Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Few Thoughts On...The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton


Where Theodora went, trouble followed….

In sixth-century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds and rose from common theater tart to empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. The woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told….

After her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation and a life on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a backdoor entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and, by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the emperor’s nephew. She thrives as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it?

NAL Trade | July 2, 2013 | 448 pages

My Thoughts

- Enjoyable, well-written debut novel about Byzantine Empress Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinian I.
- A long novel that doesn't feel like one given that the narrative moves quickly and there are no lulls in the story.

- Stephanie Thornton does a great job developing Theodora's character.  Theodora is portrayed as an intelligent, ambitious and politically savvy woman who rises from humble beginnings to become the most powerful woman in the Byzantine empire. 

- The book also features some memorable secondary characters, many of whom are just as interesting as Theodora. 

- The novel is rich in historical detail, giving the reader a feel for the time period and place in which the story is set (6th century Constantinople).  It is obvious a good deal of research went into the writing of this book and, thanks to Thornton's efforts, I'm now interesting in reading more novels set during this era of Byzantine history.    
- Reading this novel I was reminded of the works of Kate Quinn, so if you enjoy Quinn's novels I highly recommend you give The Secret History a try. 

- Do I look forward to reading more from Stephanie Thornton?  Most definitely! 

Rating: 4 out 5 stars

Source: My personal collection

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