3 out of 4 stars
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Chronicles of the Byzantine Empire, The Phoenix Reborn is a gripping, cross-genre historical fiction written by Ujjwall Uppuluri. Incorporating time-travel and fantasy, this fascinating story transports us back in time to the Byzantine Empire era (also widely known as the Eastern Roman Empire). The incumbent Roman Emperor, Romanos IV Diogenes, has just been overthrown following a coup organized by his military commander, Michael Ducas. Michael then took over the imperial throne but, to fully secure that position, he needed the support of the Sword of the Emperors– which the former emperor possessed. However, the sword could not allow him.
Following the death and overthrow of Romanos IV Diogenes, the Sword of the Emperors was immensely infuriated, and as a result, immediately fled the scene to the modern era New York City. She was not willing to serve Michael Ducas since she only served legitimately appointed emperors, and in her mind, she had Alexius Comnenus as the rightful successor to the fallen emperor. She, therefore, needed someone to help her enthrone Alexius, and in the streets of New York City, she luckily lands in the hands of Anil Sangama, a street beggar. She regardless saw some potential in him, and after a series of discussions, the duo agreed to travel back to the medieval times to salvage the Roman Empire. This was not the end though, as it only marked the beginning of this enthralling medieval page-turner.
I greatly enjoyed this book and liked the author's evident great storytelling skills. Chronicles of the Byzantine Empire is well-written and immersing from the beginning until the end. Just from the start, the author instantly and suspensefully creates conflict, exquisitely alternates plot development and action scenes, and creates realistic, unique, and interesting characters. I also liked how the author magnificently captured the art of swordsmanship among the warring factions, although the killings themselves were not that graphic. Emphasis was laid on the tactics and plans they employed, and for that reason, I believe most readers are likely to enjoy it without being adversely affected. Another aspect I appreciated was the author's inclusion of Europe's medieval map at the beginning of this book; it acted as an excellent guide. Moreover, I liked how well the story wrapped up, as it was satisfactory and tied most of the loose ends. But still, it hinted a possibility of a sequel, a book I can't wait to read too.
My favorite aspect of this book was its premise: restoring the Byzantine Empire. It is a known fact that the Roman Empire, somewhere in the past, collapsed due to some mistakes they made. I liked the fact that this story provides insights as to how they could have acted differently to remain the strongest civilization it was. Besides, I also enjoyed the fact that it presents some historical facts about the Byzantine Empire, something history enthusiasts will undoubtedly love. As a history fan, I really learned a lot about this empire, most of which I wasn't aware of before reading this terrific novel.
However, even with all those merits, I still found an aspect of this novel I felt could have been different. With great occurrence, I noticed the author's tendency of adopting various variations of the same character's name. This inconsistency in the spelling of the characters’ names may be confusing to some readers, and therefore, I wished the author stuck to a single form of a character's name to enhance readability and avoid any unnecessary confusion.
All in all, the author did a great job of putting this together. I believe it was professionally edited since I found just some minor errors, most of which were not distracting. But since they were more than ten, I'm deducting a star to award Chronicles of the Byzantine Empire, The Phoenix Reborn by Ujjwall Uppuluri 3 out of 4 stars. Otherwise, had it not been for the aforementioned editing issues, I would have wholeheartedly given it a perfect rating.
For fans of action-packed historical fiction, especially those into medieval ones, I highly recommend this. This book contains no erotic content at all, and there are just a few profanities. There are also some instances where some characters directly express their religious faith, making me feel it is more suitable for Muslims and Christians. However, any spiritual, non-religious reader should still be able to enjoy it, as the religious cases were not proselytizing in nature. I greatly enjoyed reading this novel and look forward to reading more of Ujjwall's books in the future.
Chronicles of the Byzantine Empire, The Phoenix Reborn
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