Tag Archives: Empress Theodora

The Eagle and the Swan by Carol Strickland is a Beautiful Historical Biography of Theodora, with Unique Digital Options

The Eagle and the SwanI can’t rave enough about the experience I’ve had over the last month with Carol Strickland’s The Eagle and the Swan, Part 1 and the enhanced version offered by Erudition Digital. At first I had only read part one as I thought that was all I was offered in exchange for an honest review so I read it on the Kindle and then read it again and took time using the enhanced version on the PC (though I will go back and check out on the Ipad as well). I’ll get back to that in a little bit.

This novel features the rise and life of Empress Theodora during the time of the Byzantine Empire (6th Century), a time period that leaves me quite enthralled. It seems to be rising in popularity as more historical women are being earthed from the long-buried dirt and adorned with rich and vibrant details to jump at us off the page. Theodora is the main woman featured to us at the moment, due to her vibrant personality, her rags to riches story, and her political prowess during her reign with her husband, Roman Emperor Justinian the Great as they sought to reconquer some of the lost western world.

Though many novels featuring these queens of strength, light, intelligence, and political might are written with a more fantasy appeal, and are very good in their own right as well, this novel is also highly researched and well-written as if it will be featured as an epic movie, like Cleopatra or Spartacus. A movie we might see now remastered and colored that we sit absorbed for four hours to watch. It tends toward a more historical masterpiece that explodes with information and is told from the viewpoint of a monk, a childhood friend. It juxtaposes between time seamlessly and offers superb dialogue as we learn about these larger than life, though real, historical people. It’s definitely a historical biography and features so much information that it’s a great historical resources for other writers or students.

Even with this said, it’s also vibrant, lush in details, the sentences smooth and delightful, and her descriptions beautiful and immaculate. It’s compelling and urges you to turn the page, as not only is Theodora’s story engaging, but the book flows smoothly. It has intrigue, sex, decadence, shame, love, scandals, paranoia, and so much more. It easily runs the emotional gamut. And that is just part one.

Unfortunately I can only review part one at this time, as when I added it to the Kindle for review and read the extra version on the PC, I wasn’t aware that I was able to download part 2-4 for the review as well. I sure wish it would have been made more clear to me, but in the end I did some searching on the Erudition website and figured out that joining the Reader’s Club allowed me access to part 2-4. It’s totally my fault for not taking the time to look earlier, always hurrying.

Anyway, it’s pretty cool that they do that to get feedback and social sharing after each portion. From a marketing standpoint, as a professional one myself, I think this is a unique, fresh, and engaging idea, but I learned too late. I hope other readers coming in to the site understand how to purchase it. I am thrilled though to go back and read 2-4 now and I’ll add those in to the review here once I finish and revise this section. Good news is, I can’t wait to finish the other parts.

I spent a lot of time perusing and using the enhanced version. It includes all types of photos of the time period, plus plenty of words are highlighted so that if you click on them,  you can see a definition or a photo and short summary. This really adds to the novel is you are versed in the historical time period or people. I enjoyed all the photos throughout and felt it added so much to the overall experience. It wasn’t just a novel, it was an adventure in time. I also really liked the added bonuses at the end of the timelines, the maps of places like the Byzantine Empire, and other resources. My son is about to enter high school and is a huge historian, he is going to love having these maps and extra resources added to his reading on the Ipad. What a great way to help your talented and gifted children, or those interested in history, have additional content added to their studies.

Overall, I am thrilled. Not only will I read more of Carol Strickland, as she is a fabulous writer and historian with a great novel that could be destined for the big screen of old, or maybe now….oh, would they make epic historical movies again on a more mainstream level? One can only hope. I would also seek out  more of these types of digital reading experiences.

Part one of the book by Carol gets 5 stars from me, but as well Erudition’s new concept gets a high thumbs up. I just hope they make sure that most readers understand the concept clearly for best process though I am not sure buying from that site is an option for others yet. I think if you buy off Amazon, you just get the whole file. I’ll be watching for more to come, by both Carol and this publisher.



