In a masterful dual narrative that pits the heights of human
ambition and achievement against the supremacy of nature, New York Times bestselling author Stephan Talty tells the story of
a mighty ruler and a tiny microbe, antagonists whose struggle would shape the
In the spring of 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte was at the height
of his powers. Forty-five million called him emperor, and he commanded a nation
that was the richest, most cultured, and advanced on earth. No army could stand
against his impeccably trained, brilliantly led forces, and his continued sweep
across Europe seemed inevitable.
Early that year, bolstered by his successes, Napoleon turned
his attentions toward Moscow, helming the largest invasion in human history.
Surely, Tsar Alexander’s outnumbered troops would crumble against this mighty
But another powerful and ancient enemy awaited Napoleon’s
men in the Russian steppes. Virulent and swift, this microscopic foe would
bring the emperor to his knees.
Even as the Russians retreated before him in disarray,
Napoleon found his army disappearing, his frantic doctors powerless to explain
what had struck down a hundred thousand soldiers. The emperor’s vaunted
military brilliance suddenly seemed useless, and when the Russians put their
own occupied capital to the torch, the campaign became a desperate race through
the frozen landscape as troops continued to die by the thousands. Through it
all, with tragic heroism, Napoleon’s disease-ravaged, freezing, starving men
somehow rallied, again and again, to cries of “Vive l’Empereur!”
Yet Talty’s sweeping tale takes us far beyond the doomed
heroics and bloody clashes of the battlefield. The Illustrious Dead delves deep into the origins of the pathogen
that finally ended the mighty emperor’s dreams of world conquest and exposes
this “war plague’s” hidden role throughout history. A tale of two unstoppable
forces meeting on the road to Moscow in an epic clash of killer microbe and
peerless army, The Illustrious Dead
is a historical whodunit in which a million lives hang in the balance. Download and start listening now!