When I began planning a book in which Rasheed fell in love with a woman from Venice whose father had taken her all over the Mediterranean by ship, I had several historical options to work with. Ultimately, I decided the Navarrese holding their former ally, Nerio Acioli, hostage and the fall of Neopatras were the most interesting set of events that followed the time of the first book in this series, Of Sword and Shadow. Those events were also among the better documented, though that’s not saying much when it comes to the medieval Duchy of Athens. As an author who started off writing novels set during WWII, the level of detail about medieval events—or lack thereof—is a dramatic change, but I enjoyed the challenge of creating a story that filled in the missing details
around the limited historic facts.
Most events in this novel didn’t really happen, but I did my best to make sure they were things that could have happened. What’s real? General information on the Navarrese Company is based in history. They took Livadeia after taking Thebes, then sold or lost Thebes to Nerio Acioli (historians aren’t sure if the change was hostile or cooperative). They also formed an alliance with Venice to help the Venetians take Argos and Nauplia. Both cities had been purchased by Venice from a widow who couldn’t hold them herself, but they were then seized by Nerio Acioli and Theodore Paleologus. After promising Acioli safe passage, the Navarrese captured him and held him hostage in the castle of Listrina, in the care of Bertranet Mona. He was later released—not because his son-in-law handed his conquests over to the Venetians but because his daughter became hostage in his place. Incidentally, it was his daughter Francesca, wife of Carlo Tocco, rather than Bartolomaea, wife of Theodore Paleologus, who took his place as hostage. When Acioli died, his will reflected Francesca’s status as favorite daughter.
Mention of events in Livadeia and Athens are based in history. The plague in Athens that killed part of Sebastie’s family is also listed in the historical accounts of the time (not the plague—that was a few generations before the time of this story—but it was still deadly for many who caught it). Nerio Acioli’s troops took most of Athens in 1385, then struggled for several years to take the acropolis (called the Castell de Cetines at the time), succeeding only in 1388.
The fall of Neopatras from Catalan hands to forces Micer Aner led is based in history, but very few details survive. The Catalans requested aid from King Pedro, but the city fell before any outside help could arrive.
Turkish pirates and raiders were a realistic threat to the Duchy during that time. Sultan Bayezid was interested in expansion into what is now Greece—and would begin his work a few short years after the time of this story’s main events. His interest in the Sea Maiden, however, is, like the ship, fictional. Bayezid never completed his conquest of Greece. He was captured by Timer (Tamerlane) in 1402 and died in captivity. Forces under Bayezid’s great-grandson, Mehmed II, took over Greece completely, and it remained under Ottoman rule for nearly 400 years.
The complicated alliances and tensions between Florentine, Venetian, Catalan, Navarrese, Greek, and Turkish forces throughout the Duchy are based on historical sources. Other groups also played roles but didn’t fall into the scope of this novel.
Rasheed’s place of birth, Valencia (the region, not the city), was a Christian kingdom at the time. Though most Muslims in Christian-ruled areas of what would become Spain had switched to romance languages by the end of the fourteenth century, the size of the Muslim population of Valencia meant they were able to keep the use of Arabic and other traditions. Christians and Muslims in his childhood town would have lived segregated lives, but interaction, though regulated, would have been commonplace.
Venetian culture and the history of the war of the Chioggia between Venice and Genoa is portrayed accurately in this novel. The war almost destroyed Venice, but in the end, Genoa began a decline and Venice went on to greater power. Venetian power was extensive throughout the late medieval Mediterranean world, including in Greece. As mentioned before, the Sea Maiden is fictional, but it is based on the standard galleys of the time.
Nerio Acioli, Theodore Paleologus, Pedro de San Superano, Carlo Zeno, Juan de Urtubia, Bertranet Mona, Sultan Bayezid, Micer Aner, Andrés Zavall, Simon Atumano, and King Pedro are all real people from history, and most of the information presented about them in this novel is factual, but details like dialogue are fictitious and used for story purposes rather than based on historical documentation.
Nowadays, Neopatras is known as Ypati. Most of the area was destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, but part of the acropolis keep remains. Vostitza (also spelled Vostitsa) is now called Aigio, and Vitrinitsa is called Tolofon.
Thanks to Charissa Stastny, who gave me confidence in this story and pointed out areas that could be made stronger, and to Kathi Oram Peterson, who poured hours into a very helpful edit and pinpointed a key issue that needed to be fixed. Thank you also to Ron Machado for reading this one without having read the first book in the series so I could test the book’s stand-alone abilities.
Thank you to Samantha Millburn, Amy Parker, Natalie Brown, Margaret Weber, and everyone else at Covenant who worked behind the scenes to help me share this book.
If you enjoyed this story, I would be sincerely grateful for a review on websites that sell or discuss books or a recommendation on social media. Word of mouth—in person or via the internet—is the best way to help an author. Thank you, dear readers, for spending time with my stories and making it possible for me to do what I love.