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The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora Paperback – July 2, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (July 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 045141778X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451417787
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"A fascinating and vivid account; the life of Empress Theodora leaps from the page, as colorful and complex as the woman herself."--Michelle Diener, author of The Emperor's Conspiracy

"If there is one book you choose to read on ancient times, let it be The Secret History." --Historical Novel Society

"Thornton's well-conceived and engrossing tale exalts a historical figure of "true grit.""--Library Journal Review

"I really love that the book includes not only a note from the author about Theodora, but also a Reader's Guide so it is ready for any book club to use!" --Night Owl Reviews

“Stephanie Thornton’s Theodora is tough and intelligent, spitting defiance against the cruel world of the Byzantine Empire. Her rise from street urchin to emperor’s consort made me want to stand up and cheer. Her later years as empress are great fun to read, but it was her early struggle as actress and courtesan that really had me roaring: either with rage at the misfortunes heaped on this poor girl, or with delight as she once more picked herself up with a steely glint in her eye and kept on going.”—Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills

"Loss, ambition and lust keep this rich story moving at top speed. Stephanie Thornton writes a remarkable first novel that brings a little known woman to full, vibrant life...A sprawling and irresistible story."—Jeane Westin, author of The Spymaster's Daughter
 

About the Author

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

More About the Author

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at www.stephanie-thornton.com.

Customer Reviews

A great read if you enjoy historical fiction.
hathor03
Stephanie Thorton makes this book come alive, the pictures are rampant in my mind with such color and detail because of her talent.
D. Lebel
I loved every second of this story, and I look forward to reading future novels by this author.
Jennifer Rothwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Buggy on September 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
First, I have to apologize for not putting this review under my usual review profile. That was not by choice! A few days ago I accidentally dropped a case of cat food on my laptop and things just haven't been working right since then. Being unable to log out of my boyfriend's Amazon profile and log into my own is just one of many issues I'm experiencing. I mention this only because being able to see the rest of my reviews would give readers some perspective on where I'm coming from with this one-star review.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and an active reviewer, and historical fiction is just about the only thing I read. So given how fannish I am for the genre, maybe I am being too hard on this book, and other readers ought to keep that in mind. Maybe readers who just want a good "beach read" type of book will like it a lot more than I did. If you aren't a big historical fiction nut like I am, maybe you can trust all the higher-rated reviews of this book. But if you expect a reasonable level of immersion in your historical fiction, you will want to pass on this one.

I guess I should mention that I am also a big Theodora fan. She was one of the more intriguing women from history, and the Byzantine Empire is one of my favorite segments of European history. I have read the actual Secret History (Procopius) a few times and was really excited to learn that a novel had been written using Procopius' text as a basis (at least in part). I held off buying it to see what other readers thought, and I was encouraged to see that it was getting positive reviews from readers, so I eagerly dove in.
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Format: Paperback
This was one of my most anticipated summer releases; I wanted it from the moment I saw that gorgeous cover and read the description, and the story lived up to the exotic decadence it promised! The Secret History is a solid historical fiction debut, compelling, entertaining, and enlightening, with all the hallmarks of a juicy-good read, especially if you're a fan of strong, clever, realistically portrayed historical heroines, and really, who isn't?

I won't go much into plot, for life holds many setbacks and twists of fate for our Theodora as she rises from street urchin to actress to empress, and I don't want to spoil any of it, but I will tell you Theodora is a fantastic character. I was completely engrossed in her story as she navigated the backstabbings and betrayals of the theater world and then of the political world. Brash and smart-mouthed, resourceful and resilient, yet tenderhearted and achingly vulnerable at times, I cringed at her mistakes and cheered her triumphs. And she's not the only great character. I was impressed with Ms. Thornton's ability to craft such rich characterization in a large cast of supporting and tertiary figures.

The time period has been meticulously researched and depicted -- the entire novel is a treat for the senses. The sights, scents, and sounds of sixth-century Constantinople come to life, from dirty alleys to sparkling bathhouses, dank theaters to the sun-baked Hippodrome, cold hovels to vibrant palaces, and houses of sin to houses of the holy. Entwined with the lush description are the customs and mores and societal restrictions of the times, and vignettes of human nature in all its shades of gray. And like the Roman Empire itself, Theodora's world is not for the faint of heart. Violence, bloodlust, abuse, and sex abound.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Carol J. Mcbride on August 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The reign of the emperor Justinian in ancient Constantinople was not a time that I was very familiar with, but Stephanie Thornton brings that world vividly to life in this book. Modern women tend to forget the limited options for women throughout most of history, but Theodora lived within those narrow choices and succeeded beyond all belief to become Empress. That she was also greatly loved by her husband made her even more unusual. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who loves a good romance, with a desire to learn more about those who shaped our world.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Edward Cleland on July 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The life of the infamous and highly maligned Empress Theodora of the
Byzantine Empire is the focus of Stephanie Thornton's new book, The Secret History,
available from Amazon.

By combining her insightful creativity with her use of outstanding historical sources Ms. Thornton successfully creates a very plausible story line taking the young actress from the desperate atmosphere of the dregs of her girlhood in Constantinople to her incredible but true rise to become Empress of the Byzantine Empire, and the most powerful woman in the world.

This is a remarkable read for a first novel in that the literary devices used to create the atmosphere of the times as well as the story's characterizations ring true.
Often in historical novels the author will betray a lack of knowledge of societal customs, mannerisms and even linguistic patterns in use during the time period being portrayed and this can mar the effectiveness of presenting history. Not so
with The Secret History.

Stephanie Thornton uses solid historical sources to anchor her story but it is how she fills in the unknown gaps in Theodora's life which separates this book from other historical novels out in the marketplace. Thornton's inventiveness is steeped in her deep knowledge of Byzantine history, manners and customs and to this she adds a dose of healthy curiosity of what could have been...

She takes the time to explore Theodora's adolescence as she and her sister Comito
try to survive on life's lowest rung of the ladder working as performers at the Hippodrome, a 6th century Byzantine version of the Colosseum.
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