The amazon.com product description:
Videssos was beset by enemies abroad and had fallen into decadence at home. But on his first night in the imperial capital, The Empires health mattered less to Krispos than finding a dry place to sleep.This is the first of the second set of books that Turtledove has written set in the world of Videssos. The first series began with the book The Misplaced Legion, which I haven't read, though I intend to. The second and third books are, in order: Krispos of Videssos and Krospos The Emperor.
Driven by crushing taxes from the farm where his family had lived -- and died -- Krispos had come to the. city seeking what fortune a good mind and a strong back could earn. He had a single goldpiece to his name -- the gift, years past, of a nomad chieftain to a ragged peasant boy. Now, though the night was raw and the inn was warm, he was loath to spend that coin, for the barbarian had claimed it carried magic.
Keep his lucky goldpiece or trade it for a warm, dry bed? Krispos tucked the coin away and stepped back into the wet streets -- all unaware that so simple a choice would lead to a world of peril and possibility...
The world appears to be modeled at least somewhat on Byzantine society, although I am no expert on the subject. The author however, is, having a degree in Byzantine history.
I came to this series in an interesting way, through Turtledove's essay in the book Meditations on Middle-Earth. So far, and this is my first re-read through the series, I haven't found it disappointing. I do however, find that I have to be in the right "mood" to read the books.
I like a well-created world with believable characters, all of which can be found here.
The book starts in Krispos' childhood as a peasant and continues from there, following his rise to Emperor of Videssos through hard work and some lucky breaks. Many, but not all of the characters introduced as the story progresses turn out to play major roles later on.
The author is well known for his alternative history and science-fiction novels, such as his Cross-time Traders series, most of which I'll admit I haven't read.
Although the series is a older one, the books have been republished in an omnibus form as The Tale of Krispos. I'm wondering if The Videssos Cycle, the other series set in this world is ever going to be re-published as well. Currently, I'm still combing the used book-stores for some of them.