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The Emperor's Winding Sheet Paperback – 1 Apr 2004

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A fine read 7 Mar 2009
By Nina M. Osier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The setup is familiar to any reader of YA historical novels: take a character with whom your intended readers can identify, and drop that character into your story's time and place. This book's time and place is Constantinople at its fall to the Turks, and its protagonist is an English boy named Piers Barber. He's just old enough for his uncle to send him to sea aboard an English trade ship, after his father's sudden illness makes educating him further impossible. Piers, who through most of the book is called Vrethiki ("lucky find"), falls into the hands of pirates when his ship is wrecked. Somehow he winds up in Morea, starving and alone, and is taken into the household of Morea's Despot. Constantine, who soon afterward travels to the City - Constantinople - to be crowned as Emperor of the Romans. The Empire's last ruler, as it turns out; but Constantine already knows that is sure to happen. Although he does what he feels is required of him, by uniting the long-split Church into one body again, the Turks who ring Constantinople cannot be stopped from taking the City. Constantine moves toward his destiny without flinching from it, nevertheless.

Author Walsh presents Piers Barber with a culture he initially finds not only alien, but heathen and horrifying, and follows her protagonist's gradual journey to understanding and respect. And finally, when the Emperor offers him a chance to escape from the doomed City, to affection and loyalty. Characters like Stephanos, the Eunuch of the Emperor's bedchamber, become real to the reader as Piers comes to know them; and that is well done, indeed.

I found it hard to believe that Piers takes so long to learn even a smattering of the Greek in which everyone around him communicates. This, I suspect, the author uses deliberately as a plot device; depending on Stephanos and his ability to speak Latin (which Piers mastered in his English schooling) maintains the boy's dependence on Stephanos, and keeps the story as well as its protagonist from straying outside the Emperor's household. The sense of certain tragedy, of a sad end that can't be avoided, pervades the book from about its mid-point onward. There is nothing the author could have done about that, though; and the ending, when it finally comes, is filled with the universal hope of youth and survival. All in all, a fine read.

--Reviewed by Nina M. Osier, author of HIGH PLACES and 2005 EPPIE winner REGS
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good historical fiction for kids/youth 3 Nov 2010
By Naomi Martineau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful read for homeschoolers studying the Renaissance. It's ironic to ponder that just as the Renaissance was beginning in Western Europe, the Roman Empire was finally destroyed in the east. My kids really enjoyed this book. Besides the character growth of Vrethiki as he came to understand and appreciate the Byzantine culture into which he is thrust, I appreciated the understanding of true bravery that the book teaches.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
great history study supplement for young people 26 May 2011
By cleopa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my 13-year old son. The book is a captivating emotional account of the siege of Constantinople in 1453, viewed through the eyes of a young English boy. Well-researched historical fiction, academically sound, beautifully written, truthful, sincere, dramatic, full of action. My son really liked it, he and his friends are all about war strategy games, medieval weapons, and this book was wonderful, since it also educated him on important history facts, making them vivid and memorable.Looking for more books by this author.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Historical Fiction--Fall of Constantinople 26 Aug 2009
By LME - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book on a pertinent period of Byzantine history. It is a very well-written and well-researched historical novel. Having read Runciman's (a life-long Byzantine scholar) account of the Fall of Constantinople I found this novel to ring true, except I did not find the legend that gave Vrethiki his name.
This is an adventure story wrapped around a a clash between two cultures and tremendous political intrigue. It highlights the emigration of Constantinople's cultured populace to Western Europe in the previous 50-100 years. This, in great part, supplied the minds and talent that spawned the Renaissance.
Not Jill Paton Walsh's best work 22 Nov 2013
By James L. Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In general, I have liked Jill Paton Walsh's books, but I don't rate this very high. It does bring alive the history of Istanbul and the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. The Roman Empire was essentially dead, and the Venetian period was coming to an end. This book, however was a bit tedious in detail that was not particularly historic, but related to her fictitious character.
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