Learn more Download now Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle The Grand Tour Prize Draw Learn more Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£16.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 24 April 2017
Kind of looked forward to this, both as an fan of Lawhead and a swede descendant to the vikings it describes this was... just no. At least 100-400 pages TOO LONG. This should have been split in 2-3 books. The map over the world was... just bad. Sweden is listed as Scania, Norway as Denmark... kind of insulting. Terrible printed with too many words on every page (again why is this one book not several?) just too save on space and paper. The already bad cover just made it worse. Sad to say but this was like one long manual of really good intentions by a skilled writer on how not to write an book on vikings.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 August 1999
Being primarily a science fiction reader when I started reading this book I wondered what I was going to think but as each stage of Aidan's journey unfolds and he meets different races and classes of people I found it hard to stop reading. The insight into Celtic times which Lawhead demonstrates and the explanations offered as to how people of those times travelled great distances is at times astonishingly clear. If you want more than just another story of times gone by based on real research this is for you.
0Comment| 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 April 2013
I bought this book some fifteen years ago. After reading it again, for the third time, it definitely remains one of my favorite books of historical fiction. There are many reasons for this and since many of them have already been mentioned by previous reviewers, I will try to be brief (for once!) when listing them.

The first is the plot itself which, at least at the time, was rather original because few (if any) novels associated Irish monks, Vikings, Byzantium and the Arab Caliphate during the 9th century all in one novel. Since it was first published, a number of other authors seem to have been inspired by it and have made use of some of its features, such as the "Varanguan Road" to Byzantium. The elements making up the plot are all based on - and derived from - historical events, even if the hero and his fellow Irish monks are inspired by several historical characters rather than a single one who would have accomplished all of the hero's deeds.

The characterization, and the character of Aidan, the young Irish monk and scribe, in particular, is superb. The characters "come alive" and are believable. All of Aidan's inexperience and initially naïve behaviors, his limitations, his doubts and his failures (or at least what he considers to be his failures) make him both human and sympathetic to the reader. The Viking warlord and his men are larger than life, suitably fierce, cruel, tough but also driven by their need to make a fortune for themselves by putting their lives on the line.

The historical backgrounds are particularly well laid out throughout the novel. The Scandinavians were raiding all of the Atlantic coasts of what is now France during the second half of the 9th century. At one point, they even established a Viking state on the Loire river although, unlike the county of Rouen and future Duchy of Normandy, it did not survive for more than a few decades. Another great piece is the depiction of the living conditions in Scandinavia at the time. A further feat is the description of Byzantium which at the time was probably the only city in the Christian world to still merit such a title.

The atmosphere of cunning, plotting and betrayal at the Byzantine Court in the last years of the reign of Basil I the founder of the Macedonian dynasty, and the tension with his heir, the future Leo VI, are also well described, and so are the relations between the Empire and the heretical Paulicians (although Basil seems to have conquered them earlier in his reign than indicated in the book). Also great is the presentation of the political situation within the Abbasid Caliphate raked with revolts, including major slave insurrection in the southern part of nowadays Irak which took several decades to put down entirely and wrecked the country's economy (and its irrigation system in particular). It is in fact this weakening of the traditional Arab enemy, as much as Byzantium's own efforts and a series of remarkable emperors which allowed the Byzantine Empire to become once again a major superpower during the 10th and 11th centuries. At the time when this novel takes place, the tide has just begun to turn in favor of the Empire.

This is a superb piece of historical fiction. It is still one of the very best in my view and easily worth five stars.
33 Comments| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 September 1999
I had been wanting to read Byzantium for severel months before I actually bought it and finally after I read it it exceeded my expectations.This is probably one of the best books I've ever read and Stephen Lawhead has done a brilliant job of writing an exceptional piece of historical fiction.Lawhead writes withan ability to keep the reader totally enthralled and he never seems to let the story waine. The characters are beleivable and you feel an empathy with Aidan and his unfortunate encouters.As a person interested in history I also found that Lawheads knowledge of ancient times was quite abundant and he crafted pieces of information of these times into the story with relative ease and this added 'zest' for me. All in all I couldn't recommend this book enough to anyone wanting to read a truly spectacular epic.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 February 1999
The story of Aidan's journey to Byzantium and what he learned, loved, and lost was beautiful. I cried at times, laghed at others, and honestly could not put it down. Do not mistake this for a simple journey of a young irish monk. He gets captured by Sacsens, hired as a spy, and falls in lovewith an arabian prncess. This is a story not to be missed
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 March 2008
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!
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 24 September 2009
This is the story of St Aidan, written with Lawhead's usual talent for evoking a real feeling for the age and a love for the characters. Aidan and a group of other monks travel from Ireland to Byzantium to hand deliver an exquisitely illuminated manuscript to the emperor - the famous book of Kells. But disaster overtakes them and Aidan is captured by vikings and taken into slavery.

Lawhead describes the various people's well. He does not romanticise the vikings, for instance, but paints them with all their barbarity as seen through the eyes of the Irish monk. And yet as the book progresses, these characters become some of the most wonderful that Lawhead has written, and you feel regret to wave them good bye at the end of this story.

Lawhead's research into his novels is extensive, but usually there are areas where experts on the subject would tell us that things were not quite the way they are set out. This is a fictional work, and sometimes the facts of history are massaged a little to make a better tale. But even with this in mind, this story is a wonderful historical narrative too, and most readers must surely come away with a better feel for the period than they had before they started.

All in all I think this is perhaps one of the author's best works, and thoroughly recommended.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 December 1999
I loved this book! An avid fan of Jack Whyte and Bernard Cornwell, I went in search of others. I found Byzantium on the library shelf and I read it. After the slow start, I found myself engrossed and wanting more after I finished it. When the Sea Wolves were ambushed, I found myself crying with anger and pride at their bravery. Pure Brilliance!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 January 2008
I first read Byzantium about 6 or 7 years ago (I think), and it has never left me.

Any time I am asked the question 'What would you recommend?', Byzantium is definately in my top 5 reads of all time.
It truly encapsulates the meaning of an 'epic' story.
The journey Aidan undertakes is epic itself, both physically and spiritually. I myself am not of a particular religious denomination but can utterly understand, relate and sympathise with Aidans tumultuous struggle with his beliefs.

The different characters are all utterly convincing and I felt a true attachment to many of them in the story, genuinely caring about what happened to them, (which is a testament to the writing).

The various settings are richly envisaged and described to create a wonderful, atmospheric and sensory backdrop to the novel.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction because this is (I feel) the benchmark for all other novels of the genre to aspire to.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 June 2000
This a book is a rollercoaster ride of adventure . From the land of the Vikings to the deserts of the arabs this book never looses its fast paced style but in amongst all the action , treachery & hardship you never loose the story of a monk struggling with his faith - GREAT !
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse