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Byzantium

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  3,643 Ratings  ·  250 Reviews
Although born to rule, Aidan lives as a scribe in a remote Irish Monastery on the far, wild edge of Christendom. Secure in work, contemplation, and dreams of the wider world, a miracle bursts into Aidan's quiet life. He is chosen to accompany a small band of monks on a quest to the farthest eastern reaches of the known world, to the fabled city of Byzantium, where they are ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 870 pages
Published June 14th 1997 by Harper Voyager (first published 1996)
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Best Historical Fiction
311th out of 5,813 books — 22,383 voters
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A&M Historical Fiction Group Recommended Reading
16th out of 161 books — 418 voters


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Community Reviews

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John
Feb 04, 2011 John rated it really liked it
There are two kinds of epic novels: the kind (such as Stephen King's The Stand) where the characters start to feel like close, personal friends, and where you are constantly being blown away by the author's imaginative scope; and the kind (such as Gai-Jin by James Clavell) that seem to drag on endlessly month after month, as you stare at the bookshelf and wonder how much time you will have wasted if you give up and just start something different. The first few chapters of Byzantium give the ...more
Terri
I came within a whisker of giving this 5 stars. I loved the journey for so much of the book that when it started to get boring for me, 200 pages from the end, I was bitterly disappointed. I wanted this to be my first 5 star historical fiction of the year! Still, it is a strong 4 star book and while the last 200 pages held some boredom for me, it was not all that way, only some of it.

All that aside, onto the book itself.

Man, I really got off on this book for 600 pages. As all those who know me we
...more
Dawn
Oct 14, 2014 Dawn rated it it was ok
I have had to spend some time deciding how to describe why I didn't like this book other than just writing that I found it boring.
It is not the kind of book that you would imagine as boring, once you get though the first 20 chapters, it never stops moving you through people and places. From sea wolves to emperors, forest to desert and country to city, there is always another place to be and more people to meet.
Alot of the story seemed implausible and did there really have to be so much praying?
W
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Andy
cant really give it a mark as i could go no further than 30pg's but there tells a tale!

Too much of the White Christ for this pagan & with the way it was going, no way could I endure for another 600+ pg's, delivery of the book of Kells was clue enough in the summary so should have swerved, Never mind.
Kris43
Mar 18, 2013 Kris43 rated it liked it
This is story of Aidan, the Irish monk, descendant of a royal house. When he starts he is little more than a boy, still very much naive and trusting. Totally unprepared for the world. His family send him off as a little boy to a convent because it was seen as a good omen for his line to have a holy man as king's adviser. Somewhere along the line, it all got wrong, and his family was killed. That left him as a just another monk, a scribe. Apart from that, he has one unique quality, he's a seer ...more
Loren
Feb 10, 2008 Loren rated it really liked it
This story is about an irish monk, Aidan, who is chosen to embark on a journey to bring the Book of Kells to the Emporer of Byzantium (Constantinople). It has a pretty classic storyline in terms of the personal growth and trials that the main character goes through to fulfill his quest. If you enjoy historical fiction you won't be disappointed by this book. It's got plenty of action, conspiracy, and intrigue to make it a page-turner and it's enjoyably rich in culture. Be aware though (or be ...more
Diane
Mar 23, 2009 Diane rated it it was amazing
This novel tells the story of Aidan, a tenth-century Irish monk who takes part in an expedition to bring the Book of Kells to the emperor in Byzantium. Before his small group of traveling companions reach the coast of France, however, they are attacked by Vikings and Aidan is carried off alone. The remainder of the book chronicles his adventures. Aidan is by turns a slave, interpreter to a king, ambassador of the emperor, suitor to an Arab lady, and again a slave. His journey brings him to ...more
Mira15
Jul 06, 2012 Mira15 rated it really liked it
Ainda estou tão espantada e maravilhada que nem sei bem o que irei escrever.
No início, tive receio que o facto de se abordar tantas civilizações me fizesse confundir e perder o sentido da história. Porém, ao longo dos capítulos conhecer novos costumes e a cultura geral do século IX transformou-se numa fonte deliciosamente enriquecedora (nada aborrecida ou confusa)!

Primeiramente, a trama desenrola-se num mosteiro em Cenannus de Ríg, na Irlanda. Depois de vivenciar todo o seu quotidiano - desde a
...more
Karol
May 25, 2009 Karol rated it it was amazing
I don't believe there is any rating I could give this book other than a 5 out of 5 stars. It has been a long while since I've read an epic. This one I loved, as it took me from Ireland of the 10th century, to "Skania", and then to Byzantium/Constantinople. In this novel or gargantuan proportions, the author wrote about 4 different cultures: Irish catholic monks, vikings, Arabs, and the Roman catholic empire.

