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Byzantium Mass Market Paperback – June 14, 1997

183 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The bestselling author of the Pendragon Cycle now tells the story of Aidan, a 10th-century Irish monk sent to take the Book of Kells to the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople. Separated from his fellow pilgrims, Aidan undergoes various exotic adventures, including capture by and life with Vikings, political intrigue in the Byzantine court, enslavement in a caliph's mine and loss of his all-important faith in God. Lawhead is a Christian writer, and here the Christian themes are integral and well developed; he also shows a keen and sympathetic eye for the values and cultures of non-Christians. Marketed as fantasy, the novel contains little overt supernatural content, although prayer is vital and dreams can be seen as omens. Still, the narrative has the excitement of a good fantasy novel, a vivid historical setting and a lengthy, credible and satisfying plot?just the elements, in fact, that have made Lawhead a commercial success time and again.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Young Aidan is blessed. He is one of a small band of Irish monks chosen to accompany a magnificent hand-painted manuscript--what we now know as the Book of Kells--across the sea to Byzantium. There the gift will be presented to the emperor, who will then be predisposed to hear of the difficulties facing the Irish church. But before reaching landfall in Brittany, the monks' coracle is set upon by Viking raiders who capture Aidan and take him into slavery in their northern homeland. And the Book? It survives, of course, and Aidan is finally able to fulfill his quest. But a Viking raid on Byzantium, an expedition to the Holy Land, imprisonment in a desert prison-mine, wars at sea, and yet more adventures come before the monk's commission is discharged. Not merely a gripping yarn--and it certainly is that--this is also a novel about faith and the tests life plants in its way. Lawhead, author of the popular Pendragon cycle of fantasies, here makes a sure move into mainstream historical fiction. Patricia Monaghan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (June 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061057541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061057540
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen R. Lawhead is a multi-award winning author of mythic history and imaginative bestsellers. In over thirty years of professional writing he has established an international reputation and is known for such works as the King Raven trilogy, a re-telling of the Robin Hood legend; and the Pendragon Cycle, an historic retelling of the King Arthur legend.

Other notable works include the fantasy trilogies The Song of Albion, and the Dragon King Trilogies -- as well as the historical works Byzantium, Patrick, Avalon, and the works of science-fiction Dream Thief and Empyrion saga, and his latest, the five-book series Bright Empires. Lawhead makes his home in Oxford, England, with his wife.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Donovan D. Mattole on September 2, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Now that I've read The Iron Lance and Avalon, I thought I'd stop in and read the reviews on Byzantium (I previously reviewed this book on July 27, 1997, but since they are now refering to me only as "a reader" I felt entitled to say something else). I was surprised by a few (to say the least). I honestly think Byzantium is Lawhead's best book ever. I loved Avalon, but it still didn't pass Byzantium as my all time favorite. If you like historical fiction or just want an excellent story with extremely well developed characters - this is the book for you. The important thing is to read the book with an open heart for the powerful message that is portrayed. It is a true story of redemption. I think one of the reasons I loved the book so much is I felt a kinship with the main character, Aidan, unlike I have with any other fictional character. After you read this, read the Celtic Crusade books, beginning with The Iron Lance. These continue the story and you'll see what happened to Byzantium a few hundred years later. Happy reading!
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Steven R. McEvoy on January 17, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
At nearly 900 pages this book is amazing in many ways. First, you read that much in such a short time, for once you have picked it up you will find yourself unable to put it down. This book is a fictional retelling of St. Aidan's life. St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Ontario has a St. Aidan's Chapel that has a beautiful set of tapestries depicting the life of this servant of God. St. Aidan died in 651 after serving at home in Iona, among the Gauls - first as a slave and then as a Bishop, and he even visited Byzantium in his lifetime, and the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire.

I was familiar with this church and with the artwork depicting Aidan's life. Yet it was not until almost halfway through the book, that I slapped my forehead and said 'Aidan the monk = St. Aidan'. The book is so craft- fully written that one easily becomes so lost in the story that it did not even click that I knew about this tale.

