Cover image for Anna of Byzantium
Title:
Anna of Byzantium
Author:
Barrett, Tracy, 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
209 pages : map ; 22 cm
Summary:
In the eleventh century the teenage princess Anna Comnena fights for her birthright, the throne to the Byzantine Empire, which she fears will be taken from her by her younger brother John because he is a boy.
General Note:
Based on The Alexiad by Anna Comnena.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
910 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.4 8.0 32221.

Reading Counts RC High School 8.3 13 Quiz: 21513 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780385326261
Format :
Book

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Call Number
Material Type
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Status
Collins Library X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
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Summary

Summary

Born in the royal chamber, Anna Comnena has every reason to feel entitled. She's a princess, her father's firstborn and chosen successor. Someday she'll sit on the throne and rule the vast Byzantine Empire. So decrees her father, and so Anna expects. The birth of a baby brother doesn't perturb her. Nor do the "barbarians" from foreign lands, who think only a son should ascend to power. Anna is as dismissive of them as are her father and his most trusted advisor -- his mother, a manipulative woman with whom Anna studies the art of diplomacy.

Anna relishes her lessons, proving adept at checkmating opponents in swift moves of mental chess. But as she matures, her arrogance and intelligence threaten her grandmother. Anna will be no one's puppet. Almost overnight, Anna sees her dreams of power wrenched from her and bestowed on her little brother. Bitter at the betrayal, Anna waits to avenge herself, and to seize what is rightfully hers.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-7. In the tradition of E. L. Konigsburg's A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (1973) and Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy (1994) comes this story of a real-life historical figure, Anna Commena, groomed to be the sovereign of the Byzantine empire. But events intervene, and the birth of a baby brother is just as bad as the invasion of barbarians. Barrett uses an effective first-person narrative to draw readers into Anna's story, and the author's precise use of detail helps re-create Anna's world, the palace of Constantinople in the ninth century. The story is told in a flashback; Anna has already been exiled to a convent by her brother for trying to overthrow him. Readers will be caught up in Anna's evolution as she moves from loving child and heir of the emperor to pawn in her grandmother's plan to continue as the power behind the throne to discarded princess, stripped of all she holds dear, especially her future. The author's note at the book's conclusion is informative, but it also raises several questions, including why Anna's brother, depicted as nasty and spiteful in the book, became one of the empire's most beloved emperors. The Byzantine empire is often neglected in studies of the Middle Ages. This exciting read--with a particularly enticing cover--will help change that oversight. --Ilene Cooper


Publisher's Weekly Review

This uneven first novel is narrated by Anna, the first-born daughter of the Emperor of Byzantium, poised to inherit the throne. Inspired by the real Anna Comnena (1083-1153) who chronicled her father's reign in The Alexiad, the story begins in a convent, where 17-year-old Anna lives in exile. Most of the book flashes back to the princess's upbringing and her attempt on her brother John's life that led to her monastic imprisonment. Although the author successfully evokes an aura of claustrophobia within the castle and convent, she provides few details to distinguish one setting from another. The scenes in the throne room involving visiting dignitaries or soldiers do little to illustrate the pageantry or politics of the age, and the main characters lack definitionÄwith the exception of the Machiavellian grandmother. Anna herself, with her education in history, classics and science, may reverse any preconceived assumptions about the ignorance and lowly position of women in the Middle Ages, but her character as portrayed here is not likable until the book's conclusion. Readers may not stay around long enough to witness her humbling fall from power and transition to scholar. Ages 10-up. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-The 11th-century Byzantine princess Anna Comnena was a remarkable woman. Designated as a child to inherit the throne, she was educated to be a ruler. She learned, from her mother and grandmother, to manipulate the intrigues and factions of the court, and when she was displaced as heir by her brother, she schemed, without success, to assassinate him and regain her position. In this novel, Anna tells her own story, looking back on her former life from the convent to which she has been banished. The first-person device serves well to focus the action on the princess and to build a plausible character study of a brilliant and tempestuous young woman frustrated and embittered by the loss of her expectations of achieving supreme power. However, the book exemplifies the difficulty of writing a historical novel about a real person. Anna's brother is depicted throughout as a spoiled monster who (in contrast to the brilliant Anna) refuses to learn to read. Yet historians characterize John's rule as one of personal virtue and administrative competence and tell that he forgave his sister for her many conspiracies against him. Barrett acknowledges in an afterword that she "changed some of the facts," but, unfortunately, it is the story she spins that will remain with young readers. Still, few books, with the notable exception of Peter Dickinson's The Dancing Bear (Little, Brown, 1972; o.p.), have as their backdrop the colorful and historically significant Byzantine Empire.-Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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