Cover image for The sunbird
The sunbird
Wein, Elizabeth.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2004]

Physical Description:
184 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
When, in the sixth century, plague spreads from Britain to Aksum, young Telemakos travels to the kingdom's salt mines to discover the identity of the traitor to the crown who, ignoring the emperor's command, is spreading plague with the salt from port to port.
General Note:
Sequel to: A coalition of lions.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.7 7.0 78328.
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
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Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Telemakos is the grandson of two noble men: Kidane, member of the parliament in the African kingdom of Aksum, and Artos, the fallen High King of Britain. Telemakos is also an exceptional listener and tracker, resolute and inventive in his ability to discover and retain information. Now his aunt Goewin, the British ambassador to Aksum, needs his skill. Plague has come to Britain, and threatens Aksum. Disguised, Telemakos must travel to the city of Afar where salt—the currency of sixth century Africa—is mined, and discover the traitor who has ignored the emperor’s command, spreading plague with the salt from port to port. This challenge will take all of Telemakos’s skill, strength, and courage—because otherwise it will cost him his life.

The Sunbird is the third in Elizabeth E. Wein’s ongoing Arthurian/ Aksumite cycle. Its striking, spare language, riveting plot, and all-too-human characters are unforgettable.

“The exotic culture and well-developed code of honor of the Aksumite court give this post-Arthurian/ancient Ethiopian fusion its striking flavor. . . . With her thorough command of historic characters, a grand scope, and a swift-paced, heroic plot, Wein has laid out an appealing and sumptuous literary banquet.” ( The Horn Book )

Author Notes

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City in 1964. She went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where she earned a PhD in Folklore and held a Javits Fellowship.

Elizabeth Wein first five books for young adults are set in Arthurian Britain and sixth century Ethiopia. The Mark of Solomon, was published in two parts as The Lion Hunter (2007) and The Empty Kingdom (2008). The Lion Hunter was short-listed for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2008.

Elizabeth's novel for teens, Code Name Verity, published by Egmont UK, Disney-Hyperion and Doubleday Canada in 2012, is a World War II thriller in which two young girls, one a Resistance spy and the other a transport pilot, become unlikely best friends. Code Name Verity has received widespread critical acclaim including being shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, it is a Michael Printz Award Honor Book, a Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards Honor Book, and an SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Book. It is also a New York Times Bestseller in young adult fiction. She is also the author of Black Dove, White Raven.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-12. The third adventure in Wein's Arthurian-Aksumite cycle ( The Winter Prince, 1993; The Coalition of Lions, 2003), this reintroduces young Telemakos, the white-haired, dark-skinned grandson of both Artos, a British royal, and Kidane, who serves on the emperor's council in sixth-century Aksum (now Ethiopia). Telemakos is called a freakish little crossbred snoop and worse, but the boy's bravery, skill, and resolve never fail to honor his noble heritage. Someone has infected Afar's salt mines with a deadly plague to jack up the market value of salt, and Telemakos' aunt, Britain's ambassador to Aksum, commissions the boy to go to Afar and find the traitor. Traveling through the unforgiving desert disguised as a deaf-mute slave, Telemakos is captured and suffers terrible indignities and cruelty and an unbearable loneliness. Wein's prose is taut and elegant, creating an intense, intimate, and sometimes painful story with finely wrought, believable characters. The map of the kingdom of Aksum in the front and the family tree and glossary in the back help decipher this rich, engrossing tale, which deeply mines the human heart. --Karin Snelson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Elizabeth Wein's third entry in her post-Arthurian saga, The Sunbird, young Telemakos, skilled in stealth and subterfuge, is enlisted by the emperor to travel to neighboring Adulis. As the author profiles the lives of sixth-century Ethiopian royalty and their interactions with their British colonials, plague spreads across the land, which has led to quarantines. But someone in Adulis is defying the blockade in order to establish a black market to trade salt. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Wein once again takes her readers back to Aksum, Africa (present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea) during the sixth century as she continues the family saga that began with The Winter Prince (Puffin, 2003), followed by A Coalition of Lions (Viking, 2003). This third book is told through the eyes of Telemakos, the grandson of two noble men, one British and one Aksumite. When a deadly plague decimates Britain, Aksum's emperor declares a quarantine in order to keep the kingdom safe. Yet there are some, driven by profit motives, who defy this order and continue to trade with infected areas. Telemakos is called upon by his aunt, Britain's ambassador to Aksum, to discover who is responsible for defying the emperor. Doing so almost costs him his life. This book has it all-honor, loyalty, intrigue, betrayal, brutality, spies, family dynamics, love, and hate. Wein's attention to detail results in descriptions that are masterful and characters who are strong and memorable. Following the story may be challenging for some readers in that there are many foreign names, and some characters are referred to by more than one name. The novel starts a bit slowly, but then the intensity quickly picks up and readers become mesmerized. To fully appreciate the depth and scope of this installment in the ongoing series, it is recommended that the first two books be read first. A remarkable and unique story.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

I. The Salt Tradersp. 1
II. Invisible Peoplep. 15
III. The Caracalp. 26
IV. Doves for the Poorp. 43
V. In the Lion's Denp. 57
VI. Goewin and Her Brothersp. 72
VII. A Dogfightp. 83
VIII. Abraham and Isaacp. 93
IX. Telemakos Alonep. 109
X. The Lazarusp. 125
XI. Light and Waterp. 134
XII. Santarajp. 151
XIII. The Harrier Strickenp. 164
XIV. Odysseus Bends His Bowp. 173
Family Treep. 186
Glossaryp. 188