Customer Reviews for

The Sheen on the Silk

Average Rating 3.5
( 40 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

powerful historical thriller

In 1273 physician Anna Zarides learns that her twin Justinian has been proclaimed guilty as a conspirator of murdering Bessarion Comnenos. She refuses to believe her sibling would kill the prominent politically connected victim, who was perhaps the most powerful oppone...
In 1273 physician Anna Zarides learns that her twin Justinian has been proclaimed guilty as a conspirator of murdering Bessarion Comnenos. She refuses to believe her sibling would kill the prominent politically connected victim, who was perhaps the most powerful opponent of the Byzantium Empire merging with Rome.

Anna, dressed up as the eunuch Anastasius Zarides, crosses the Bosporus to Constantinople to find proof her brother, living in exile in Judea, is innocent. She quickly builds up a thriving medical practice among the traders as well as some of the influential people like Emperor Michael, Orthodox Bishop Constantine and the late Bessarion's mother-in-law Zoe Chrysaphes the poisoner. However, in spite of her growing clientele, Anna makes little progress in finding evidence to exonerate her sibling as the city's Christians are divided into factions over whether the Holy Ghost exists. The power struggle between the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor and the Byzantium Emperor and others threaten the well being of the innocent.

This is a powerful historical thriller in which the real major events of a critical but tumultuous era supersede the fictional cast and the whodunit. The story line is fast-paced due to all that is happening on the world stage while the inquiry moves along much slower as that serves more as a subplot mechanism to enable the audience to follow the religious and political turmoil. With a nod to Baudolino by Umberto Eco (though seven decades later); readers will relish a trip back in time to thirteenth century Constantinople, the cross between Rome and the Holy Land.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on March 5, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Great Story if You're Not Looking for Accuracy

The story in this book is compelling, the characters well-developed and the setting becomes real. However, while the author researched Byzantine politics well she appears to have left it at that and used more of her imagination than facts for her writings on the Orthod...
The story in this book is compelling, the characters well-developed and the setting becomes real. However, while the author researched Byzantine politics well she appears to have left it at that and used more of her imagination than facts for her writings on the Orthodox church within the story. Whenever possible, the church is slandered, belittled or its members made to look more unchristian than the nonchristians in the story. If you can get past that, it's a good read. If you look at the actual historical events in the Orthodox Church at the time period, it's not nearly as portrayed in the story. It appears to be one more author out to smear anything to do with God and Church- like there isn't enough of that already?

posted by EduK8R on August 13, 2011

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  • Posted August 13, 2011

    Great Story if You're Not Looking for Accuracy

    The story in this book is compelling, the characters well-developed and the setting becomes real. However, while the author researched Byzantine politics well she appears to have left it at that and used more of her imagination than facts for her writings on the Orthodox church within the story. Whenever possible, the church is slandered, belittled or its members made to look more unchristian than the nonchristians in the story. If you can get past that, it's a good read. If you look at the actual historical events in the Orthodox Church at the time period, it's not nearly as portrayed in the story. It appears to be one more author out to smear anything to do with God and Church- like there isn't enough of that already?

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    powerful historical thriller

    In 1273 physician Anna Zarides learns that her twin Justinian has been proclaimed guilty as a conspirator of murdering Bessarion Comnenos. She refuses to believe her sibling would kill the prominent politically connected victim, who was perhaps the most powerful opponent of the Byzantium Empire merging with Rome.

    Anna, dressed up as the eunuch Anastasius Zarides, crosses the Bosporus to Constantinople to find proof her brother, living in exile in Judea, is innocent. She quickly builds up a thriving medical practice among the traders as well as some of the influential people like Emperor Michael, Orthodox Bishop Constantine and the late Bessarion's mother-in-law Zoe Chrysaphes the poisoner. However, in spite of her growing clientele, Anna makes little progress in finding evidence to exonerate her sibling as the city's Christians are divided into factions over whether the Holy Ghost exists. The power struggle between the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor and the Byzantium Emperor and others threaten the well being of the innocent.

    This is a powerful historical thriller in which the real major events of a critical but tumultuous era supersede the fictional cast and the whodunit. The story line is fast-paced due to all that is happening on the world stage while the inquiry moves along much slower as that serves more as a subplot mechanism to enable the audience to follow the religious and political turmoil. With a nod to Baudolino by Umberto Eco (though seven decades later); readers will relish a trip back in time to thirteenth century Constantinople, the cross between Rome and the Holy Land.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2011

    Don't bother

    I have enjoyed several of Ms. Perry's books, particularly the ones set in Victorian times. I expected this one to be fascinating, based on the beautiful cover and the description on the book jacket.

    I was wrong -- it was slow-moving and very boring. I read about 100 pages and then quit. I didn't want to waste any more time.

    The descriptions were beautiful, but on practically every page, maybe even more than once, was a reference to Anna's disguise as a eunuch and who other eunuchs were. I don't think such repetition added anything to the story and really turned me off.

    I'll stick to Ms. Perry's Victorian novels from now on.

    Incidentally, I wouldn't have given it any stars, but it was required.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

    A good mystery writer broadens her horizons.

    Anne Perry
    The Sheen on the Silk
    Random House 2010

    Anne Perry, who has a well deserved reputation as a writer of murder mysteries set in Victorian London, has expanded her canvas to the time of the battle for control of Christian thought and practice between the Roman Catholic Church in Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople in the late Thirteen Century.

