Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Eagle and the Swan by Carol Strickland

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: March 12, 2014

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.

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The Empress Theodora at the Colisseum
by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constan
I've begun to wonder what Theodora might think of her recent celebrity. Since 2010, I've read or sampled four novels that have essentially reintroduced her story, dusting off some 1500 years of human history to breathe life into the legend she left behind. The most recent of these publications is The Eagle and the Swan by Carol Strickland.

Cross comparison serves no real purpose so I apologize for any disappointment my refusal to acquiesce to expectation may cause. I will note, however, significant appreciation for Strickland's unique voice. Considering the subject matter, I was initially worried The Eagle and the Swan might feel much like Duffy or Thornton's novels and was happy to discover her singular view of the material.

Strickland's distinct emphasis on historic detail was intensely interesting though in retrospect I feel this attention to detail proved somewhat detrimental to the pace of the narrative. Don't misunderstand, I love books that are well-researched and the texture such factual notation brings to a title, but I wont deny there were moments where Strickland’s story seemed to peter out amid the wealth of information presents to her readers.

Though a bit modern for the period, I actually liked Strickland's Theodora. Historically speaking, I think the author took certain liberties with her personality, but feel the underlying concepts expressed through the character more than adequate compensation for the discrepancy. What can I say folks? I like books that make you think.

The tale of an oft overlooked woman in a time that is all but forgotten, I found The Eagle and the Swan an enjoyable and thought-provoking read that was well worth looking into.

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"The secret of a great performance is to use the stage to let something inside you out, something that burns to escape. My life," she said, "is not something that happens to me. It's what I cause to happen."
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Check out all the stops on Carol strickland's The eagle and the swan virtual book tour

Thursday, March 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, March 17
Review at Reading the Ages
Wednesday, March 19
Review at Unabridged Chick
Thursday, March 20
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Monday, March 24
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Tuesday, March 25
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, March 26
Guest Post at Kelsey’s Book Corner
Monday, March 31
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, April 2
Review at Book Drunkard
Friday, April 4
Review at Just One More Chapter
Monday, April 7
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession
Wednesday, April 9
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Thursday, April 10
Review & Giveaway at Curling Up By the Fire
Friday, April 11
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, April 14
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Tuesday, April 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, April 16
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, April 17
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

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