The Sheen on the Silk
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The Sheen on the Silk

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  958 ratings  ·  268 reviews
Arriving in Constantinople in 1273, Anna Zarides vows to prove the innocence of her twin brother, Justinian, who has been exiled to the desert for conspiring to kill a nobleman. Disguising herself as a eunuch named Anastasius, Anna moves freely about in society, maneuvering close to the key players involved in her brother’s fate, including Zoe Chrysaphes, a devious noblewo...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published February 1st 2000)
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Kristin
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
Tocotin
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...more
Mickey Boggs
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
Misfit
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...more
Lisa
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
C.W.
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...more
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...more
Kristen
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...more
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...more
Marci
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
Rachel
Well.

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...more
A.L. Sowards
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
Brian
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...more
Susan
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
Susan
As I mentioned briefly before, this book in size and heft and subject reminded me of one of Dorothy Dunnett's historical novels. I'll be curious to see if Perry has begun a series because she easily could have given the ending.

The story takes place primarily in Constantinople during the Byzantine Empire. Western European crusaders have already passed through the city once 70 years before - raping, pillaging, burning, and otherwise destroying the fellow Christian, but not Roman, city en route to...more
VMom
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....more
Eva
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...more
Nancy
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...more
Phoebe
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
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...more
Kathleen
BORING.

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.
Katherine
First book I've read where I regretted the lack of footnotes.
Dawn
I listened to this on audio while driving back and forth to work. It is an incredibly long book to listen to, in my opinion, given that events and the story line stretched out over years.
The story revolves around a handful of main characters and a few dozen minor ones in the 12th century in Byzantine. We are introduced to the main players gradually and slowly learn the background and plot. It's very detailed and complex at times and in others I felt that the story jumped ahead way too quickly,...more
Alma
I would've given this book 5 stars were it not for the ending - it was much too quick! I feel like this book would've benefited greatly from having an epilogue.

There were a few other faults - slightly contrived language on occasion, especially when describing scenery; being a bit too drawn out; the much too brief revelation of one of the character's great secrets - but those were easily overlooked because of the incredible characters. THAT was amazingly done! All of them are so human, flawed, w...more
Joy
Unlike the Victorian novels I'd read by Perry, this was a long book set in Byzantine in 1273. A woman doctor poses as a eunuch to gain info and rescue her twin brother. There was lots of info on life around the
ruler, the fear of another Crusade, life of eunnuchs, etc. The heroine was very likeable and well developed as a character. The head of the
Orthodox church was very opposed to being united with the Roman church,
but he was otherwise a very flawed character. ("Was it true of him also that it...more
Emily
Meh. Closer to a 2.5, but not enough to round up.

It started out slow, though it did pick up about halfway through. I just couldn't bring myself to care for any of the characters. Most were so two-dimensional I had a hard time keeping them straight, which is fairly odd for an Anne Perry novel. A few characters, like Anna, Constantine, and Giuliano, showed some interesting growth or change along the way.

I was initially drawn to the book because of the setting; 13th century Constantinople fascinat...more
bookczuk
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
Bonnie
I'm a big fan of Anne Perry. I'm also a big historical novel/historical mystery fan. This is the only book I know of that she's written that hasn't been set in England. I've read a bit about the Byzantine Empire and so recognized some of the events and names, but wasn't familiar with the possible crusade that plays such an important part in this book. I was hoping that there would be an afterword to clarify what was fact and what was fiction about that. I really enjoyed this book although I didn...more
Ruth
c2010. Dull, dull, dull. I battled with the whole plot of a girl disguised as a eunuch trying to find out about her brother - but she knew where he was. Interesting time in history but oh, such uninspiring writing. It was really a plod. It is clear that the author is a wordsmith and experienced but the plot was really just a step too far. (Which from me - an avid reader of spec fiction - must be saying something). I didn't like any of the characters, found the plotting improbable and the ending...more
Benjamin
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
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

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 cate...more
More about Anne Perry...
The Face of a Stranger (William Monk, #1) The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #1) Callander Square (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #2) A Dangerous Mourning (William Monk, #2) Paragon Walk (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #3)

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