Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book Review The Sheen on the Silk

Title The Sheen on the Silk: A Novel
Author Anne Perry
Rating *****
Tags novel, historical, constantinople, crusades, women, doctors 

I've read most of Anne Perry's books and liked them, but this one far surpasses the others. Perhaps it is just that it is easier to break free of constraints in a stand alone novel, one that is set in an entirely different time and place from her series.

The story is set in Constantinople in the 1270s. Anna Lascaris Zarides has come to Constantinople from her home in Nicea. Her twin brother Justinian has been exiled for his role in the death of the popular Bessarion, who was leading the fight against a union of the Orthodox Church and the Roman. The emperor, Michael Peleogus, has agreed to the union with Rome in order to save Constantinople from being attacked by Crusaders as it was 70 years previously, an attack from which it has not recovered.

Anna is a physician, but in order to operate openly in the city she pretends to be a eunuch. She gathers what information she can over a few years, treating everyone from the emperor to the poor while doing so.

The strength of this epic work is in its characters. Anna is an outstanding character, but there are others, from all sides of the various conflicts going on. The most amazing character is Zoe, who saw her mother raped and murdered in the sack of the city in 1204, and who will do anything to avoid a repeat of that disaster. Zoe is Constantinople, beautiful, old, cunning, a master of plots and counterplots. Other important characters include a papal legate, a Venetian soldier, the Orthodox clergyman who is determined that the city will not abandon its faith, and others. They are rich and complex characters, driven by the needs of their positions and beliefs, some convinced they know God's will, others seeking God's grace.

It is a long book, but tightly written... not a wasted page in it. I think that when 2020 comes around, this book will be considered one of the best of the decade.

Disclaimer: I received my copy of the book free from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I would have reviewed this book the same, however, if I had not gotten it free.

Publication Ballantine Books (2010), Hardcover, 528 pages
Publication date 2010
ISBN 0345500652 / 9780345500656

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

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