A young Englishman, Tom Swan, is badly wounded in a desperate sea fight. When he wakes in a hospital, he's in one of the last towns in Greece holding out against the Turks. And there aren't any women to be found. Rich men vie to hire him, and they all seem to want the same thing-a fabulous jewel made for Alexander the Great.
He's not a professional soldier. He's really a thief and a little bit of a scholar looking for remnants of Ancient Greece and Rome - temples, graves, pottery, fabulous animals, unicorn horns. But he also has a real talent for ending up in the midst of violence when he didn't mean to. Having used his wits to escape execution in part one, he begins a series of adventures that take him to the high seas, bedrooms in Constantinople and street duels in Italy, meetings with remarkable men - Cyriaco of Ancona and Sultan Mehmet II and the whole Sforza family - and from the intrigues of Rome to the Jewish Ghetto in Venice.