Title: The Sheen on the Silk
Author: Anne Perry
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Length: 19 hours
Published in: 2010
Genre: historical fiction
Summary (from Goodreads):
Arriving in the ancient Byzantine city in the year 1273, Anna Zarides has only one mission: to prove the innocence of her twin brother, Justinian, who has been exiled to the desert for conspiring to kill Bessarion, a nobleman. Disguising herself as a eunuch named Anastasius, Anna moves freely about in society, using her skills as a physician to manoeuver close to the key players involved in her brother’s fate. With her medical practice thriving, Anna crosses paths with Zoe Chrysaphes, a devious noblewoman with her own hidden agenda, and Giuiliano Dandolo, a ship’s captain conflicted not only by his mixed Venetian-Byzantine heritage but by his growing feelings for Anastasius.
Trying to clear her brother’s name, Anna learns more about Justinian’s life and reputation—including his peculiar ties to Bessarion’s beautiful widow and his possible role in a plot to overthrow the emperor. This leaves Anna with more questions than answer, and time is running out. For an even greater threat lies on the horizon: Another Crusade to capture the Holy Land is brewing, and leaders in Rome and Venice have set their sights on Constantinople for what is sure to be a brutal invasion. Anna’s discoveries draw her inextricably closer to the dangers of the emperor’s treacherous court—where it seems that no one is exactly who he or she appears to be.
My Thoughts: The main force driving Anna to pretend she is the eunuch Anastasius is to prove her brother’s innocence. I get that not the entire story must center on that plot and that supporting characters and their lives can play a valid though indirect role for that driving force. But by the end of the book, it hardly seemed like Anna cared at all about Justinian. After a lot going on in Byzantium, Anna was completely sidetracked from her first motive for posing as a eunuch apothecary. She finally gave in to the fact that Justinian might not have been innocent, but that he did whatever he did for a good reason. So she pretty much just stopped trying, but she did achieve her goal of a pardon for Justinian from the emperor. It just bothers me that in the end, after always telling the reader she was trying to help her brother, the big finale was her ending up with Giuliano Dandolo (after she had come clean about her being a woman, that is). That makes me sad. She could’ve easily been left off as a emperor. It just bothers me that in the end, after always telling the reader she was trying to help her brother, the big finale was her ending up with Giuliano Dandolo (after she had come clean about her being a woman, that is). That makes me sad. She could’ve easily been left off as a strong and independent heroine, but she was just paired off with a guy instead. I’m all for happy endings, but that could’ve easily gone another direction.
As for the historical aspect of the story, I think I was only partially interested in it. I don’t know much about the 1200s or the Crusades, and this wasn’t exactly the informative type of story. I admit it was hard for me to picture the world and the characters at that time. When I think of Crusades I think of knights in shining armor, not exactly what Byzantium looked like, except for when crusaders were running around. I think I might be interested in the time and place from a more non-fiction view.
I was interested in the whole plot centering around the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox church being at odds. I admit that I didn’t know the Crusades were between varying Christian factions–I thought it was between Christians and Muslims (which I’m sure was probably true, too). Nothing seems to make me smile than when such differences in the same religion can make such trouble. I’m not a very religious person, so maybe that’s why it amuses me when people feel the need to be so cruel and un-Christian-like to prove their’s is the true god.