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Byzantium | [Stephen R. Lawhead]

Byzantium

Although born to rule, Aidan lives as a scribe in a remote Irish monastery on the far, wild edge of Christendom. Secure in work, contemplation, and dreams of the wider world, a miracle bursts into Aidan's quiet life. He is chosen to accompany a small band of monks on a quest to the fabled city of Byzantium, where they are to present the beautiful and costly hand-illuminated Book of Kells to the emperor of all Christendom.
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Publisher's Summary

Although born to rule, Aidan lives as a scribe in a remote Irish monastery on the far, wild edge of Christendom. Secure in work, contemplation, and dreams of the wider world, a miracle bursts into Aidan's quiet life. He is chosen to accompany a small band of monks on a quest to the fabled city of Byzantium, where they are to present the beautiful and costly hand-illuminated Book of Kells to the emperor of all Christendom.

During this expedition by sea and over land, Aidan becomes, by turns, a warrior and a sailor, a slave and a spy, a Viking and a Saracen, and finally, a man. He sees more of the world than most men of his time, becoming an ambassador to kings and an intimate of Byzantium's fabled Golden Court. And finally, this valiant Irish monk faces the greatest trial confronting any man in any age: the command of his own destiny.

©1996 Stephen R. Lawhead; (P)2001 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Not merely a gripping yarn - and it certainly is that - this is also a novel about faith and the tests life plants in its way. Lawhead, author of the popular Pendragon cycle of fantasies, here makes a sure move into mainstream fiction." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (403 )
5 star
 (168)
4 star
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3 star
 (64)
2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.2 (211 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (205 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (8)
Performance
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  •  
    Christine Sharon, Ontario, Canada 12-04-10
    Christine Sharon, Ontario, Canada 12-04-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
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    "Unforgettable!"

    Years after listening to Stuart Langton perform this story my husband and I are still able conjur up images with just a word - 'aya' - and that one word brings back all the warmth and integrity of Lawhead's wonderfull characters. I miss them so! Get past the monotone of the first few chapters - trust the writer/reader that it has it's purpose.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    neil FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 07-30-09
    neil FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 07-30-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    224
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    39
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    Overall
    "Innovative Writing"

    I love long, well written, action packed historical
    novels. There are a lot of historical novels,
    and quite a few of them that have a lot of action.
    But there aren't many that have been written well.
    By that, most lover's of good literature probably share most of my beliefs as to what "well written"
    means.
    On the other hand, too many are prosaic in key areas like characterization, plot, and description
    to merit "well written". "Byzantium" is well
    written. It is innovative, it flows well, and
    tells a great story. For one who has read a lot
    of this genre, surprise at where the story goes
    is a refreshingly pleasant experience. Good
    narration, which becomes increasingly apparent,
    the deeper one goes in the story. It is a long
    story which kept my interest the entire time...the
    way I like it.

    29 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 03-28-11
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 03-28-11 Member Since 2009

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3646
    ratings
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    Overall
    "Well worth the credit"

    Great narrations have the potential to make a mediocre book great. Less than stellar performances can detract from a book's greatness to the point that an audiobook becomes a totally ruined experience. Some stories are so great, however, that a less than comparable narration cannot detract so much as to make the listening a totally rewarding experience. This, I believe, is the case with Byzantium.

    As others have commented, the book does start off a bit slow but that is perhaps to better portray and contrast the life of Aidan the monk with that of Aidan the adventuresome hero . And what an adventure there is to come. The time is the 10th century. The story begins and ends in an abbey in Ireland but takes the reader to such far away places as Constantinople, Scandinavia and Persia. Throughout these disparate lands, languages and cultures moves a protagonist who is incredibly skilled in diplomacy and who's polyglot virtuosity moves him in circles he might not normally find himself traversing so readily and so gracefully. Aidan is comfortable in the company of humble monks, marauding, barbarian Vikings, exalted emperors and sultans. Our hero is a lowly priest of noble heritage; he's a devout believer who becomes an atheist. and well, as is so brilliantly portrayed to us in the book, "it's complicated." Actually, the book is not so complicated; on the contrary, it is a simple story that is profound and touching on many levels and in many regards. The book will not disappoint.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mathew Saint Cloud, MN, United States 04-26-09
    Mathew Saint Cloud, MN, United States 04-26-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    "Byzantium"

    After reading/listening through Byzantium I am left with a sense of wonder at the adventures told. Only one warning though; it starts out very slowly. But the excitement does pick up once the monk Aidan is out of his Abbey home. This tale is told with a great sense of detail and makes you feel as if you are with Aidan walking the magnificent streets of ancient Byzantium, in a Viking drinking hall, at a Saracen court, or sailing for your life aboard a mighty longship.

