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The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton Report this PageWhere 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. Homepage Privacy Policy DMCA Policy Disclaimer Frequently Asked Questions ContactAbout the authorStephanie Thornton - Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve.
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All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. In a time where a woman was property, with little to no power of her own, this pleb-turned-patrician created her own opportunities and seized power for herself and her husband.
Thornton ably recreates Theodora's tumultuous life from early age, steeped in poverty, to her triumphant, if troubled, reign as Augusta of the Byzantine Empire.
Though she was many things - intelligent, stubborn, secretive, pragmatic, quick-tempered, brave, arrogant - above all, she was a survivor. Cast into poverty by her father's death and her abandonment by her political faction, Theodora and her sister Comito become actresses to help their mother and younger sister live. Her life may not always be easy to read about (from the clinical, cold loss of her virginity, to her abuse and abandonment in a foreign port at only 16) but Thornton builds from these desperate situations to recreate a version of the woman who was smart and wanted much more than to be a pawn of the men in her life and bed.
From those who loved and supported her to those her saw her as no more than an up-jumped whore, you could not deny that Theodora was always a woman to be reckoned with.Theodora as the main character and first person narrator is the best part of . Through her observant eyes, the reader gets a vivid look at life in different stations during Constantinople under the reign of three different Emperors (Anastasius, Justin, and her husband Justinian). From poverty to notoriety to infamy, Theodora could not be ignored by her society as she made her way toward Justinian and eventually the throne.
She is captivating and compelling, even when she is at her worst or when she makes the wrong decision. The characterization of Theodora evolves deftly throughout the narrative; from the beginning it is obvious that Thornton has a passion for crafting well-defined and multi-dimensional characters.
Her Theodora is smart and strong-willed, but she is far from perfect and thus much more interesting to read about.There is an abundance of well-defined characters in the book. The secondary characters of Antonina and Justinian especially reap the benefits of Thornton's strong characterization. The relationships the Theodora forges with each are complicated - Anotinia evolves from a one-note antagonist to a close friend and helpful supporter. Stephanie Thornton takes extra time and detail to craft a faithful but interesting representation of the Emperor Justinian. Of all the things shown about this ambitious man, his love for Theodora is paramount and subtly takes care to show how his regard for his wife both helps and hurts his goals as Emperor.

Their relationship goes through phases of struggle and accord, but through it all, Thornton shows Theodora to be the equal of her imperial husband in every way.
Even when they find themselves at odds, the relationship between them is complex and engaging to read about.Politics play a huge part in the life of Theodora and in the main plot of the novel. A huge strength of is that the story is just as compelling when it focuses on the machinations and schemes of those factions that surround the Augustus and his Augusta. The details and aims for opposing factions can make for a bit of drier reading, but the author doesn't linger overlong on ancient political agendas.
And though Theodora is remembered for her support of , religion is also not a huge aspect of the novel.Stephanie Thornton skillfully interweaves fact with fiction, supposition with authorial discretion, all to the benefit of the novel. As the immensely readable author's note says, Thornton takes history into her own hands to fashion a better narrative for her readers. Certain characters have liberties taken with their actions and history, but it fosters more conflict for Theodora to contend with as the novel winds to a close. New reasons are created for actions not explained historically, and the decisions Thornton makes allow for a more cohesive view of Theodora and Justinian's lives.The first in a series about some of history's "forgotten women", is impressive.
It's a great launching point for such a series and under this author's talented vision, I have complete faith the sequels (about Hatshepsut, and Genghis Khan's wife and daughters) will be just as detailed and engrossing. Readers will be entertained by this interesting, complicated, powerful woman who seized the opportunities that came her way, regardless of how society thought she should behave.
Theodora is a fascinating woman and Stephanie Thornton's version is a well-rendered and thoughtful depiction of both her and her remarkable life. Erin Aug 02, 2013Find this and other reviews at: Arguably one of the most powerful women in history of the yzantine Empire, Theodora was the wife of Emperor Justinian I. Noted as savior of her husband's throne, she used her prominent position and political acumen to her advantage during his reign, promoting a personal agenda of social and religious reform. Immortalized in the ancient mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale, her regal likeness does credit to her legacy, but oFind this and other reviews at: Arguably one of the most powerful women in history of the yzantine Empire, Theodora was the wife of Emperor Justinian I.
Immortalized in the ancient mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale, her regal likeness does credit to her legacy, but offers little insight to the woman beneath the golden halo of jewels and richly adorned robes of state. These questions have taunted historians and chroniclers for centuries, but today serve an additional purpose, as they are the basis and inspiration behind Stephanie Thornton's The Secret History.Beneath Thornton's pen, the Byzantine Empire comes alive - the dark depravity of life on her streets as well as the glittering splendor and pageantry enjoyed by her privileged elite.
An ardent admirer of the history of this piece, I desperately needed this story to feel authentic. Theodora's is a tale of drive and ambition, a complex story that couldn't unfold against pale shades of brown and beige. Thornton understood this from the very beginning, embracing the ugly realities of life in the ancient world, vividly illustrating its shadowy underbelly with as much enthusiasm as she does its wine soaked palaces and silk draped villas.Thornton's characterization of Theodora is also very unique. Having a certain appreciation for her historic counterpart, I was surprised by how easy it was to embrace this fictional interpretation. Here again, I needed it to work - Thornton's Theodora had to be someone I could both empathize and admire, someone who balanced vulnerability and strength, someone who fit the historic outline but at the same time defied all expectation. Yes, it was a high order, and yes, it was probably unfair to impose such demands on a debut author, but I make no apologies and in truth, Thornton wouldn't need them if I did. The Theodora that appears in The Secret History exhibits these qualities with such affect that one forgets she is crafted from ink on a page, she is believable from the first, a striking heroine that embodies every quality one would expect her real life counterpart to have possessed.I realize readers aren't exactly used to my gushing over novels, but it does happen and this is what it looks like. I hesitate to compare Thornton to my favorite authors - I have a standard policy of reading at least two, if not three, of an author's books before adding any name to that prestigious list, but I can definitely say, without reservation, that I look forward to reading Thornton's work in future and hold great hopes for her sophomore release.

