For 1,500 years she has been cruelly maligned by history. Labelled as corrupt, immoral and sexually depraved by the sixth-century historian Procopius in his notorious Secret History, the Byzantine Empress Theodora was condemned to be judged a degenerate harlot by posterity. Until now.
Due to a conviction that its contents would only be understood by generations of the distant future, a manuscript that has remained unopened for a millennium and a half is about to set the record straight. It will unravel the deepest secrets of a captivating and charismatic courtesan, her unlikely romance with an Emperor, and her rise to power and influence that would outshine even Cleopatra.
This historical novel traces the love affairs, travails, machinations, scandals and triumphs of a cast of real characters who inhabit an Empire at its glorious and fragile peak. It’s the tale of a dazzling civilization in its Golden Age; one which, despite plague, earthquakes and marauding Huns, would lay the foundation for modern Europe as we know it.
Publication Date: November 7, 2013
"My life" she said, "is not something that happens to me. It's what I cause to happen."
Like so many others that have reviewed this book, I also was introduced to Theodora with Stephanie Thornton's book, The Secret History (I loved it). Was I nervous about reading this book and comparing the two? No, not at all. I find it interesting to read the same subject matter by different authors, it adds a unique and individual prospective.
This book did not disappoint, right from the beginning I was drawn in. The writing style reflected the time period and made for a very enjoyable read. The narrative had me visualizing sights and smells in my head. This book was drafted by a monk and childhood friend named Fabianus. As Theodora tells her story there were times when Fabianus went back in time to their childhood recalling events and filling in the gaps. Theodora had quite the life, beginning in the circus with a bear training father, turning actress, prostitute and mate to Justinian.
The book centers also on Justinian and his story, how he became Emperor, though a lowly man, the son of a pig farmer.
This book is rich in detail, the author has shown that a vast amount of research and time went into writing this novel. This is my first book by Carol Strickland, I will be looking at what else she has written, I like her style.
There were no Author Notes and that I missed.
Praise for The Eagle and the Swan“It’s a book rife with detail and passion. If you like historical fiction this book hits on all cylinders. The level of detail in terms of prose and historical relevance is engaging. And THEN the plot is what’s moving. The love and lust combined with a compelling story, taking on universal themes from a cross section of history, makes for a gripping work.”
“Carol Strickland has written a masterful epic. It is beautifully crafted and impossible to put down.”
“Beautiful storytelling. Fascinating and well-developed characters. What an interesting time in history! This book was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The Eagle and the Swan is a must-read!”
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Carol Strickland is an art and architecture critic, prize-winning screenwriter, and journalist who’s contributed to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Art in America magazine. A Ph.D. in literature and former writing professor, she’s author of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in the History of Art from Prehistoric to Post-Modern (which has sold more than 400,000 copies in multiple editions and translations), The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture, The Illustrated Timeline of Art History, The Illustrated Timeline of Western Literature, and monographs on individual artists.
While writing on masterpieces of Byzantine art (glorious mosaics in Ravenna, Italy featuring Theodora and Justinian and the monumental Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul built by Justinian), Strickland became fascinated by the woman who began life as a swan dancer and her husband, an ex-swineherd.
Knowing how maligned they were by the official historian of their era Procopius, who wrote a slanderous “Secret History” vilifying them, Strickland decided to let the audacious Theodora tell her story. She emerges not just as the bear-keeper’s daughter and a former prostitute who ensnared the man who became emperor, but as a courageous crusader against the abuse of women, children, and free-thinkers.
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