    The center of the action is Constantinople, but the larger stage also includes Rome, Venice, Jerusalem, the Sinai desert and Sicily. The characters are just as diversified, including rulers, Popes, merchants, soldiers and sailors. The players all have to be careful of both their words and deeds as the situation changes almost daily as a Roman Catholic Church threatens the Eastern Orthodox center of Constantinople, a city crusaders had ravaged 70 years earlier.

    In the process, Ms Perry enlghtens her readers on the powers possessed by the ubiquitous eunuchs who operated in positions of real power unrealized and unreachable by most others, as bishops, physicians, and aides to political, religious and merchant leaders.

    As a historian and an ordained minister in the Anglican Church in North America, I appreciate her attention to detail and her grasp of the complexities of bringing our religious convictions into a harmonious relationship with our all too human actions.

    In a novel that keeps the reader turning the pages, she weaves a rich tapestry of love, hate, treachery, and a struggle for both religious and temporal power into a novel well worth the reading.

    She fashions a powerful story of people who believe in themselves, their country and their religion so completely that they are driven to do things they would normally consider reprehensible. In this compelling drama we find people of faith on both sides of the struggle resorting to tactics which are forbidden by Christianity, yet convinced that the ends are justified by the means.

    In doing so, Ms Perry has revealed to us more about what we are willing to do for our beliefs than most of us would be willing to confess. This is particulary considering what people of faith have done since the attacks of 9/11.

    signed: The Rev. Robert V. Latour
    326 Lindale

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2012

    Doesn't grab me like her Victorian-set books

    I thought I'd love this since I'm such a fan of Anne Perry's other books set in Victorian London - and Constantinople sounds like a great historic setting. But so far this book isn't grabbing me. The mystery isn't compelling enough and the characters aren't pulling at my attention. I'm going to hang in there and give it a chance, but so far I'm thinking I will return to Victorian London with Ms. Perry for future reading. Her William Monk and Charlotte Pitt novels are just wonderful. This pales by comparison.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2011

    A Snoozer!

    About halfway through I find that I don't care about the characters, the plot, or the outcome of the conflict. Too long, boring characters and no plot.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fun historical fiction

    The Sheen on the Silk is a fun read. It's long, there are a lot of characters involved, but it's an interesting look into the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Byzantine Empire. The story centers around a young woman, Anna, who travels to Byzantium to find out the circumstances surrounding her brother's exile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    World's most humorless novel?

    At least 50 times Anne Perry asserts in THE SHEEN ON THE SILK, her endless novel of 13th Century Constantinople, that a character has said something witty or done something funny. Yet she lies. Read the allegedly humorous saying or gesture and there is nothing there.

    A far better novel of Constantinople is a potboiler dashed off by a dying Sir Walter Scott, COUNT ROBERT OF PARIS. It has a better grasp of Byzantine History (Scott writes of the First Crusade, Perry of the Fourth Crusade). And, thank God, it is also funny, as Shakespeare is funny. An intelligent orangutan from the Imperial Zoo has been taught to understand (if not speak) Anglo-Saxon by his British Varangian Guard keepers and/or friends.

    I will grant that Anne Perry in over 500 pages develops a solid dozen three dimensional characters. But her Varangian Guards are not among them. For Sir Walter Scott, the Emperor's personal body guards, barbarians all, are important in their own right -- not just handily there in THE SHEEN ON THE SILK when needed to break the neck of the Emperor's illegitimate daughter.

    Bad theology. Good history. Understates the elevation of Jerusalem by 2,000 feet. Pedestrian writing at best (except for character analysis: every conscience portrayed is a mixture of good and evil). Inaccurate at worst.

    If you want to read far better RELIGIOUS novels, try Cardinal John Henry Newman: CALLISTA and LOSS AND GAIN. Perry is good on the politics and culture of Catholicism v. Orthodoxy in the 13th Century, but worthless on the theological dfferences.

    MY RATING: 3.4 stars rounded DOWN to 3.0 stars.

    -OOO-

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2012

    "The Sheen on the Silk" is one of the most exquisitely

    "The Sheen on the Silk" is one of the most exquisitely written historical romance novels I've ever read and I average a book every 7 days. Anne Perry's ability to develop characters that live, breathe and come alive right off the pages into your bedroom, living room or wherever you love to read is a testament to her skill as a writer who creates a world so believable that you literally see yourself as a part of it. She masterfully creates a very visually animated and physical world that we part take in along with her characters. Different than Anne Rice who creates a movie that you can see through her words Anne Perry's ability to conjure within the reader the same emoional content that her characters experience is the beauty and genius of her particular brand of talent. I have bought 6 copies of the book and given to friends. I recommend "The Sheen on the Silk"to everyone I know who loves a great book.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    A Romantic Adventure

    Anne Perry's exhaustive research into historical details serves her well in this gripping story of ancient Constantiople. Although the political goings-on are somewhat tiresome, the intrigue of the Byzantine world winds through the narrative like a brightly colored, but deadly serpent. Here's to hoping there is a sequel in the works (or better yet, a new series.)

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  • Posted April 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Always a fan of Anne Perry

    Started reading her books long ago. This is a different but equally compelling historical novel. The physical descriptions of both the people and the settings allow the reader to picture the characters and settings.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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