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The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry

The Sheen on the Silk

by Anne Perry

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    Baudolino by Umberto Eco (Limelite)
    Limelite: Similarly set in Constantinople in the Middle Ages, Eco's book, also a saga, is literary, far richer, and more dynamic.

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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. ( )
  makaiju | Apr 5, 2014 |
Writing is so hard; sometimes the difference between "showing" and "telling" can be very subtle. After all, no matter how much action you "show," you're still "telling" it on the page. How do you make your reader believe your "writing/telling" is "experiencing/showing?"

My feeling with Sheen is at this point that there's too much telling going on; it weighs down the story, kind of squashes flat the emotional arc. However, this story hits a personal trifecta with me (history, mystery, medicine) so I am going to give it a little bit more time and see what happens, but it is making me want to re-read (again) [b:The Beacon at Alexandria|146684|The Beacon at Alexandria (The Hera Series)|Gillian Bradshaw|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1172181687s/146684.jpg|141566].


OK, I'm going to let this one go. There's too many other things I want to try & the story or writing isn't pulling me back to it.
  MelissaZD | Jan 1, 2014 |

I love the theory of this book, since I absolutely adored [book:The Beacon at Alexandria|146684]. A woman, driven to disguise herself as a eunuch to practice medicine. Lush settings and a story full of intrigue is what I expected.

What I got was the story of a woman who already was a successful physician as a woman, who moved to Constantinople to clear her brother's name. And disguised herself as a eunuch. For some reason.

Within 60 pages she had already acquired as patients two of the most influential people in the entire city, after dithering about how difficult it would be to get into the upper echelon of society to find out about her brother's fate.

I was skeptical of how well the book was going to go.

Then I realized that one of the influential patients was a woman described as beautiful in such flowery terms that she basically just had to be a goddess. All men wanted to sleep with her (except her son-in-law, who she assumed to be "passionless" because she was unsuccessful at seducing him), all women wanted to be her, and her daughter was wildly jealous of her mother's youthful good looks.

With such a description cropping up every time this woman was on the page, I was a little stunned to find out that she was in her 70's.

I'm not saying that 70-year-old women can't be attractive. Helen Mirren is one of the most beautiful people in the world. But Helen Mirren also looks beautifully her own age.

When the descriptions of the elderly hottie wouldn't stop, and I was on yet another description of a eunuch as "soft-faced" (it was the author's go-to descriptor for eunuchs), I had to give up.

If you want a GOOD book about a woman who is willing to sacrifice her whole traditional future for the sake of medicine, read [book:The Beacon at Alexandria|146684]. Skip this one. It's awful. ( )
  PaperCrystals | Apr 18, 2013 |
A really interesting book, this novel delves into far more than the superficial plot. In the year 1270, a young lady decides she must go to Constantinople to search for her twin brother, She has a trade, medicine, trained by their father, a well known doctor and decides to go dressed as a man to make herself safer from those who would take advantage of a woman alone. In a winding plot, she discovers where her brother is imprisoned and proves that he is not really guilty of the crimes he is accused of, and, in the meantime, she meets the heads of state and religion and other important characters in the city. There is social analysis, good detail, good character description and analysis. For the history buff, this book is pure delight, as well as being appealing to the romantic side of the reader. An entertaining and informative read. ( )
  herbcat | Apr 16, 2013 |
It's always nice to see a good author show versatility, and Anne Perry has done that with this book. It has even more depth and substance than her popular detective series and greater results to be gained if the puzzles are worked out. While all the principles are trying to work out an idea of what is really happening, what has happened, and what is going to happen, kismet comes along and gives it all a new twist. In trying to save Constantinople from another sacking by the "Christian crusaders" on their way to Jerusalem, the Byzantines consider signing a truce and agreement with the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Pope, a move which would likely lead to the eastern church losing much of its self determination to the less openminded Roman Catholics. Rome uses many tactics to gain the upper hand, but many of the Byzantine residents are just as clever and resourceful in combating the supposed threat. This is a delicious look at the politics of the area in 1276, including lots of interesting detail and much religious philosophy of the era and much historical fact. The western world probably owes a great deal to the brave citizens of Constantinople, in culture, heritage, and freedom as well as the resulting history. ( )
  herbcat | Feb 24, 2013 |
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Arriving in the ancient Byzantine city in the year 1273, Anna Zarides has only one mission: to prove the innocence of her twin brother, Justinian, who has been exiled to the desert for conspiring to kill Bessarion, a nobleman. Disguising herself as a eunuch named Anastasius, Anna moves freely about in society, using her skills as a physician to manoeuver close to the key players involved in her brother's fate.… (more)

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