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The Sheen on the Silk

3.45  ·  Rating Details ·  1,388 Ratings  ·  333 Reviews
New York Times bestselling novelist Anne Perry, the undisputed Queen of Victorian mysteries and the author of an acclaimed series set during World War I, now broadens her canvas with her first major stand-alone book—an epic historical novel set in thirteenth-century Constantinople, where a woman must live a lie in her quest to uncover the truth.

    Arriving in the anc
Hardcover, 518 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Ballantine Books
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For such a fascinating subject matter - a girl disguised as a eunuch physician tries to save her exiled brother in the 13th century Byzantium - it's a tragically dull, flat, sluggish book. It's sort of an accomplishment to make Byzantium, court intrigue, and gender confusion dull. I read it to the end to see if it remained dull, and it did remain dull, and it was steadily getting even duller as I read on.

The main problem was, I think, in the absolute lack of any suspense or mystery, because ever
Sep 12, 2011 Kristin rated it it was ok
I really wanted to give this book 3 stars but it didn't quite get there. I loved the setting which goes back and forth between Constantinople, Venice, Rome, Sicily, and other areas during the crusades in the 13th Century. It really is fascinating subject matter and I learned a lot about ancient Byzantium, Roman rule, and religious views during that time. I also thought some of the characters, especially Anna who poses as a Eunuch physician, were well-developed and sympathetic. However, this book ...more
Mickey Boggs
Sep 11, 2010 Mickey Boggs rated it it was amazing
I've read most, if not all, of Anne Perry's previous works and especially enjoy the two series featuring Thomas Pitt and William Monk. When I read the flyleaf description of this book I wasn't sure it was something up my alley. But I found myself totally captivated by this book. Having been to Istanbul, Venice and Messina (albeit 700+ years later) and having seen the Hagia Sophia, the canals and harbors her vivid imagery just made the whole book "pop" for me. The description of daily life in the ...more
Jan 29, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books where you read the first chapter and think, "Oh, how wonderful--I've found another book I can look forward to reading and in which I can lose myself and enter another world." The Sheen on the Silk is Anne Perry's masterpiece--a great historical novel set in the 1200s in Constantinople (with excursions to Venice, Sicily, Jerusalem, and Mount Sinai). The book tells of Anna Lascaris, a woman of Nicea and a physician, who disguises herself as a eunuch and moves with her tw ...more
Jun 06, 2010 C.W. rated it really liked it
Anne Perry departs from her bestselling Victorian mysteries for an epic but at times uneven tale of 13th century Byzantium, featuring a female physician who disguises herself as a eunuch to uncover the truth about her twin brother's involvement in the assassination of an important politician.

Still reeling from a Venetian-led assault that devastated its populace and exiled its imperial family, Byzantium is a city of crumbling secrets, besieged noble families, and labyrinthine intrigues; into thi
Jan 21, 2010 Misfit rated it it was ok
In search of her brother Justinian, who was accused of murder and then banished, Anna Lascaris comes to Constantinople disguised as Anastasius, a eunuch and physician by trade. Like magic, Anastasius is getting clients in all the right circles and wheeling and dealing with the greatest in the land. Meanwhile, there are plots afoot in Rome to bring Constantinople and the Orthodox Church to heel or face the threat of destruction at the hands of another crusade.

Or it was something like that. I hat
Jeannie Mancini
Feb 05, 2010 Jeannie Mancini rated it it was ok
Murder mystery author Anne Perry has decided to deviate from her Victorian sleuthing into the world of historical fiction with her upcoming March release of The Sheen on the Silk. This is the story of how Byzantium, the city of Constantinople with it's religious mix of Orthodox Christianity, and Muslim faiths, fought hard in the 13th century to preserve their heritage and religion against the ongoing conquests from Rome.

The lead character, Anna, is masquerading as a young male eunuch in Constan
Aug 06, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it
Lush, voluptuous, and exciting! This was a wonderful read by dependably excellent author Anne Perry!

This was a departure for Perry in that she took us to ancient Constantinople instead of Victorian London, where most of her other books are set. But because Anne Perry is so superb at writing in a way that paints a total picture of the world the story is set in so fully and so realistically, you really do feel like you are IN the book and experiencing the story with the characters.

Every sight, ev
Sep 27, 2010 Eva rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing book. Byzantium is recovering from the Crusade in 1204 when it was burned, plundered and the remaining citizens exiled. The exiles have returned and are rebuilding their homes when Rome demands they give up Orthodoxy or be burned and plundered again.

