The Colour of Power: A Story of Theodora, Empress of Byzantium
The Colour of Power is a fictional narrative set in Byzantium, the name given to the ancient Greek city founded on the site of modern Istanbul. It remained the capital of the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire well into the Middle Ages. The story opens with a prologue written by Narses, a court eunuch who becomes a famous military general, and throughout the book he charts the story of the Nika Revolt which overshadows all their lives. I found the inserts written by him puzzling, as they do not run concurrently with Theodora’s life, and seem to be telling a different story set not in the past, but in the future. But at the end of the book both stories come together.
Theodora’s early life was a constant struggle against poverty. I looked forward to recognising some parts of the Byzantine city, having visited Istanbul three or four times, but the Greek names defeated me, and I was never sure where I stood. Had I done the amount of research Ms Heese has obviously done to create this story, I should have had no problem.
The writing is clear and easy to read. The author deploys a vast range of characters to good effect, and her detailed descriptions of food, clothes and palaces are well done.
Theodora’s childhood and adolescence seem pitifully short by today’s standards, but captured my interest rather more than the more political second half of the book, and I regretted that though Theodora became a spy, the reader learns very little of her exploits in that area. But on the whole it is a solid tale, well told. (Available for purchase through kalahari.net – ed.)