    The triumphs and despair of the long journey are vivid and the characters are well fleshed out. The narrator does a good job with the changing his inflection and accent to give you the feel that you are listening to the roar of a Viking Jarl, or the clever intelligence of a noble Saracen Emir. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

    21 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Collierville, TN, United States 09-26-09
    James Collierville, TN, United States 09-26-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    "A truly great story!"

    This was my first by Lawhead. It will not be my last. He is wonderful. His character development is among the best. His plots and story line hold your interest and suspense throughout the book. Above all it is a story of faith that anyone (believers and nonbelievers) will appreciate.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig G. Clark Seaside, CA United States 04-29-09
    Craig G. Clark Seaside, CA United States 04-29-09 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    71
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    Overall
    "Thoughtful Adventure"

    This absorbing and sometimes thought provoking tale is only mildly flawed by predictability. Willingly suspending my judgment and simply enjoying the yarn proved worth every compelling minute. In the ethical struggle of the protagonist, I realized I was rooting for the traditional G*d, a posture in which I rarely find myself.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DesignerBee 10-01-10
    DesignerBee 10-01-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    Overall
    "great story, blah reader"

    I was sorely disappointed in the reading of this saga. All the characters were delivered in angry or gruff voices, and there was very little vocal difference between the many characters with little or no inflection. When the characters were in Constantinople and Arabia they sounded strangely East Indian, not Turkish, Persian, or Arabian.

    I had "wish listed" all the volumes in this series, but as they are all narrated by Mr. Langdon I don't think I'll download them. It's too bad because I loved the story and characters, and I assume the following volumes are just as interesting, but it was so terribly difficult to stay focused while listening to the monotone narrator that I just can't imagine listening to him again.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven E. Wedel Oklahoma 07-15-12
    Steven E. Wedel Oklahoma 07-15-12 Member Since 2009

    Author

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "A year later, this story stays with me"
    Any additional comments?

    "Life is a school of the spirit." This is the lesson Aidan must learn in this sweeping historical epic set in the 10th century. The story starts a little slow as Aidan and his fellow monks prepare for their journey to take a holy book to the Holy Roman Emperor in Constantinople. Once they are attacked by Vikings, however, the pace quickens and never lets up. That's quite a feat for an 880-page book (paperback edition). It is a well written, well plotted story of discovery of the external world as well as Aidan's heart. I highly recommend it.

    I still think back to this book often and remember with longing how engrossed I was in it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Blaine Camas, WA, United States 11-01-11
    Blaine Camas, WA, United States 11-01-11 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
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    "Crazy good..."

    I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. I was completely unfamiliar with the historical events around which this story takes place, but I found the main character Aidan, to be very believable and sturdy. I do think it was a TAD too long...there are places where the story drags a bit, but overall, I enjoyed it very much. For some reason, the narration sounded weird in my car...any "s" sounds or soft "c" sounds came out very grating on my system. I am sure it was just my car, as I did not notice this when I listened to the story on my iPhone. At any rate, I thought the narration was excellent, and the story very well done. I would recommend this to anyone that likes adventure stories, and historical fiction.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Houston, TX, United States 05-09-11
    David Houston, TX, United States 05-09-11 Member Since 2008

    Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1215
    ratings
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    151
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Monotonous narrator, repellent central character"

    A narrative written in the first person which lasts for twenty five hours needs two things above all--an excellent reader and an engaging and fascinating central character. Unfortunately this book has neither. Stuart Langton's delivery is flat and monotonous and almost completely lacking in differentiated vocal characterizations. And Aidan is a self obsessed fool with whom it is very difficult to identify. The fact that he admits as much on countless occasions and maunders on about his spiritual inadequacies did nothing to diminish my mounting dislike for him. As a result, the last third of the book, which contains most of the interesting action, still dragged on somewhat painfully.

    I have read and enjoyed some of Lawhead's other books. This was a disappointment. Two of the three stars are a response to the interesting glimpse into the historical period and the chance to break out the maps and follow the journey through unfamiliar territory.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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