The Eagle and the SwanThe Eagle and the Swan, Synopsis~

Publication Date: November 7, 2013
Erudition Digital

For 1,500 years she has been cruelly maligned by history. Labelled as corrupt, immoral and sexually depraved by the sixth-century historian Procopius in his notorious Secret History, the Byzantine Empress Theodora was condemned to be judged a degenerate harlot by posterity.

Until now.

Due to a conviction that its contents would only be understood by generations of the distant future, a manuscript that has remained unopened for a millennium and a half is about to set the record straight. It will unravel the deepest secrets of a captivating and charismatic courtesan, her unlikely romance with an Emperor, and her rise to power and influence that would outshine even Cleopatra.

This historical novel traces the love affairs, travails, machinations, scandals and triumphs of a cast of real characters who inhabit an Empire at its glorious and fragile peak. It’s the tale of a dazzling civilization in its Golden Age; one which, despite plague, earthquakes and marauding Huns, would lay the foundation for modern Europe as we know it.

Listen to an interview with Carol Strickland

Praise for The Eagle and the Swan

“It’s a book rife with detail and passion. If you like historical fiction this book hits on all cylinders. The level of detail in terms of prose and historical relevance is engaging. And THEN the plot is what’s moving. The love and lust combined with a compelling story, taking on universal themes from a cross-section of history, makes for a gripping work.”

“Carol Strickland has written a masterful epic. It is beautifully crafted and impossible to put down.”

“Beautiful storytelling. Fascinating and well-developed characters. What an interesting time in history! This book was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The Eagle and the Swan is a must-read!”

Free Enhanced Preview~

Visit http://www.theeagleandtheswan.com/readers-club for a free enhanced preview of Part One of The Eagle and the Swan. The enhanced edition unites text, context and subtext with art, design elements and in-depth info for a visual and cultural history of the Golden Age of Byzantium. It provides an enticing preview for prospective readers as well as an illustrated catalogue for the complete story.

Buy the eBook~


Author Carol Strickland, Biography~

Carol StricklandCarol Strickland is an art and architecture critic, prize-winning screenwriter, and journalist who’s contributed to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Art in America magazine. A Ph.D. in literature and former writing professor, she’s author of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in the History of Art from Prehistoric to Post-Modern (which has sold more than 400,000 copies in multiple editions and translations), The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture, The Illustrated Timeline of Art History, The Illustrated Timeline of Western Literature, and monographs on individual artists.

While writing on masterpieces of Byzantine art (glorious mosaics in Ravenna, Italy featuring Theodora and Justinian and the monumental Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul built by Justinian), Strickland became fascinated by the woman who began life as a swan dancer and her husband, an ex-swineherd.

Knowing how maligned they were by the official historian of their era Procopius, who wrote a slanderous “Secret History” vilifying them, Strickland decided to let the audacious Theodora tell her story. She emerges not just as the bear-keeper’s daughter and a former prostitute who ensnared the man who became emperor, but as a courageous crusader against the abuse of women, children, and free-thinkers.

Author Links

Author Website
Book Website
Facebook Page

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theeagleandtheswantour

Tour Hashtag: #EagleandtheSwanTour

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The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton: Historical Novel of Empress Theodora Delivers My Emotions to Me on a Platter!

The Secret HistoryLush historical novels that blend great story telling imagination and superb characterization, while also being based on factual discoveries, are complete gems to my library. Stephanie Thornton’s The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora is not only one to house on your personal shelves permanently, but one read that will have you remembering the characters forever.

This novel, based firmly on historical research about an almost forgotten woman of strength and power, Theodora of sixth-century Constantinople, is rich in details with words that fill all the senses and prose that slides smoothly along as hour upon hour tick by. I refused to put down the book for several long bouts. I was completely immersed in the book as if I were actually Theodora herself. Thornton’s well-developed characters were all engaging and endearing, and some loathed, but all superbly structured.

