Robert Graves was a marvelous historical novelist & poet (just read Hercules, My Shipmate, Homer's Daughter, or I, Claudius). But this particular effort falls regrettably flat. It does, however, read like much of the actual material from the period. But Byzantine stuff tended to be rather portentous & stuffy -- bureaucratese par excellence -- and Graves captures the very essence of it here. Unfortunately, it doesn't work all that well for a piece of fiction like this is trying to be. The sense of "realness" in the people just doesn't shine through. There's no solid dramatization of the action and everything is told like a slow and ponderous memoir -- true to the times but less than satisfying from the point of view of historical fiction. Nevertheless, if you like historical stuff & an authentic feel for the time, you might like this one. But I'd recommend some of the others already mentioned instead. Or The Golden Warrior by Hope Muntz -- a really taut, authentic historical piece depicting a very different, and even more dramatic, time. That one's also one of the best historical novels ever written. Just thought I'd mention it. -- Stuart W. Mirsky
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Stuart W. Mirsky (swmirsky)
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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The sixth century was not a peaceful time for the Roman empire. Invaders threatened on all fronties, but they grew to respect and fear the name of Belisarius, the Emperor Justinian's greatest general. With this book Robert Graves again demonstrates his command of a vast historical subject, creating a startling and vivid picture of a decadent era.