Book: Imperial Passions – The Great Palace
Author: Eileen Stephenson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review Copy: Reedsy Discovery
Available at: Amazon.in
Recommended: Must Read
“Not everyone wants power, wants a throne.” In Constantinople, 1059, these words by Anna Dalassena’s husband John place an invisible burden on her. The Imperial Passions – The Great Palace is the story of the burden of those who do not wear the crown but have the best interest of the Empire in mind.
Eileen Stephenson has produced an endearing work through intricate research. Her passion for the subject is clear as she painstakingly develops each character. She infuses them with human follies and strengths. Eileen’s female protagonist tells the story of court intrigues, shifting loyalties, weak administration, invading Turks, and brawny men. The Imperial Palace is a hotbed of politics, plagued by incompetent leaders and a dwindling treasury.
The wisdom and camaraderie of the women, particularly Anna Dalassena and later Empress Eudokia, keep a tottering empire from falling apart. Eileen has given an elegant and compassionate voice to the character of Anna. She is wise and talented, has a keen understanding of people and politics, is a gifted matchmaker, and counsel. She is a caring mother, a perfect homemaker, a clever planner, and above all, a sleek diplomat. Through personal losses, Anna stands as a firm ally of the Empire and its people, even at the risk of making enemies in the royal court.
This is a thrilling work as twists and turns appear every so often, with characters falling off the pedestal or gaining a wide berth while the Turks are pounding on the doors. Descriptions of court life and customs, monasteries and houses, social orders and marriages, make the book a fascinating treatise of the times.
The initial few pages listing the main characters, and the glossary can momentarily overwhelm. Browse through these pages and the map, then embark on an exhilarating journey through the Byzantine Empire in the 11th century. I enjoyed making notes and highlighting characters to remember key characters and events.
This historical fiction flows in a simple language with balanced descriptions. There are no long-drawn scenes of battles, even though the impact of these military expeditions helps to drive the politics of Constantinople. This book provides a wholesome reading experience and is a must-read for all fans of historical fiction. The cover artwork by Jennifer Quinlan adequately represents the feminine energy in the history of the Byzantine rulers.