BYZANTIUM by Stephen R. Lawhead

BYZANTIUM

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A new venture from the author of the Pendragon Cycle (The Endless Knot, 1993, etc.), though here the fantasy elements-- ghosts, angels, some prophetic dreams--are all but imperceptible. In the tenth century, the Irish monks of Kells have prepared a magnificent illuminated manuscript, its cover splendid with silver and jewels. This Book of Kells will be presented to the Holy Roman Emperor at Byzantium. One of the monks chosen to accompany the gift is pious young Aidan mac Cainnech, who dreams of the Emperor's fabled city and foresees his death there. Off Brittany, however, the monks' boat is sunk by Vikings, and Aidan is carried off to be a slave to the warrior Gunnar in distant Sweden. Through his learning, piety, and quick wits, Aidan catches the attention of the Danish King, Harald Bull-Roar, who nurses grandiose plans to sail south and east to sack Byzantium. But when Harald and his small fleet finally reach the huge, opulent, powerful city, he realizes the impossibility of his ambitions, and only Aidan's knowledge of Latin and Greek keeps the warriors out of trouble. After a dispute with a city official, Harald and Aidan come before the Holy Roman Emperor, Basil, who not only agrees to the justice of their claim, but hires the Danes to protect a diplomatic mission to Trebizond, where Basil hopes to conclude a treaty with the Arabs. And in agreeing to become the emperor's spy, Aidan will lose, then eventually regain, his faith, and experiences betrayal, further enslavement, a reunion with friends long thought dead, intrigues, a return to Sweden, and a final spiritual triumph. Far-fetched but often engrossing, with plenty of plot twists despite Lawhead's sometimes shaky grip on the details: Worthwhile for Lawhead regulars and historical-fantasy fans alike.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-109296-7
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996




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