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4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,506 Ratings  ·  240 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
317th out of 5,703 books — 21,912 voters
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A&M Historical Fiction Group Recommended Reading
14th out of 162 books — 401 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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 impr ...more
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
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?
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.
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 an ...more
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 grat ...more
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 dista ...more
Mira, a escriba
Jul 06, 2012 Mira, a escriba 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
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 realize ...more
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
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 ove ...more
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.
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
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
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
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 vol ...more
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
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 trus ...more
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
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.
Dan Tuton
Aug 11, 2014 Dan Tuton rated it really liked it
Stephen Lawhead's historical Irish monk-swashbuckler is a breath of fresh air. Being one who especially enjoys sensory stimuli in stories, I found Byzantium to be a feast. I could smell the aroma of exotic spices and perfumes (along with less palatable olfactory stimuli in the harbor of Constantinople), and hear church bells--from the simple call to Matins in Kells to the tolling of the massive bells of Hagia Sophia. It is an epic story of another time, and is brought vividly to life by Lawhead. ...more
Mar 18, 2015 Angspendlove rated it really liked it
If you've been watching Vikings on the History Channel you might at first think that the show is based on this book. That's what hooked me. But this is the Monks story and it is really, really good but also really long. If I had been reading (instead of listening to the audio book) I might have gotten bogged down. Toward the end, I hung on because **spoilers** how did he intended to return to live his "regular" life without his belief in God? and I wanted to know if he ever regained his faith. T ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Monica 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.
Mar 16, 2016 Henry added it
Listened to the audio version. Great historical fiction about a monk who goes on pilgrammage to Constantinople, gets captured by Vikings, travels to Byzantium, becomes an Arab slave, gets caught up in royal plots, and ultimately makes his way back and converts the Vikings. I loved his Arthur trilogy when I was a kid and this is just as good. All of his books have a Christian theme, but they're still very good. I wonder about his historical accuracy, but he at least is very good about making you ...more
Stephen Lawhead does his best work when he writes series of books, but if I had to choose one book that displays all this talents, this would be the one. It's also the first one that got him noticed on a World wide scale and has been translated into several languages and never out of print. If I were to introduce Lawhead to a person and could do it with only one book written by him this would be the one. And once you've read just one of his books, you are a hard core fan for life and go and buy ...more
Tina Bretsch bing
This is my favorite book ever hands down! I have just read this book a second time. There is adventure, historical religion, a smidge of romance, mystery, history, and so much more. I am not doing this book justice but if you saw my copy of the book, you would know it was well loved. I picked it up at a library "leave one/take one" book swap. I chose it because it was already well loved and I figured something that looked that worn must be good. It was the first book I ever read by Stephen Lawhe ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Geoffrey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, epic
To a degree, writing a review about this book will only show that I’m somewhat biased in my opinion of it. This was my 4th time reading it since it came out 17 years ago. Once every 4-ish years isn’t too obsessive. But, I adore this book. It’s massive in scope and it could have been a tragic failure of overreach but instead is just a beautiful accounting of life in 10th Century Europe and the Middle East.

The book opens with an almost magic relationship between Aidan, a Célé Dé monk and priest, t
Deborah Ideiosepius
Oct 26, 2012 Deborah Ideiosepius 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
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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:

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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