wilderthan: ((Akihiko) Oh yeah?)
[personal profile] wilderthan
I've found most of Stephen Lawhead's books disappointing. I read The Paradise War when I was younger and nothing else has ever quite matched up to the vibrancy and life of that one. Byzantium is a stand-alone novel, based on history, not purer fantasy with Celtic roots like The Paradise War, so perhaps that's part of it.

I actually found Byzantium a little ridiculous when I stopped to think about it. I don't presume to know how historically accurate it is, but the entanglement of Vikings, Celtic Christian monks, the Byzantine Empire and the Saracens seems a little... off to me. Especially with the Book of Kells thrown into the mix. But whatever, maybe it's more historical than I think -- truth is stranger than fiction.

But the whole story is just so... implausible. A monk who is chosen, for some reason not really made clear, to go to Byzantium on a pilgrimage. Who has dreams that show him the future. Who gets captured by nice Vikings. And becomes the slave of the king. And gets to Byzantium anyway. And becomes a spy for the emperor. And then ends up in a Muslim amir's house and wants to marry a Muslim woman.


Can you see why I raised my eyebrows at this?

The writing is okay, a little "purple prose"ish in places but not too bad overall. Definitely readable, if a bit slow going -- not helped by tiny font-size. I liked some of the characters -- Gunnar and Dugal, particularly -- but mostly got distracted by the improbability of it all. The character of Kazimain seemed entirely superfluous, since she added nothing to the plot, in the end, or to Aidan's character.

The Christian themes were expected, with Stephen Lawhead, but more appropriate here, perhaps, than anywhere else, given that the main character is a monk.


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