Theodora slowly begins moving in more powerful circles and it is in that realm that she meets the Emperor's handsome nephew, who falls in love with her. A well written story by this author,as she gives us a strong intelligent and tough character who deals with things as she rises to the top.
But I have to be honest,even though Theodora was well written about, I did find that the novel suffered from being a bit dense for me. I felt at times I was reading from an encyclopedia rather than a historical novel at times and would have liked a little more background history on the time period in Constantinople. But for the most part,because the character herself took center stage of the story and I really liked her which made it easy to overlook those moments. Jenny Q Apr 27, 2014This was one of my most anticipated summer releases; I wanted it from the moment I saw that gorgeous cover and read the description, and the story lived up to the exotic decadence it promised! I was completely engrossed in her story as she navigated the backstabbings and betrayals of the theater world and then of the political world.
Brash and smart-mouthed, resourceful and resilient, yet tenderhearted and achingly vulnerable at times, I cringed at her mistakes and cheered her triumphs.
Thornton's ability to craft such rich characterization in a large cast of supporting and tertiary figures.The time period has been meticulously researched and depicted -- the entire novel is a treat for the senses.
The sights, scents, and sounds of sixth-century Constantinople come to life, from dirty alleys to sparkling bathhouses, dank theaters to the sun-baked Hippodrome, cold hovels to vibrant palaces, and houses of sin to houses of the holy. Entwined with the lush description are the customs and mores and societal restrictions of the times, and vignettes of human nature in all its shades of gray. Stir in some jealousy, lust, ambition, and finally, love, and the reader becomes completely immersed in the layers of the story.I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I couldn't put it down, but there are a couple of things which prevent me from calling it perfect. I had some trouble following the passage of time toward the end of the novel and found myself flipping back to see if I'd missed some things, and the ending seemed a bit rushed.
And while the historical detail and characterization are excellent, the writing style lacks a bit of the eloquence I associate with the top-tier novels in the genre. But with a debut like this and two more potentially fascinating novels on the way -- about Hatshepsut and Genghis Khan's wife -- I think Ms. Thornton has a promising career ahead of her and is on her way to joining the ranks of my favorite ancient historical fiction authors.Michelle (True Book Addict) Sep 05, 2013 I am sad to say that for all my knowledge of history, I really know almost nothing of Empress Theodora. A woman who rose from less than nothing to become the most powerful woman in the Byzantine empire. But it's not o I am sad to say that for all my knowledge of history, I really know almost nothing of Empress Theodora. When we look at a character like Theodora, what she had to overcome to rise so far, our hardships in life seem to pale in comparison.It's a rare treat to read a novel that is not only interesting and entertaining, but also an inspiration that all things can be overcome with a little faith and a lot of pluck.
I found myself immediately sucked into the ancient world and charmed by Theodora's feisty personality. After that, it was easy to be in her corner for the rest of the book-- and lemme tell you, she goes through some pretty tough stuff all before the age of eighteen, let alone all the drama that happens later in her life.

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