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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.

Critic Reviews

"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)

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So much fun!

A really enjoyable historical fiction novel. This had all of the elements of great historical fiction; sympathetic and finely drawn characters, wonderfully detailed settings involving place and time, and intricate weaving of fiction based on factual historical information.

The narration was not bad. It did not detract from the novel, however , the narrators voice is not very flexible so many of the characters sounded the same.

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Wonderful

A rich, complex character caught in a whirlwind of action. This book kept me on the "edge of my seat" and at times made my heart break.

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I love this adventure!

finished in 3 days. Story is good. I enjoyed the characters thoroughly.
Stewart Langton, sucks a fatty, monotone, and boring.

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Ponderous

Geez what a disappointment. 2 hours into it I could take no more. The writing is ponderous and the narrator just drones on and on. Love audio books and have years of listening experience. Seldom have I encountered such a dreary production.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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An adventure in medieval philisophy

This is a long book--and not easy to narrate, so kudos to Stuart Langton. It's in first-person, so it's commendable that he came up with a believable Irish voice for the main character--although Aidan's bitterness throughout much of the story is hard to swallow, you understand more of what he feels because of the narration. It starts out very slow--but you soon grow used to the pace as it's not a typical adventure tale.

Ultimately, this story, while a dramatic adventure saga in which the protagonist is a monk, a slave, a spy, a prince and emissary, is really more of an exploration of the age-old question of this world's suffering. "How could a supposedly loving, omnipotent God allow the suffering of the innocent?" Aidan, who starts out as a monk, decides that God is neither loving nor omnipotent and his bitterness drives much of his experience throughout the book. Really interesting, no matter what your personal beliefs are, since everyone has had to grapple with such questions.

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A worthy tale

It's been a while since I have listened to this story but, what I recall I liked. Nothing stands out to me as amazing but I do like the Author so I probably overlook the things that I don't like. Mr Lawhead makes a good story that usally has lots of historical and or imaginative detail.

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  • nj
  • Arizona
  • 11-05-12

Glad I gave Lawhead a second listen

This was a very interesting tale, the breadth of the adventure far surpassed my initial expectations. My first experience with the author was in listening to "Hood." He sort of reinvented the legend of Robin Hood in a way that felt peculiar to me. But I confess his story telling in that piece was a good quality, it was simply a departure from the jovial Robin Hood tales I had enjoyed in my youth.

This story centers on an Irish monk in thelate 9th century who goes on a mission with his brother monks to deliver a copy of scripture to the Emperor in Byzantium. In his journey he is kidnapped and enslaved by Vikings, and eventually winds his way southward with his captors through the Eastern empire, and eventually finds himself in middle eastern territory among various factions of the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslim kingdoms of the era.

The odd thing about this book is that the resolution of the main plot conflict gets resolved much ahead of the conflict that the main character is experiencing internally. You reach a point where it feels like the story is about to end, but our monk Aidan is still a long way off from resolving his future plans in any satisfying manner. Ultimately Lawhead delivers a powerful resolution in the story of Aidan, and it was worth struggling through to the end to see our hero finally grasp the purpose of his long terrifying adventure.

While I enjoyed this book, it is worth noting that it is quite dark. The sheer amount of bloodshed and violence is depressing, but it serves to show why Aidan becomes so outraged at God who seems far away, and indifferent to the plight of the people who become victims. Anyone who is looking for a story with a pristene hero, or a faithful man who is never tempted by sin, this is not such a tale.

The epilogue indicates that the main character is in fact an historical figure, though the author has apparently revealed in interviews that the character is named for an historical Irish monk, but in reality the tale is fictitious and combines some details of the lives of four different Irish monks and clergymen from the time period.

If you look up the name Aidan Mac Canneich online you will find information which will serve as spoiler to the story. I caution you to hold off on this search until you are done with the story

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Very good; worth time and money; many surprises

What did you like best about this story?

Possibly the aspect that I liked best in the book was the portrayal of friendships via the main character Aidan and the excellent diversity of characters from Monks to Sea Wolves to Saracens.

Which character ??? as performed by Stuart Langton ??? was your favorite?

Aidan.

If you could take any character from Byzantium out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Aidan.

Any additional comments?

The book was very good; much of the time gripping and sometimes tedious. I am happy that before purchasing I read a review warning of the slow start. I probably would have continued to plod on but the insight helped. It really is worth the time and money. So many adventures I was almost exhausted at times wondering how Aidan and his friends would survive the next crisis. Also I was surprised several times by the turn of events; pleasantly surprised I would say as Lawhead was not predictable the vast majority of the time. The book did tail off a little at the end, a little predictable, but in fairness to the author, this was in part because he had set the standard so high with his dramatic twists and conclusions to the many predicaments the group found themselves in. I listened to this at work as I am able to listen on my job but not read. The book may be hard to just sit and listen to because of its length and some of the slower portions. Overall, I would highly recommend.

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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 2 people found this review helpful

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Great Read, World History that comes alive

What did you love best about Byzantium?

The way in which the author takes you throught through history by making the travels of one man come alive.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Aden

What about Stuart Langton’s performance did you like?

One could identify each character without difficulty by his wonderful reading.