A vanguard of the Mongol horde rides west across the steppes into an eerily Bilent world. People lie dead in villages and in the streets of towns. The Black Death has struck Europe. There arc virtually no survivors. Into this empty land pour marchants, warlords and refugees, and from that day forward history is shaped by the East instead of the West. Japanese ships cross the Pacific Ocean and Chinese ships cross the Atlantic to colonise the New World, while a scientific revolution is begun in Samarkand. And the destinies of a cast of unforgettable characters weave a bright new pattern through seven hundred years of history as it never was, but might have been.