Plots to save their city and plots to destroy it swirl through the story. The main one involves the murder of Besarion Comnenos, a leader who favored remaining true to Orthodoxy and revolting against Rome. Anna Zarides' twin broth
Dorothy Timmerman
Jan 04, 2013 Dorothy Timmerman rated it it was amazing
After finishing this one (for the second time), I turned to my mother and exclaimed that reading Anne Perry is like hearing the works of Beethoven for the first time having only learned how to play the flute. Inadequate. I am inadequate compared to the mind of this woman (with no comment on her troubled past). Of course, my mother rolled her eyes at me, but I hold to the statement. She has a bent of genius that I can only gawk at.

It helps, of course, that the story is set in the Byzantine empir
Apr 18, 2013 Rachel rated it did not like it

I love the theory of this book, since I absolutely adored The Beacon at Alexandria. A woman, driven to disguise herself as a eunuch to practice medicine. Lush settings and a story full of intrigue is what I expected.

What I got was the story of a woman who already was a successful physician as a woman, who moved to Constantinople to clear her brother's name. And disguised herself as a eunuch. For some reason.

Within 60 pages she had already acquired as patients two of the most influential peo
Apr 08, 2010 Marci rated it really liked it
Despite its flaws, I was breathtaken with admiration for Anne Perry's latest. It is set in 13th-century Constantinople, which had been sacked by the Fourth Crusade and at the time of this story is just recovering about 60 years later. The story is almost as complicated as Byzantine politics is said to have been, with the heart of the story concerning a woman masquerading as an eunuch in order to practice her profession as a physician and discreetly search for the truth about her banished brother ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Denise rated it really liked it
This is a book about a woman who disguises herself as a eunuch in the 1200s Constantinople, which is about 200 years before the fall of the Byzantine empire. She interacts with several eunuchs in Byzantium, from her own loyal servant who teaches her how to pass as a eunuch, to religious leaders, and one very high ranking court eunuch. I liked that the author showed a variety of eunuchs in some amount of depth, some of whom were good and bad characters, but I was disappointed that the author didn ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Bryndis rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody.
Allow me to start my review with a quote from Dorothy Parker: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." 'The Sheen on Silk' was just awful. I am normally a HUGE Anne Perry fan and have read all of her Monk books and Charlotte Pitt books. I love historical detective fiction and was happy that she was trying a different time period other than the Victorian era. This time, she focuses her story in the 13th century in the Byzantine empire. Most of the bo ...more
Torn between 4 and 5 stars.
(writing this without the book at hand, so I hope I get the names right)
The historical part of this history is fantastic. I felt really immersed in Byzantium as I read it.
The story itself is slow but interesting. The main character, Anna, is a foreigner masquerading as a eunuch doctor in order to investigate the cause of her brother's exile and imprisonment. Anna is a bit too goody-good to start with, but the eunuch-impersonation makes her character more interesting.
In 1273, Anna Zarides travels to Constantinople disguised as a eunuch, in order to practice medicine at all levels of society, so she can solve the mystery of her twin brother's exile. Powerful Zoe Chrysaphes is bent on revenging the betrayal of Byzantium to the Crusaders 70 years before. Giuliano Dandolo, half Venetian and half Byzantine, is sent to investigate Constantinople's political climate, as a coming Crusade looms. Papal legates Enrico Palombara and Niccolo Vicenze are sent from Rome to ...more
Oct 05, 2010 Brian rated it really liked it
I found this quite a challenging read. This is partly because what I know about Byzantium can be written on a postage stamp, but this is certainly not a novel you can read with half your mind on TV or what you're having for dinner. Such inattention will leave you lost and having to go back to find out who this character is and what their motives might be.

Anna Zarides, a doctor, arrives in Constantinople in disguise as a eunuch, trying to establish the innocence of her brother, who has been banis
A.L. Sowards
Nov 26, 2013 A.L. Sowards rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
If you read this book for the story, you’ll probably find it average. The writing is beautiful and very descriptive, but the pace is slow. The main character, Anna, goes to Constantinople to find evidence that will clear her brother’s name, and it takes her years to gather even the basics of what happened. But if you read it as an exploration of revenge, redemption, loyalty, faith, and sacrifice, the book is profound. Set at a time when the people of Constantinople were faced with the choice of ...more
Jun 22, 2013 Nancy rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
I loved Ann Perry's deep, deep dive into Byzantine culture. This book really did a good job of totally immersing the reader in the culture and religious strife of the 13th Century.

Perry created some complex, memorable characters that keep the book lively, but if the reader is primarily interested in plot, the book may be more frustrating. There is so much historical content inserted in the text; then repeated; then reprised, that parts of the book got tedious, if not boring.