It was a book largely about one man's struggle against his God: his battle, and loss of f
...more
Shannon Wilson
Aug 16, 2012 Shannon Wilson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Shannon by: family
Whenever I recommend this book I can't help but really mean it from a literary standpoint, and a spiritual standpoint. Aidan takes quite a journey through many places. Along the way he encounters a lot of challenges that change him fundamentally. I like how real Lawhead makes this journey for him. He is taken to the edge and then beyond to discover who he is. So often in our own lives we have a crisis of identity and Lawhead shows this in detail. My favorite part is at the end when Aidan ...more
Christopher
Jul 08, 2010 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very enjoyable historical fiction set in the Dark Ages when Constantinople was still considered a Religious center on par with Rome, when Danes/Vikings marauded the northern coasts of Europe and when monks in monasteries in Ireland and Britain painstakingly and carefully carried out the work of creating new copies of the Holy scriptures. In this tale by Lawhead you will experience the known world of the Dark Ages from the Emerald Isle to the Saracen lords of the Middle East. You get a good ...more
Malinda
Jan 23, 2009 Malinda rated it it was amazing
My fav book of all time. I love the adventure, and the historical fact mixed with his fictional story. Plus, the story keeps changing, everywhere he travels is so different that it is like a new story. You hardly notice the length of the book. I was sad that the story had to end when it did. I learned a valuable lesson from the line God speaks to the main character, "What did you expect?" That was so powerful. This is my one MUST READ! Cory might like it too.
Heather
Dec 14, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing
Loved this story! It's not really a page turner, but I was engaged in Aiden's plight and epic journey. By the end I was in tears at the EPIC, full circle that the monks had encountered. So much about this book was wonderful and unlike anything I had read before. I found myself googling ancient maps to get a feel for the geography.
Robert Delikat
Jun 22, 2011 Robert Delikat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great narrations have the potential to make a mediocre book great. Less than stellar performances can detract from a book's greatness to the point that an audiobook becomes a totally ruined experience. Some stories are so great, however, that a less than comparable narration cannot detract so much as to make the listening a totally rewarding experience. This, I believe, is the case with the Audible selection Byzantium narrated by Stuart Langton.

As others have commented, the book does start off a
...more
Jacob Aitken
Honestly, I didn't like the story but I chanced that when I began reading. I have been following Lawhead for a while and his books are either perfect or complete wash-out.

The plot in this story flowed reasonably well. From now on, however, authors need to realize that "young celtic kid abducted by vikings" is no longer an acceptable plot device. But Aidan's stay in Denmark was interesting.

While the hero is Christian, and in some ironic and bitter way, spreads his faith to his Viking captors, th
...more
Linda
Mar 28, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it
A very good read! This book has a little of everything in it. Aidan, an Irish monk, is on a pilgrimage to Byzantium, but a shipwreck and marauding Vikings change Aidan's destiny. Aidan's journey takes the reader far beyond Byzantium into unbelievable situations and circumstances.

The core of the book for me was Aidan's loss of faith in God and the eventual renewal of that faith. Aidan lost his faith in a foreign country in the midst of unspeakable cruelty. Without God, Aidan was utterly alone an
...more
Robert
Sep 14, 2009 Robert rated it it was amazing
A friend recommend this book to me a couple of years ago. I'm glad that i took his advice and read it. It quickly became my favorite book. I passed it along to others and they as well enjoyed it. If you life the movie Gladiator. Then you would like this book. Its similar in the sense of the main characters having to go through various life changes and losing things dear to them. It also based in a similar era. I will warn you that its a little slow to get going but once it does. It will have you ...more
Philip
Jul 12, 2009 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I read this one, but I ranked it (along with The Confessions of Nat Turner) as my favorite book for a LONG time.

It's about an Irish monk who has to travel to Byzantium (Istanbul) to take a manuscript the Emperor of Christendom. I thought it was a great historical-fic read.

I received it as a gift right before I took a long trip as well - quite fitting.
Bernie Charbonneau
I was torn between 3 or 4 stars. Why, at times this novel was really intriguing and at a good pace which kept me turning the pages to see what would develop next. Then there where parts in this novel that where interesting but found a bit drab. Overall though, I did enjoy this novel which warrants the 4 stars. Not my regular focus in time, 900 CE, I did find the setting quite fascinating which led me to the computer on more than one occasion to discover more about this period. It was a large ...more
Jessica
Aug 16, 2010 Jessica rated it really liked it
It was a slow and painful start....mainly because of the mass description of life on a monastery and the self depriciating actions the monks took on themselves. Having made it through the first 50 pages and the adventure began - I was enthralled. The building of friendships and understanding between cultures was great. I sometimes skipped (hush) the "God has abandoned me" talk that Aiden endured because I just don't struggle with that issue. The book was moving and championed friendship and ...more
Marsha Lambert
Jun 30, 2015 Marsha Lambert rated it it was amazing
An epic adventure and fabulous tale of one man's journey to Byzantium. The main character, Aiden is very well written as are the many secondary characters. This book is 870 pages long and not once did I think it dragged. The story line kept me engaged from page one till the last.

