Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Far Away Bird, by Douglas A. Burton {ends 3/17}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Hypatius led Theodora past a bowing male chamberlain and into a doorway off the main hallway. She couldn’t suppress her awe at the interior of the bedchamber. In her experience, sleeping quarters weren’t unlike the fornices she worked in – small, practical, and disconnected from the world. But this chamber was cavernous. The ceilings hovered high above, like a fisherman’s net of timber beams. A fireplace occupied the back wall; only this one had an ornate marble mantel adorned with numerous shimmering candles. In the middle of the room was the largest bed that Theodora had ever seen. The bed and canopy looked like an enormous green cube with each face of the cube parted down the middle, its curtains forming a triangular opening that showed a silken bed within. Beside the bed, Theodora spotted silver jugs and chalices.

“Wine?” she said and filled two cups.

“Yes, please. Though I doubt there’s enough wine in the empire to drown out the memory of this evening.”

She handed him a chalice of wine that trickled over the rim. “Stop it. It’s hard to love another person when others are watching.”

“Is that what you call it? Loving another person?” He laughed and guzzled the wine, allowing trails of the red liquid to run alongside his mouth and drip from his chin. When he finished, he wiped his face. “And is that what it was on stage tonight with that man in the faun costume? Love?”

“Yes,” said Theodora, undaunted. She took a quick sip of wine, slipped out of her gown, and crawled onto the bed. The feathery fabric enveloped her naked skin like a cool and soothing caress. She laid onto her back with arms stretched out above her head, raising one knee and smiling at Hypatius. “I’ve loved an aspect of every man at one time or another. I find the attractive part of him, and that’s the part I love.”


I enjoy historical fiction, but I don’t recall reading anything based on this time period before. I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed getting to know the characters and how they lived.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Far Away Bird, by Douglas A. Burton
Inspired by true events, Far Away Bird delves into the complex mind of Byzantine Empress Theodora. This intimate account deftly follows her rise from actress-prostitute in Constantinople’s red-light district to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. Her salacious past has left historians blushing and uncomfortable. Tales of her shamelessness have survived for centuries, and yet her accomplishments as an empress are unparalleled. Theodora goes on to influence sweeping reforms that result in some of the first ever Western laws granting women freedom and protection. More than a millennium before the women’s rights movement, Theodora, alone, took on the world’s greatest superpower and succeeded. Far Away Bird goes where history classrooms fear to tread in hopes that Theodora can finally take her seat among the greatest women in history. Theodora seems impossible—yet her transcendence teaches us that society can’t tell us who we are deep down. Before there was a legendary empress, there was a conflicted young woman from the lower classes. And her name was Theodora.

What an amazing period in history. While the synopsis hints at the actual accomplishments of Theodora, I haven’t researched any of that. This book gives us a powerful portrayal of Theodora’s earlier years, and the events that seem to have shaped her later achievements. The story also had me wondering at the lives and policies of Emperor Justin and his son Justinian.

Unfortunately, much of the stories of Theodora’s earlier years were entirely too believable in their oppression and abuse of women of a lower class by men in positions of power. The idea that her treatment at the hands of oppressors inspired her so strongly to defend those in similar positions is beautiful. The author described Theodora’s challenges, emotions and resolutions with amazing compassion and clarity.

Overall, I’d give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. This is definitely an adult book, with some explicit scenes from Theodora’s early life as a prostitute and performer. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to adult history buffs, especially with any interest in this time period.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife of one and mother of four (two human, two feline). She enjoys reading, writing, sunshine, bird-watching, and sleeping in. She also blogs at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Far Away Bird!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, March 17th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Far Away Bird, by Douglas A. Burton

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