Read Byzantium by Michael Ennis Online


Set in Constantinople in the 11th century, this is a story of intrigue, romance and adventure in the decadent capital of the Byzantine empire. It features Haraldr Sigurdarson, a Viking prince, who gradually learns the ways of the cosmopolitan court, and rises to heights he never dreamed of....

Title : Byzantium
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780517058022
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 183 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Byzantium Reviews

  • Deborah Ideiosepius
    2019-04-14 19:10

    I have struggled to decide how to rate this book quite a bit and have rated it high despite a few quite integral flaws;It took me a long time to read this book; months where I would normally I get through a good book in days. Honestly, I may never have finished it if it did not relate so very specifically to my historical re-enactment group. I would not normally rate high a book that took that long to read or which I had considered putting down unfinished.Byzantium is copyrighted in the 1980’s, I would guess that it was written in the 70’s because it has that “epic” style of writing that was common at the time. I read a lot of books in the ‘epic’ style of the seventies but I was never a complete fan of the genera.The biggest (compound) flaw actually derives from a main strength of the novel; the plot is too complicated, there are too many characters with too many sub-plots and this causes the story to move way too slowly. This means that put the book down for a day, and when you pick it up you cannot figure out who some of the characters are and you have to back-read to catch up.So how is this a strength? The research that has gone into the novel is stupendous; the characters are hard to follow because they are called by accurate names and titles for the Byzantine Empire at that place and time. The details that I can verify such as Roman cookery, feast presentation, or things based on Archaeological digs, are derived from real information. Given the person who lent it to me (Thanks’ Patrick) I can pretty much be assured that all of the battle details are accurate also.I found the depictions of the Vikings great, the battles and travels were fascinating, I thought the descriptions of Constantinople and The Empire inspired. The first quarter/third of the book was very good but it bogged down in the centre where everything was about convoluted politics and an occasionally annoying love story.The end redeemed it for me though someone who does not like their history over fictionised may not be a fan. I found the last couple of chapters were great, the final chapter in the life of Haraldr Hardraada (which was the final chapter of the book) was well done and I had entertained doubts about how it could be pulled off. The afterword summed it up nicely for me.

  • Alex
    2019-04-10 18:53

    Awesome book. The trueish story of Harold Sigurdson, who is a prince of Norway. He escaped when Norway was conquered, fled to Russia, became a mercenary, arrives in Byzantium as a mercenary captian. Eventually becomes king of all of Scandanavia. Amazing historical figure, very well written book.

  • Liviu
    2019-04-08 18:01

    One of the best epic standalone historicals I've read

  • Andronikos
    2019-04-03 21:08

    Oh gawd... this book. I don't know how to describe it... it's just... so...Terrible. Well, not really. That's the problem, see... I love it, yet I completely and utterly despise it. An indication of my feelings:I read the preface and was completely blown away. The next seventy pages followed suite and, aside from the epic torture scene (BLOOD EAGLE!), the realistic dialogue (copyright Michael Ennis), and the fact that this is AN ACTUAL NOVEL ABOUT BYZANTINES INVOLVING GREEK FIRE, I was left with an extremely pronounced feeling of "what the hell?" But, because this book is all of the above, I decided to move on, and the feeling only grew. The next two hundred pages took a month. The four hundred following that took a single day. The one hundred or so remaining lasted... A month. I'll try and break down the madness, starting with the positives:Ennis's dialogue is brilliant, exactly the opposite of, say, Ken Follet's, delivering perfectly the feel of Byzantine court rhetoric and the bawdy roughness of their Norse servants. His descriptions are, indeed, "dense," but I LIKE that sort of writing: it draws you in to to the story. Meanwhile: he abides perfectly by that old rule "show don't tell," not giving the reader ANY details directly, and leaving EVERY PART of his complex part up to short vignettes and vivid "plotting in the dark" scenes." Even the Emperor's Epilepsy (spoiler alert for those who aren't Byzantinophiles already) is never directly stated: rather the reader infers by the odd circumstances pervading his presence. Indeed: this is a brilliant potrayal of one of my favorite era's. History is carefully tailored to (sort of: what happened to the Sicilian expidition), and Greek Fire, my favorite weapon EVER, plays a prominent role. Descriptions of Constantinople, someone a Byzantine nut like myself revels in, are splashed across every page. NOW: the negatives. Why I HATE this book with every fiber of my soul: Ennis can't do action scenes. Rather, he focuses on the emotional reactions of the characters, which is fine, but, when he DOES describe action, he oftentimes forgets that he let time and events pass while he was describing a thought, and the reader is left horribly confused. A terrible fire is described as "they ran through burning buildings", but a lengthy conversation afterward references things that occurred WHILE running through the wreckage, and the reader is left with an overall feeling of disbelief as to how the Hero escaped at all...Speaking of characters, they're absolutely terrible. Aside from the Leading Lady, and perhaps the Emperor, EVERYONE is completely flat. Harold struggles with accusations of cowardice after running from battle during the Preface... FOR THE ENTIRE BOOK. During every battle he "faces the demon," (and action which, paradoxically, leaves the description of the actual battle completely lacking), yet oftentimes slays up to a hundred men or more. Character actions are oftentimes completely unexplained, and sometimes characters undergo utter flips in policy without any description at all. Joannes, for instance, uses a mob to coerce some high official chum to do something or other for him (the purpose of the mob is never really explained), but, just a few short chapters later, is the main factor in a revolution caused by Harold himself used to depose his crony... except... he was "beloved by the people" only yesterday... WHAT THE HELL? Of course, Byzantine mobs were certainly fickle, but no explanation of their fickleness was given: no rhyme or reason WHATSOEVER. And the PLOT. Oh GAWD the plot... There are NO resolutions, NO motivations, NO purposes... at all! Zillions of "plotting" scenes populate this book involving characters attempting to "force the loyalty" of other characters for completely irrelevant and oftentimes invisible purposes that have NOTHING TO DO with the overall plot of the book. even the sometimes gripping schemes of the better-known characters lead to nothing: the four hundred pages I read in a day occupied Joanne's plot to pay Muslim mercenaries to kidnap the Empress: scheme that possessed neither purpose nor success, and absolutely no ramifications towards the rest of the book whatsoever... You see the problem here. I love this book because of its brilliant potrayal of the Byzantines, but despise it for what it is: a bloated and terribly confusing rough draft. If you're in to Byzantium like me, read this book and skip whatever you don't like. If you're looking for a good read however...LOOK ELSEWHERE. (Try "Justinian" by H.N. Turtletaub)