Lawhead is a master wordsmith, who is most know for his Arthurian legend series, or his Celtic series, yet this stand-alone novel is every bit as much worth the time and attention as his other better-known works. This book was a departure for Lawhead, in that it was written from the beginning as a stand-alone. Therefore, if you do not like getting sucked into a series, where you need to read 4 or 5 books to get the whole story, this book is a great starting point in Lawhead's works.

The story in this novel is powerful and moving. It is the story of a young man who was taken as a slave and later returned as a Minister, and eventually as a Bishop. It is the story of the spread of Christendom, and the story of service. Once you begin you will not be able to put this book down. So be warned!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Timotheos Josephus on January 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was the first Stephen Lawhead book I'd ever read. How could I not have known about him earlier?
"Byzantium" has everything you could want in a story. Suspense, drama, love, heartbreak, despair, elation, and action. The main character is so well developed that it feels like you're experiencing his emotions right along with him.
If you enjoy fantasy or any sort of medieval historical fiction, then you MUST read this book. I cannot imagine that you would be disappointed.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Taliesin and Merlin, both by Lawhead well over 10 years ago .. and feel like an idiot that I no longer own those books. I have to admit that 2 things sold this book for me. The cover illustration and the synopsis on the back. Okay, 3 things. I like stories based around historical events or during historical periods. Byzantium. Wow.
Portions of this book bring to mind, The Lord of the Rings as well as other epic novels based on that particular genre of storytelling.
From the very beginning, we are introduced to the way of life and limited life experience of the Aiden, princeling turned priest. His simple lifestyle may appeal to many of us, even though we outwardly deny the fact. The changes that he goes through as his travels land him in a new situation are wonderful to see. The characters we come into contact with are interesting and as the story progresses, they begin to take on more dimension, which is unfortunately lacking so much in many commercialized stories today, whether in print or on film.
The historical references are captivating, from the Irish monastery, Viking society, Byzantine politics, and Islamic culture. Each of these mark a milestone in the metamorphasis of Aiden and ultimately epitomize the awakening most of us go through/never do/or wish we did.
This is a book that should some day be brought to the screen. I have to admit that as I came to the final pages, I felt some regret and bittersweet understanding that while the end of the road is near, all things require closure. Adventures reach their conclusion. We each go our own way, some we will never see again. However, there will always be the memory of the experience and in this case you need not look further than your own bookshelf. BUY this book. EXPERIENCE it. And keep it for those times when you wish to rekindle that which once burned brightly, if even only for a moment.
Okay. I liked the story.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on September 12, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Historical fiction is often a hit or miss affair. When it hits (as it does with Tolstoy's "War and Peace"), it takes the reader back to another time while teaching valuable lessons about humanity. When it misses, it ends up looking a lot like Stephen Lawhead's "Byzantium." This isn't to say that "Byzantium" is a bad book; it is certainly entertaining as an action packed yarn with a cast of characters longer than your arm. But "Byzantium" fails as a historical tale because it really doesn't reflect the time period in which the story takes place.
Set in the 10th century during the reign of Byzantine emperor Basil II, "Byzantium" is a detailed account of the travels of Aidan, an Irish monk charged with delivering a special copy of the New Testament to the city of Constantinople. Aidan sets out with a group of monks on this mission, nervous about discharging his duties but excited about having a chance to see the world. Aidan does get to see the world, and he sees it in ways that he never imagined. Right at the start of the mission, the boat Aidan is sailing on is waylaid by a band of pirates. Aidan is taken prisoner, made a slave, and begins a roundabout trip to Constantinople. Along the way, Aidan falls in with a Viking expedition, travels through Kiev, visits Constantinople for an audience with Basil, acts as a spy for the Byzantines, is captured by Arabs, learns several languages, is almost executed in a slave mine, nearly marries a beautiful woman, and loses his faith (in no particular order).
All of these situations are well drawn and fairly exciting (especially the sea battle towards the end of the book, a battle that hums with energy and tension).
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