it was far superior from a military perspective).
As to the customs and culture of the people of Broken, they were certainly more developed than anything that can be found in central Europe between the fifth and eighth centuries a.d., the period during which the greater part of the kingdom’s history seems to have transpired. But this difference can, I believe, be accounted for by the unidentified narrator’s assertion that the kingdom’s founding ruler, one Oxmontrot, and several of his tribesmen once fought as barbarian auxiliaries for both the Western and Eastern regions of the Roman empire. Evidently this chieftain possessed not only a brutal sword arm, but a potent intellect, as well, which absorbed and made use of many of the most beautiful, noble, and administratively effective Roman traditions.
Unfortunately, he also legitimized the beliefs of his less perspicacious companions, who had been drawn into several of the most extreme Roman cults of sensuality and materialism that had been organized around such deities as Elagabalus [var. Heliogabalus] and Astarte, and who wished to form a similar new faith of their own. This longing took the form of a similarly secret and degenerate cult, one that was permitted by Oxmontrot to become the new faith of the kingdom of Broken, for reasons that will become clear. The faith was organized around what had, until then, been a minor deity in Rome’s eastern provinces, one called Kafra; and his dominance would lead to the second most important development in the early years of Broken, the creation of the race of exiles known as the Bane.†
—Edward Gibbon to Edmund Burke
My pitted skull sees once more, and my bleached jaws crack to tell the secrets of Broken . . .
And so these words have at last risen from the ground in which I will inter them, defying Fate as my homeland of Bro ken never can. The city’s great granite walls will remain shattered, until they again become the shapeless raw stone from which they were fashioned. Do not pretend, scholars unborn, that you know of my kingdom; it is as windblown and forgotten as my own bones. My purpose now is to tell how this tragedy came to pass.
Do you wonder at my saying “tragedy”? How can I say anything else, when I know full well that historians of your day will be unable to state with conviction whether Broken ever existed at all, despite its magnificent accomplishments? When I know that its enemies, as well as some of its most loyal citizens—to say nothing of Nature itself—shall work as hard as they evidently have done to dismantle the great city’s magnificent form? And that I, from whose mind that magnificence sprang, still deem the destruction just . . .†
Above all, consider this, before going on: You are embarked on a journey in which every cruelty, every unnatural urge, and every savagery known to men plays a part; yet there is compassion here, too, and also courage, although it is one of the peculiarities of the tale that each of these qualities appears when it is least expected. And so: let strength of heart guide you through each period of confusion to the next point of hope, keeping despair from your soul and allowing you to learn from this history in a manner that my descendants—that I—never could.
Yes, I became utterly lost . . . Do I remain so? My own family whispers that I am mad, just as they did when I first spoke of recording these events with the sole purpose of burying the finished text deep in the Earth. Yet if I am mad, it is because of these visions of Broken’s fate: visions that began unbidden long ago and have never departed, regardless of how desperately I have begged more than one Deity for peace, and no matter what intoxicating potions I have consumed. They weight me down, body and spirit, like a stone-filled sack about the neck, dragging me under the surface of my Moonlit lake, down to those depths that teem with so many other bodies . . .
I see all of them, even those that I never truthfully saw in life. They ought to have faded: it has been more than the span of most men’s lives since I returned from the wars to the south† and the apparitions began, and it has been half again as long since I came back from my voyage to the monks across the Seksent Straits,‡ who revealed to me the meaning of my visions, that I might record all that I know to be true, against the day when someone, when you, would stumble upon my work, and determine if the mind that had created it yet deserves to be called mad.
But there will be time enough for all such deliberations, while there is precious little, now, to explain what you must know about my kingdom before our journey can begin. Yet the monks under whom I studied warned against plain recitation; and so—imagine this:
We tumble together out of the eternal heavens, where all ages are as one and we may meet as fellow travelers, toward the more constrainèd Earth, which is, at the moment of our approach, in an era earlier than your own, yet later than mine. Passing through the mists that envelop a range of mountains more impressive than lofty, more deadly than majestic, we soon come to the highest branches of a perilous expanse of forest. The variety of trees seems nearly impossible, and the whole forms a thick green roof over the wilderness below; a roof that we, in our magical flight, shall penetrate with dreamlike ease, eventually settling on a thick lower limb of one obliging oak. From our perch we are afforded an excellent view of the woodland floor, lush and seemingly gentle; but its wide carpets of moss frequently conceal deadly bogs, and its stands of enormous ferns and thick brambles are capable of cutting and poisoning the toughest human flesh. Even beauty, here, is deadly: for many of the delicate flowers that emerge from the mosses or cling to the trees and rocks offer fragrant elixirs fatal to the greedy. Yet those same extracts, in the hands of the less rapacious, can be made to cure sickness, and ease pain.
Yet what of man, in this place? It was once believed that humans could not survive, here; for we have entered Davon Wood,†† the great forest that the people of Old Broken said was made by all the gods to imprison the worst of demons, in order that they might know the loneliness and suffering that they inflicted upon those creatures that they tormented. The Wood has always provided an impenetrable southern and western frontier for Broken, one whose dangers have been plain even to the wild marauders† that first appeared out of the morning sun generations ago, and that yet ravage neighboring domains. Only a few of these invaders have even attempted to traverse the Wood’s unmeasured expanse, and of that small number even fewer have reemerged, scarred and crazed, to declare the undertaking not only impossible but damned. The citizens of Broken were once content to view the Wood from the safety of the banks of the thundering river called the Cat’s Paw, which provides a perilous break between the wilderness and the richness of Broken’s best farming dales to the north and the east. Yes, once my people were content, with this limitation as with so many;‡ but that was before –
Lo! They arrive ere I can speak their name—look quickly. There—and there! The blur of fur and hide, the glint of furtive eyes, the whole fluid: between, under, and over tree trunks and limbs, around and through nettle bushes and vine tangles. What are they? Look again; try to determine for yourself. Swift? Impossibly swift—they find pathways through the Wood that other animals cannot see, still less negotiate, and they navigate those courses with an agility that makes even the tree rodents stare in envy—
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