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Description - Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch by Christopher Harris

Captured and castrated as a boy, Zeno is sold into slavery in Constantinople. Bought by the greatest scholar of the age, he is soon drawn into a labyrinth of sex, heresy, murder and intrigue. Though the empire is threatened by a heretic uprising and a barbarian invasion, its rulers think only of themselves. In the cruel and glittering city of Constantinople, a ruthless general, a bisexual boy-emperor, a worldly patriarch, a peasant usurper and a half-Viking empress all vie for power. Unknown to them, the real power lies elsewhere, among the devious and decadent eunuchs of the palace. Zeno conspires, deceives, manipulates and murders, his divided loyalties leading him deeper into danger until he is forced to betray those he loves.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781903517031
ISBN-10: 1903517036
Format: Paperback
(200mm x 129mm x 28mm)
Pages: 364
Imprint: Dedalus Ltd
Publisher: Dedalus Ltd
Publish Date: 11-Jun-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch by Christopher Harris

UK Kirkus Review » Fitting in perfectly with the 'intellectual fiction' ethos of previous Dedalus publications, Christopher Harris's latest novel is an essential read for anyone who enjoyed his two previously acclaimed historical tales, Theodore and False Ambassador. The story of Zeno starts off in Tmutorokan, on the northern shore of the Black Sea. Seven years old and agog at a world full of sailors and merchants, nomads and peasants, trappers and fishermen from all points of the world, he catches his first glimpse of the giant Rus - the Vikings as they were called - and ends up, terrified, as a captive in their violent world. Having witnessed the sport enjoyed by these strange men with an apparent lack of concern for life or limb, the boy undergoes a brutal castration at the cruel hands of a cripple. Through his teenage years he learns their language and listens to their fantastic tales of their Norse Gods, before a Byzantine scholar, Constantine, buys him, and takes him back to the splendours of Constantinople. Despite the disdain held by many for eunuchs like him, Zeno soon finds a place for himself amongst the upper echelons of the bustling city, and adapts to life as a scholar with ease. Thanks to his quick wits he soon becomes as devious and conniving as everyone around him, and plays a crucial part in the politics and machinations of those hungry for power as they jostle for position and control of the empire. Harris pays fastidious attention to the details of the time - ninth-century Constantinople while the Byzantine Empire was enjoying a renaissance - and brilliantly conjures up images of the fineries of the city's leading figures as nothing more than a thin veneer under which squirmed their sordid secrets and lascivious tastes. An epic tale told expertly. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Another fictional memoir from the author of Theodore (2001), this one about the adventures of a eunuch in ninth-century Constantinople. Being kidnapped is rarely a way of getting ahead in the world, but it seems to have worked for narrator Zeno. The son of a well-to-do Roman colonist in Asia Minor, Zeno is captured by a marauding band of the Rus (Vikings) while still a boy. Promptly castrated and sold as a slave to an innkeeper in Constantinople, he grows up in a tavern on the outskirts of the capital. A Christian scholar named Constantine, interested in Zeno's knowledge of the Rus dialect, purchases the boy and introduces him to the higher circles of the Church and Imperial Court; he eventually becomes one of the court eunuchs who handle the administration of imperial policy. This is not purely a desk job. One of Zeno's first assignments is to secretly escort the young Emperor Michael III to various taverns and brothels, where he can amuse himself unhindered by the imperial prefects. Zeno's success in this undertaking wins him favor from both the emperor and (more importantly) his uncle Bardas, an army general who has allied himself with Michael against the boy's mother, Empress Theodora. Not all the intrigues are political. The recent success of Muslim invaders at the empire's frontiers has led some churchmen to speculate that God is punishing Christians for the idolatry of icons. The possibility of civil war looms as Basil the Usurper raises an army and lays claim to the throne. Who said anything about turmoil? This is just daily life in Byzantium. Author Harris knows his territory well and succeeds in making the fairly complex politics of the Eastern Empire intelligible and interesting to neophytes, but the story in the foreground is pretty shopworn. Your basic Horatio Alger dressed up in eunuch drag. (Kirkus Reviews)


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