by Anne Perry
When her brother Justinian is accused of plotting a murder and banished from Constantinople, Anna Lascaris disguises herself as a eunuch and under the name Anastasius establishes herself as a physician and attempts to uncover the true murderer and clear Justinian’s name. Over the course of many years, Anna gains access to some of the most powerful people in Byzantium, but she struggles to piece together the complicated plot that led to the death of Bessarion Comnenos. As she heals the sick and sleuths on the side, the Roman Catholic Church and the powers of Europe plot to destroy the powerful Byzantine Empire.
This novel was something of a mess. It’s overly long, both in duration and in page count. Anna spends nearly a decade trying to save Justinian, and much of that time is spent doing very little. Progress is very, very slow, and in the meantime she heals the sick and chats with the Bishop Constantine. Countless side plots fill the pages as Anna does nothing. A woman named Zoe plots revenge on the men that she feels are responsible for the sack of Constantinople in 1204, when she was a child. Described by the author as a breathtaking, sexy beauty, Zoe is in her seventies – and the disconnect of an old woman bewitching men with her smoldering looks was hard to get past. Her daughter, Helena, plots to gain power as Rome and Venice make plans first to convert to Constantinople to Catholicism, then to defeat the Byzantine Empire. A Venetian trader and a Roman Cardinal fall in love with the exotic city even as they help plan its destruction. A bishop in the Orthodox Church wrestles with his lack of faith. There is simply too much going on.
Anna is about as delicate and subtle as a bull in a china shop. She’s constantly asking people about her brother and the murder of Bessarion, bringing it up in nearly every conversation. I realize that in the span of ten years, there were probably many “off camera” conversations on other topics, but as far as the reader is shown Bessarion’s death is all Anna ever talks about. No wonder people are suspicious of revealing too much to her!
The author has a very flowery style of prose. It works well for describing the bustling atmosphere of the city itself, but when it comes to characters’ internal thoughts it becomes overwhelming. It also lends itself to repetition, and as multiple characters fawn over the same aspects of Constantinople and Byzantine life over and over, one begins to wonder why an editor didn’t step in and cut some of this unnecessary fluff.
1.5 out of 5 stars
To read more about The Sheen on the Silk, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Cavalier Mr. Thompson by Rich Tommaso
2012: Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2012: Animal Crackers
2011: Off to Ashland for a few days!
2010: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
2009: Vacation in Yosemite