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The Sheen on the Silk

3.43  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,319 Ratings  ·  326 Reviews
A brilliant standalone novel from Anne Perry, the undisputed master of the Victorian mystery.

1273 - the gorgeous, cosmopolitan and enlightened city of Byzantium is in acute danger. Only an alliance with the Church of Rome will stop the crusading fervour of the Italian and French troops on its borders, determined to strike through Byzantium to reach Jerusalem. Faced with th
Paperback, 608 pages
Published September 2nd 2010 by Headline
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Sep 12, 2011 Kristin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mickey Boggs
Sep 17, 2010 Mickey Boggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 21, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 06, 2014 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 08, 2010 Marci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 18, 2013 Rachel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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
A.L. Sowards
Nov 26, 2013 A.L. Sowards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-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
Oct 05, 2010 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
Jun 22, 2013 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 07, 2010 Phoebe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Anne Slater
Jun 14, 2016 Anne Slater rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anne Perry wrote it, it must be good, eh?


All 518 pages, plus the lengthy bibliography which in itself is worth reading (only the titles-- unless you want to write a book about a young widow who poses as a eunuch to establish a medical practice in Constantinople so she can find her disappeared twin brother by insinuating herself into court life).

There is a plethora of interesting characters and characterizations of the world of the late 13th century: the "color" is magnificent, even i
Jane Healy
The main character of this story is the city of Constantinople during the 1200's, as it prepares for Crusader attac--again--and defends its Orthox faith against Rome. The many human characters are scheming, power hungry, and violent. The main human character, Anna, goes to Constantinople disguised as a eunich in search of her brother who has been exiled because he murdered someone. This supposed main plot soon takes second or third place to the politics, religion, and violence of the times told ...more
Joanne Dowd
I struggled to finish this book. The overall premise is interesting, the historical detail is fascinating, but the story is thin. It could have, and likely should have been edited down by a couple hundred pages. I am a huge Anne Perry fan and was excited to see brand new characters from her.

Anna is a doctor who comes to Constantinople disguised as a eunuch to discover what happened to her brother. She becomes involved with a variety of characters who she tries to (awkwardly) question on about h
Eric Wright
Perry's Sheen on the Silk showcases a rich cast of characters living during a turbulent period in history, circa 1273. The main setting of the book is Constantinople but Venice, Rome, Paslestine and Sicily also form part of the rich tapestry of this historical novel.

Anna Zarides arrives in the Byzantine capital in 1273 to prove the innocence of her twin brother. In order to move freely in society and discover the plot that resulted in her brother's banishment to a monastery in the Sinai, Anna d
Apr 01, 2010 Kathleen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jack Murphy
Mar 17, 2015 Jack Murphy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
I was torn between giving Ann's book a 3 or 4 stars. I listened to this audio book by Ann Perry during my trips to work. Ann Perry has certainly done her homework, researching the history of Constantinople. The historical part of this book 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. Howeve ...more
Colin O'bryan
The Sheen on the Silk is a story about a young woman, whom, disguised as a male Doctor travels to the city of Constantinople in the year 1273. She is trying to find her twin brother who has been found guilty and exiled to the middle east for the murder of a nobleman. Because she is disguised as a male eunuch she can move freely about the city and get close to people who are important in deciding the fate of her twin brother. But to top it off while all this is happening two battles are happening ...more
I enjoyed the great amount of detail Perry put into this novel, and it was interesting to learn about a time period, location, and conflict about which I had very little previous knowledge. I almost wish I had done some research on the subject matter before picking up this book, however, because it might have been easier to follow if I had. I found myself confused as to what, exactly, was occurring more than once and many of the characters have similar names, making it hard to differentiate them ...more
Elaine Kozak
Sep 09, 2015 Elaine Kozak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are a number of flaws in this book and if the system allowed I would give it 3.5 stars but I'll err upwards because it was a fascinating read. The story I assume has some historical basis. The Byzantine empire in the thirteenth century is not a place and era that's been over-explored in literature and that alone makes it worth reading. The main characters are well fleshed out and fascinating, the settings well rendered, and the plot is rich and convoluted--quite Byzantine in fact. The flaw ...more
Mike Shoop
Nov 10, 2014 Mike Shoop rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plenty of intrigue, murder, plots and counterplots, backstabbing (literally), political unrest, and religious upheaval wrapped in a mystery involving a woman physician posing as a eunuch who is trying to clear her twin brother's name and get him back from exile in Sinai. Great characters, a huge saga of a story, lots of action, and sheer treachery beyond belief--all set against Constantinople in 1273, a city still suffering from the invasion of the Fourth Crusade. And as the story unfolds and mo ...more
Part historical fiction, part palace intrigue, part slow-boiling romance. Not a bodice is ripped, but the parts all move in and around one another as the armies of Charles of Anjou approach Constantinople, bent on sacking it (again.) Some of the elders remember the last time the Crusaders sacked their city. Many just dread them after hearing the stories.
How can Constantinople save itself? By a pack with Rome? By faith in the Orthodox Church? By intervention by Mary, Mother of Jesus? Everyone is
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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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