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An Ethan Gage series summary

by bdietrich on August 4, 2015

Recently, some readers have asked me about the order of the seven Ethan Gage books, with an eighth on the way.  While the books can be enjoyed as stand-alone reads, history progresses and Ethan ages and matures in the series, so it’s understandable that many prefer to read them in order.

For those unfamiliar with my Napoleonic hero, Ethan is an American adventurer and one-time protégé of the aging Benjamin Franklin who is caught up with Bonaparte and his tumultuous times. Gage is a sharpshooter, gambler, and “electrician” who has a self-deprecating sense of humor and a wry view of humanity. He struggles with his own very human faults. Circumstance sometimes puts him in league with Napoleon, and sometimes against.

Inspirations for this character would include Indiana Jones, Hans Solo, Victorian rascal Harry Flashman, lighter treatments of D’Artagnan and Robin Hood, and fictional historical observers such as Jack Crabb in Little Big Man.

The books are carefully researched, and readers can learn a great deal. A supplement to the series is my nonfiction book, Napoleon’s Rules: Life and Career Lessons from Bonaparte.

Here’s a quick summary, with a warning of mild spoilers if you read the book descriptions. Much more detail is available elsewhere on my website, www.williamdietrich.com.

1. Napoleon’s Pyramids. Ethan is caught up in Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt and meets the love of his life, Astiza. The two are embroiled in mysteries of the Great Pyramid. This one even has some pyramid mathematics! (Easy ones, I promise.)

2. The Rosetta Key. Ethan fights on the British side during Napoleon’s 1799 siege of Acre and his invasion of the Holy Land. Gage explores the lost city of Petra to find the ancient Book of Thoth, and witnesses Bonaparte’s seizure of power in France. He and Astiza reluctantly part.

These two books make a tandem because the fate of some characters is not resolved until the end of Rosetta.

3. The Dakota Cipher. Ethan plays a role in Napoleon’s decisive victory at Marengo, Italy, in 1800 and then has to flee to the United States, where he visits New York and Washington, D.C., in its infancy. Thomas Jefferson sends him to the Great Lakes frontier and its power politics between Americans, British, and Indians, and he journeys beyond in search of Norse artifacts, including Thor’s Hammer.

4. The Barbary Pirates. Ethan combines with inventor Robert Fulton and early scientists to search for the legendary Mirror of Archimedes that could tip the balance of power in the Mediterranean. His nemesis from the Dakotas is in league with North African pirates, and Ethan must rescue his lost love Astiza – who has borne their son Horus, or Harry. A real-life Fulton submarine plays a role.

Again, these two books make a tandem to resolve some character fates.

5. The Emerald Storm. From a glider escape at a French fortress, Ethan takes his new family to the Caribbean where they are caught up in the Haitian slave revolt that expelled the French. Battle, voodoo, a hurricane, treasure, and treachery. Taken from history is an offshore rock at Martinique that England declared a warship.

6. The Barbed Crown. Ethan lands back in France determined to help overthrow Napoleon, but a surprise reunion and royalist blunders end up bouncing him from one side to another. He plays an unwitting role in Bonaparte’s coronation as emperor and finds himself on the French-Spanish side in the titanic naval battle of Trafalgar.

7. The Three Emperors. A quest for a medieval automaton that can foretell the future sends Ethan hurtling from Venice to Prague, with a stop in-between at the 1805 Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon’s greatest victory. Alchemy, mysticism, and peril underground. This is the first book in the series to give Astiza and Harry their own first-person chapters to lend their own perspective.

Again, a quest that begins in Barbed is ultimately resolved in Three.

8. The Trojan Icon. Still under construction, but nearing completion. Ethan will journey from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Constantinople (Istanbul) by way of Latvia, Poland, and Transylvania with all kinds of royal and nationalist intrigues. The best one yet, of course, with escalating quests for artifacts that can turn the tide of history, plus the most terrifying villains ever. Again, chapters for Astiza and Harry.

Beyond that? I’ve got all kinds of ideas for my peripatetic heroes, but never promise too far ahead. I do enjoy describing the early 19th Century world that, with its industrial, scientific, military, and political revolutions gave birth to our own.

I hope you’ll enjoy the journey.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Gillispie August 6, 2015 at 8:29 am

hi, just stumbled on Ethan Gage, but it wasn’t the first book, but I’m one of those who has to go back to the beginning. This guy looks like I would find him fascinating.


Kristi Taylor August 27, 2015 at 12:08 pm

I first read The Emerald Storm and fell in love with the story. I love this series and the way that so much history is mixed into the fictional character, Ethan Gage. I too had to go back to the beginning and now I own and have read the complete series. I can’t wait for the next book to be released.


Jason Venter September 14, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I was at the local Fred Meyer a few weeks back and saw The Barbed Crown among the books for sale. I checked out the back cover and it sounded interesting, but it also sounded like a later entry in the series, so I had the good sense to go home and search on Wikipedia, and from there I’ve started at the beginning.

I just finished reading The Rosetta Stone last night and will write my thoughts about it elsewhere in short order. In any event, I plan to keep going with the series through at least another book or two and probably much more (plus I’m thinking I will probably check out Flashman at some point along the way).

I’m glad the Ethan Gage series exists. I never really saw the appeal of the pyramids and their mystery and scale before reading Napoleon’s Pyramids, but I’m suddenly developing a bit of a fascination with that period by way of Ethan Gage. To me, the first volume had some parts that were slow going, but it’s worth getting through those segments for the rewards that follow, including some of the most vivid depictions of battle that I’ve read anywhere, whether in fiction or otherwise. I’m quickly becoming a fan!


Sevag Sarmazian September 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm

I’ve read them all in order and thoroughly enjoyed them – perhaps more than any other historical fiction series ever. I can’t wait for the Trojan Icon.

The Barbary Pirates is a personal favourite, with the Barbed Crown a close second.


Kurt November 1, 2015 at 1:04 pm

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. I’ve introduced friends to Ethan Gage and described him as an American Flashman. Great characters in the likes of Sabatini and Dumas. Keep them coming!


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