BY DOUGLAS A. BURTON
Publication Date: February 6, 2020
Silent Music Press LLC
Paperback; 394 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
Constantinople in 512 AD is an ever-changing and dangerous world. Theodora is a young woman when chaos erupts between the factions and follows her father into battle. When the dust settles, Theodora's father is dead and the women of the family are left destitute. Magister Origen steps in saying he has a place for Theodora and her older sister in a theatre, however this is simply a facade for a brothel that demeans Theodora and Comita and eventually leads to rape. Theodora escapes and returns to her mother broken. They plead in the Hippodrome for mercy and are saved by a member of the opposing faction. Eventually Theodora finds the strength in her sexuality and earns a living through acting and prostitution becoming known as the Notorious Theodora. Theodora's charisma attracts the attention of a spy ring and Theodora is trained to use her skills in order to collect information from high ranking clients. With this position, Theodora learns how to harness true power within herself and discovers the benefactor who saved her family in the Hippodrome years ago.
Far Away Bird tells the story of Theodora as a young woman before she becomes Empress. Theodora's character is complex, emotional and raw and allowed me to feel every part of her journey. The writing conveyed the joy, strength, sorrow and passion that Theodora carried with her in every step of her way. In addition, the setting of Constantinople was brought alive from the busy streets, to the political factions, the Hippodrome and the theatres. I do not know a lot about this time in history and enjoyed experiencing the variety of settings that the empire offered. Theodora and Justinian's relationship was carefully crafted and both seemed to realize the consequences of their love. At every turn of the way, Theodora's inner strength shone though. Her story echoes the plight of many women throughout history and today and is a reminder of the power women can hold even when continually beaten down. I can't wait to see her impact as an Empress alongside Justinian.
This book was received for free in order for a honest review.
Grand Prize Winner 2019 Manuscript Contest for historical fiction-Writers’ League of Texas
Bronze Medal for Best Debut Novel in historical fiction-The Coffee Pot Book Club
Gold Medal Book of the Year historical fiction- The Coffee Pot Book Club
Douglas Alan Burton is a speaker, author, and expert storyteller whose work depicts heroic figures and their deeper connection to the human experience. Doug blogs about heroes, heroines, and villains in pop culture with some unexpected and refreshing perspective. He grew up in what he describes as “the heroic boyhood culture of late Generation X” that has gone mainstream around the world. He also shares strategies with fellow writers for writing compelling heroic characters in fiction.
Douglas recently began outlining a breakthrough storytelling model that reveals a fascinating “heroine-centric” model for story structure he calls The Heroine’s Labyrinth. He believes a powerful new archetype is emerging for women in fiction. His forthcoming novel, Far Away Bird, which centers on the early life of Byzantine Empress Theodora, won the 2019 Manuscript Content for Historical Fiction from the Writers’ League of Texas and will be published in February of 2020.
Follow Doug on Facebook and Twitter and stay in the conversation, and follow his blog at www.douglasaburton.com.