A woman of low-birth who had to act upon the stage in order to be paid for tricks, Theodora was well-read and intelligent (and could even write) unlike most other women at that time who could not afford private tutors. The laws were not easy for those who had no money so that advancement was unlikely and for women without a husband life was extremely hard. The only way to make money was to sell your body. Theodora must do this to survive, but after spending time in a church, she was able to become clean and rise the ranks through her cunning ability to forward-think, problem solve, and give an honest opinion even if it ended up being sometimes humorous. With her wit, she catches the eye and eternal love of Justinian, the nephew of the Emporer. Eventually, Justinian and Theodora are crowned together as Augusti and rule as Emporer and Empress for many years.

This novel is the story of Theodora’s very humble and scary beginnings, her rise to power, and her love story with Justinian. Theodora’s trials are many but her endurance strong. This novel evoked so many emotions in me as I read along the journey. I was horrified, saddened, and overcome with a desire to fix the eternal class struggle, as well as men’s views on women. I cheered, plotted, and felt happy. I was nervous, scared and many times I cried, but especially at the end. The ending of this book racked me with sobs.

I am in love with this book and with Theodora. Reminiscent of great writers like Tracey Higley (from the historical and writing style perspective only – The Secret History had mild sex and violence), Michelle Moran, Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, and Sophie Perinot, Thornton is bound to please with this well-executed tale that contains it all: drama, intrigue, love, loss, power, betrayal, miracles, and overcoming odds. Thornton gives us an exceptional glimpse into Theodora, a story that for some time had been hidden in the history books. Another strong and defining woman will not be forgotten in this amazing fictional biography. I won’t soon forget any of the characters in her novel, as I felt so connected. I was terribly sad to have this story end. I had also fallen in love with the amazing spirit of Theodora.

Thornton did a tremendous job showcasing Theodora as a woman as powerful as someone like Cleopatra, and that she should be added to the list of major women influencers in history.  She also did a superb job with the history of the Byzantine Empire, giving us a peek into how it was set to flourish had it not been for the Bubonic Plague almost eradicating the area.

This book is a MUST READ for lovers of historical fiction who like to read about various women in history who wielded great power. Once you get the novel, you won’t be able to put it down as it will usher you into another era and hold you captive in Theodora’s aura.

This one is definitely going on my Top Five historical books list for 2013! Grab this great summer release!

Come back on July 12 for an interview and giveaway with Stephanie Thornton!

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Synopsis~

The Secret HistoryPublication Date: July 2, 2013

NAL Trade
Paperback; 448p
ISBN-10: 045141778XWhere Theodora went, trouble followed…In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…When her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage of the city’s infamous amphitheater in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a back-door entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the Emperor’s nephew. She will thrive as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day, this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it?

Praise for The Secret History

“Stephanie Thornton’s Theodora is tough and intelligent, spitting defiance against the cruel world of the Byzantine Empire. Her rise from street urchin to emperor’s consort made me want to stand up and cheer. Her later years as empress are great fun to read, but it was her early struggle as actress and courtesan that really had me roaring: either with rage at the misfortunes heaped on this poor girl, or with delight as she once more picked herself up with a steely glint in her eye and kept on going.”—Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills

“Loss, ambition and lust keep this rich story moving at top speed. Stephanie Thornton writes a remarkable first novel that brings a little known woman to full, vibrant life…A sprawling and irresistible story.”—Jeane Westin, author of The Spymaster’s Daughter

“A fascinating and vivid account; in The Secret History, the life of Empress Theodora leaps from the page, as colorful and complex as the woman herself.”—Michelle Diener, author of The Emperor’s Conspiracy

Stephanie ThorntonAuthor Stephanie Thornton, Biography~

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

For more information, please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thesecrethistoryvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #SecretHistoryTour

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