Byzantium by Stephen R. Lawhead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 1/2 stars, actually.
Three distinct 9th Century settings - an Abbey in Ireland, a Viking settlement in Scandanavia, and the cities and deserts surrounding Busantium, now known as Istanbul - make for a LOT of interesting historical fun and facts. The reader goes on a journey of discovery with Aiden, a young monk who starts out as part of pilgrimage to deliver a gift to the Emperor Basil. Along the way he's captured, the rest of the monks are presumed dead, he becomes a slave and is traded and loaned out as many times as an epic requires, and runs into enough intrigue to keep his classically educated intellect alive and kicking. The book is a fun read, in a swashbuckling/religious politics mash up sort of way. I'm not sure the plot needed to be quite so, well, byzantine, but with the title what it is, I can't say I wasn't warned.
The one thing that kept me from really liking the book was the portrayal of the Barbarians. Were they really so Hagar the Horrible? I understand cultural differences, but at times they verged on comic relief. Barbarians yes, buffoons probably not.
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