32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed Tom Hollands' previous two books (Rubicon and Persian Fire), but I found Millennium a little bit disjointed.
The other books were far more dramatic, with an epic clash of civilisations and charismatic personalities that sweep the reader up in the excitement and get them interested in the subject material. Instead, this book is lacking much of that, and feels unfocussed as it switches between the histories of different nations without much of a common theme between them (other than each starts with that country's conversion to christianity).
Strangely there are side-stories that seem like far more exciting subject material than the main thrust but are sadly neglected, including the decline of Byzantium from it's exceptional sophistication and holiness to corruption, infighting and collapse, or the crusades (the book ends with a very rushed account of the first crusade), and at first it seems like the book will chronicle the empire of Charlemagne and it's successor states but this is never fully realised.
In the end I was left confused about what the real theme of the book is supposed to be. The expected apocalypse with the coming of the millennium (hence the title of the book) is only really discussed in the first half of the book and even then only as a half-baked motivation for some of the events described (although the evidence for that explanation seems weak). Much of the book describes the evolution of the papacy from being a weak and powerless provincial bishopric into the undisputed head of the western church (with political independence from the kings of europe), but again, this covers only a small part of the book. The rise of christianity across the continent is another theme, but very little of the book describes conversions compared to the amount that discusses wars and politics.
I'm not saying that this is a bad book, but I would definitely rate it as a poor relation to the other two if (like me) you loved Tom Hollands' other books for their entertaining, page-turning drama and urgency.