  • Althea Ann
    2019-04-20 22:53

    I read Ennis' other novel, 'The Duchess of Milan,' oh, almost 10 years ago now - and have been wanting to read 'Byzantium' since then. Sometimes I'm a bit slow-moving about things like that, but this book was also quite hard to find. And it weighs about a thousand pounds.Anyway, over the years, quite a lot of anticipation built up regarding this book. I really thought it was going to be great. I have to admit I was rather disappointed. It was just OK. It needed an editor. I love long books, but this one started quite well, and ended quite well, but there was a big, huge chunk of boring in the middle. I also love dramatic writing, and have defended staunchly some writers that others criticize for going over the top (S.P. Somtow, Kathe Koja, Anais Nin). However, the writing in this book was frequently florid and overdone, even for me.The characterization was both vague and jump-y. The protagonist shifts from being a callow lad to a seasoned warrior because the author says so - I didn't really feel it happening. It took me quite a while to really distinguish between the three main women in the story - too often, the characters are merely defined by their perversions, rather than feeling like well-rounded people.Still - I liked a lot about it. The epic follows the life of Haraldr Sigurdarson, heir to the throne of Norway, who travels with the Varangian Guard to Byzantium, and, without the Romans knowing he is the heir, rises to a position of power, and finds love with a noblewoman. As one might expect, there is plenty of 'byzantine' intrigue, battles and violence, lust and insanity. The book follows known historical facts about the characters, but fictionalizes them heavily.Overall, I feel that with a better editor - one who wasn't afraid to rein in some of the more eye-rolling language, eliminate 90% of the uses of the phrase "purple-born," and tighten up the events in the middle of the book to create more dramatic tension, etc - this would have been an excellent book.I have to re-read Duchess of Milan now... I hope it's as good as I remember it being!

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2019-04-10 21:47

    ‘The most famed of all Varangians was a young Norwegian prince called Haraldr Sigurdarson …’Mostly set in Constantinople during the 11th century, this novel is about Haraldr Sigurdarson, a dispossessed Viking prince who served as an imperial bodyguard. This long, densely detailed novel brings the Byzantine court of the Empress Zoe and those associated with her to life. There are many other memorable characters in this novel, including: The Emperor Michael IV, his brother Joannes the Orphanotrophus, and Maria, the Mistress of the Robes.Into this world comes Haraldr Sigurdarson, seeking anonymity as a member of the Varangian guard. He becomes caught up in the conspiracies and betrayals of the court, battling to establish a place for himself and to protect those in his care. Haraldr Sigurdarson is known to history as Harald Hardrada. I knew more about his life after he left Byzantium, and I found this novel fascinating. After my first read, during the 1990s, I started to read more about Byzantium and the Empress Zoe. During my second read, about ten years ago, I focussed on the excesses of the court and the role of Joannes the Orphanotrophus. During this read, I enjoyed the detail, thought about the excesses of power, and the inevitable demise of this fascinating empire.While I doubt that I’ll read this novel again, it has left a lasting impact on me. Mr Ennis made the Byzantine court come alive in a way which made me want to research the history and the characters, and added an extra dimension to my knowledge of Harald Hardrada. This novel is not a light read, but I found it a most enjoyable one.Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Jane
    2019-03-31 23:01

    This book looked so exciting--Harald Sigurdarson's [known to posterity as Harald Hardrada] years in Constantinople as a Varangian. The writing was very dense and turgid; there was too much graphic violence and sex. I began to be turned off at the description of what was done to "eunuchize" a man. I forced myself to slog on for awhile, then finally gave up about 1/3 through the book. It could have used MUCH more judicious editing; it was much too long. Was the author paid by the word? For the most part, the characters were hateful. A glossary for the Orthodox, Greek, Slavic and Norse terms would have been helpful. I was so disappointed in the book; the premise promised so much and the book delivered so little.

  • Mirella
    2019-03-29 01:04

    Michael Ennis is one of my favourite authors. I haven't read this yet, but I just ordered it from Alibri - a hardcover first edition that I know I will love. Besides, this is around the same time frame as the Ottonian Empire novels I am writing.

  • John Roussakis
    2019-04-22 19:43

    Loved it. Historically correct and in no way boring!

  • Ann
    2019-03-27 00:10

    Very good read, though long and heavy. Still, my favorite of Ennis' excellent historical fictions is "Duchess of Milan"

  • Cfsingers
    2019-04-16 00:02

    I read this book at least once every two years. I wore my first hard back out and had to special-order a new one. I love it. I laugh, cry and dream every single time I read it.

  • Miriam Minger
    2019-04-11 00:04

    Another favorite of mine with lots of Vikings and the backstory for the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Riveting, emotional, intense book. Loved it.

  • Cristobal
    2019-04-20 23:58

    violence, sex, intrigue, vikings... what more can you want.