A meticulously researched historical account presented in the form of a thrilling political drama.



A historical novel set in sixth-century Constantinople charts the extraordinary ascent of a woman from poverty to royal power. 

Theodora is born into inauspicious beginnings: Her Greek father, Acacius, is a bear trainer in a circus, and her Syrian mother, Asima, is a dancer. Their fortunes only grow worse when Acacius dies in an accident. Theodora is only 5 years old when the tragedy happens and is forced to work by the time she is 10. Her life is brutally hard—she is raped with impunity at 12—but she is also dauntlessly ambitious and refuses to resign herself to a lowly station. Theodora learns to read and write and works as a prostitute and an actress, but she pines to escape the “fringes of the theater circuit.” She eventually becomes the mistress of Justinian, the nephew of the emperor, destined to take the throne. Martin (Hologram, 2017, etc.) weaves into the tale a crucial subplot—a poor Syrian boy, born Sufian but renamed Stephen after he’s sold to an unscrupulous magus, discovers that he’s “singularly adept at languages” and lands a high-ranking position in Justinian’s court. He befriends Theodora, but she betrays him. Later, as empress, she demands that Stephen—wasting away in jail—become her biographer, giving him an opportunity for both freedom and revenge. In this ambitious novel, the author vividly brings to life the cinematic story of Theodora’s life, chronicling her rise, more halting than meteoric, to spectacular power (“Theodora set about to prove wrong her sister’s assertions regarding the roles of women. She wanted to affirm that her own role in life was not preordained—and that she had some talent, some gift”). Martin’s command of the historical period—not just the chief political events, but also the nuances of its cultural mores—is masterful. Furthermore, he conjoins that scholarly rigor with novelistic excitement—the entire tale is intelligently conveyed with great emotional poignancy. 

A meticulously researched historical account presented in the form of a thrilling political drama. 

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73400-430-4

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Hussar Quill Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...


Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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