Well done to the author. I will be purchasing more books by Mr. Lawhead.
Monica Davis
Oct 31, 2014 Monica Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Through much of this read I thought I would end with a 3.5 star review. But the story grew on me and there were enough 'gems' in the writing that I decided it is well worth 4 stars. It is a bit long and drawn out in places, but for the most part it came together quite well by the end of the book.
Jason D'Souza
Aug 09, 2015 Jason D'Souza rated it it was amazing
All time favorite fiction. Read it more then once. Visited Byzantium and the most beautiful Cathedral ever built, the Haggia Sophia.
My dream is for Mel Gibson or Ridley Scott to direct the movie of Byzantium.
Jack Vasen
Nov 05, 2016 Jack Vasen rated it really liked it
This book is a great examination of a sheltered monk's spiritual journey as he sets out on a pilgrimage from ancient Ireland to the capital of the Christian world but ends up bounced around everywhere from what is now Sweden to Constantinople to the Arab world.
He is made a slave and passed around to three different owners yet manages to have a position of influence on all of them and also in the politics of that area of the world.
This naive monk begins his journey believing that God will smooth
...more
Tracy
Oct 08, 2016 Tracy rated it it was amazing
Lawhead's stories are always a great read and really take me back to the past.
Tara
Mar 28, 2007 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-reads


Truth is a constant delight to those that love her; such beauty holds no power to offend.

...none of this surprised me; it was as if this meeting between us was foreordained by a force greater than either of us. I know I had the events wheeling swiftly over a well-traveled course to a destination long ago established. I felt as if I was merely saying the words I had been destined to say. If there was no surprise, neither was there fear or alarm. The circumstance seemed both right and natural--as
...more
Deborah Ideiosepius  omnivorous reader
Oct 26, 2012 Deborah Ideiosepius omnivorous reader rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who read in the tenth century, Viking, Byzantium readers
Shelves: historic-fiction
I liked it. A strong story (or should I say saga?) very rich in historical detail with a story that sucks you in from the get go. The monks of Ireland are going on pilgrimage to Byzantium, who will go? Or hero/narrator is selected of course and we plummet into a complex story.

I was very impressed with the historic detail except for the ground chillies that Aiden sees in the markets of Constantinople; Chillies came from Mexico much later than the 900’s CE. Also, if the ‘sweet black drink’ Aiden i
...more
Iceman
Dec 28, 2012 Iceman rated it it was amazing
Embora leia de tudo um pouco, os romances históricos são aqueles que fazem as minhas preferências, andando sempre em busca de mais e mais. No entanto não é fácil descobrir os bons escritores deste estilo, pois existem escritores (as) que têm fama e proveito mas, qualidade... escrevem de qualquer maneira, sem rigor literário e histórico.

Stephen Lawhead é daqueles que nasceram para escrever romances históricos!

Embora os seus primeiros livros se situassem na área do fantástico, é, com a obra compos
...more
Judas Machina
Jul 28, 2013 Judas Machina rated it it was amazing
Let me begin by saying I have read this book at least 3 times. Every time I read this book I get something different out of it. There are deep questions within the story, and they are not overbearing to the narrative.
Byzantium is a literary journey worth taking. The adventure will take your breath away.
You can read for yourself what the book is about. A review, to me, is not a synopsis. It is a critique (false participation) of whether an author conveyed a story effectively.
I'm not a religious
...more
Palmyrah
Jun 05, 2016 Palmyrah rated it really liked it
Docked one star for a page or two of Christian apologetics at the end. The problems of theodicy are not resolved quite so readily as that; unfortunately, theodicy is the first-person narrator’s big spiritual problem.

Byzantium is in every other way a five-star read, and diligently researched as to historical background. I spotted one or two trivial anachronisms, but the big stuff checks out. Somewhere in the middle of the ninth century, Aidan the Irish monk travels to the other end of the mediaev
...more
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Stephen R. Lawhead is an internationally acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction. His works include Byzantium, Patrick, and the series The Pendragon Cycle, The Celtic Crusades, and The Song of Albion.

Also see his fanpage at Myspace:
http://www.myspace.com/stephenlawhead...

Stephen was born in 1950, in Nebraska in the USA. Most of his early life was spent in America where he earned
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“Oh, but once my memories had pulsed with the blood-heat of life. In desperation, I forced myself to recall that once, I had walked with kings and conversed in languages never heard in this land. Once I had stood at the prow of a Sea Wolf ship and sailed oceans unknown to seamen here. I had ridden horses through desert lands, and dined on exotic foods in Arab tents. I had roamed Constantinople’s fabled streets, and bowed before the Holy Roman Emperor’s throne. I had been a slave, a spy, a sailor. Advisor and confidant of lords, I had served Arabs, Byzantines, and barbarians. I had worn captive’s rags, and the silken robes of a Sarazen prince. Once I had held a jeweled knife and taken a life with my own hand. Yes, and once I had held a loving woman in my arms and kissed her warm and willing lips...Death would have been far, far better than the gnawing, aching emptiness that was now my life.” 9 likes
“I saw Byzantium in a dream, and knew that I would die there. That vast city seemed to me a living thing: a great golden lion... I felt the dread jaws close on me as I stood screaming.

Then I awoke; but my waking brought neither joy nor relief. For I rose not to life, but to the terrible certainty of death. I was to die, and the golden towers of Byzantium would be my tomb. ~ Aidan”
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