But I appreciated the
Mar 19, 2010 Phoebe rated it it was ok
Anna, a physician, poses as a eunuch in 13th century Constantinople after she learns of her brother's exile for the murder of a nobleman. I found some of the politics and the intricacies of religious history hard to keep track of but since I read late at night this is only to be expected. The historical details and the descriptions are worth reading, but there wasn't much of a mystery, and I thought Perry made a meal out of what could have been told with more brevity. If you're expecting Monk-qu ...more
Oct 08, 2016 Laureen rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-book
3.5 stars really. I did enjoy this story very much but I don't know how accurate the depiction of the Byzantium period was but I was hoping to get some knowledge. I may have to try some more HF on this subject before I can give an honest opinion. However, I was glad I was listening to an audio book on my way to and from work and not trying to read it. I think it could have been a laborious read.
Apr 01, 2010 Kathleen rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish

I love historical fiction, if it moves along at something faster than a snail's pace and doesn't get bogged down in endless political recitations - "if so and so invades, then where will so and so's loyalty lie, if the armies of so and so march here first, and then over there, but it will all depend on shipbuilding and blah blah blah"

200 pages is all the investment I'm willing to make on this one. I have too high a stack of must-reads waiting for me.
Apr 13, 2010 Katherine rated it really liked it
First book I've read where I regretted the lack of footnotes.
Mar 06, 2017 Cheryll rated it it was ok
I found the first half some 350 pages to be difficult to follow. There were numerous characters and multiple relationships as well as many historical figures I was not familiar with. The mysteries the main characters were trying to unravel began to become known in the last third of the book and the reader is given a few reasons to like them.
May 19, 2011 Chandler rated it really liked it
This is the first book I have read by this author and actually chose to read it because it is about one of my most favorite places in the world--Instanbul. Sadly my knowledge of the history of that region is lacking and this book filled me in a piece I was clueless about.

The Roman Catholic Pope wants to eliminate the Greek Orthodox Church. However the leadership in Istanbul is weak, the borders are shrinking and attack by Italy/the Vatican is inevitable. There is one woman, Zoe Chrysaphes, who h
I am very familiar with Anne Perry from her two mystery series set in London and surrounds, back in the early part of the last century. Her ability to evoke a sense of place is laudable, and I thought that this book might be a good companion for a car trip I was taking, especially since this book is set in a time and place that fascinate me: Constantinople in the 1270's. I was in Istanbul 700 years after this story takes place, and the remnants of history, culture, religions, and war are still f ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
• Mlle Alice, pouvez-vous nous raconter votre rencontre avec Du Sang sur la Soie?

"Je suis une inconditionnelle d'Anne Perry depuis que j'ai enchaîné toute sa série des Charlotte et Thomas Pitt du premier au dernier!! Dès qu'un nouveau de ses romans sort, c'est plus fort que moi, tout résistance serait veine."

• Dites-nous en un peu plus sur son histoire...

"Anna se rend à Constantinople, déguisée en eunuque, afin de comprendre ce qui est arrivé à son frère jumeau qui a disparu! On va alors non s
Mar 24, 2013 Benjamin rated it did not like it
I had really hoped to like this book, unfortunately it feel far short of its promise of complex Byzantine intrigue and exciting historical drama. Outside the narrative, which is terrible and contrived, the book is poorly written with mind numbing repetition and obvious metaphors shoehorned in so often you feel that you are at the receiving end of a rogue literary pitching machine. The book is exaggeratedly long. The contrived plot would have only really needed thirty or so chapters to play out, ...more
Jun 20, 2010 Judy rated it it was ok
I'm a fan of the books of Anne Perry. I've enjoyed the William Monk books, the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, and especially the World War I series. So I eagerly anticipated reading this stand alone historical mystery that opens in 1273 in Constantinople. A major disappointment. The story was repetitive, slow moving, and the story could definitely been told in less than 515 pages. A strong editorial hand was needed. Having said that, Perry's historical research was quite interesting and quite ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 11, 2010 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it liked it
‘Trust your enemies, if you know who they are.’

This novel opens in 1273, almost seventy years after the sacking of Constantinople during the fourth crusade. The war-ravaged Byzantine Empire is still living with the consequences of the fourth crusade, and is again under threat. In order to avoid another sacking of Constantinople, the Emperor Michael Palaeologus is trying to unite the Greek (Orthodox) and Latin (Catholic) Churches. This is the brief historical background to the novel, and sets the
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Anne Perry (born Juliet Hulme) is a British historical novelist.

Juliet took the name "Anne Perry," the latter being her stepfather's surname. Her first novel, The Cater Street Hangman, was published under this name in 1979. Her works generally fall into one of several categories of genre fiction, including historical murder mysteries and detective fiction. Many of them feature a number of recurrin
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