Anna Comnena has every reason to feel entitled. She's a princess, her father's firstborn and his chosen successor. Someday she expects to sit on the throne and rule the vast Byzantine Empire. So 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 adviser--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 into a young woman, 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.
Booklist Editor's Choice; Blue Ribbon Book, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; Notable Social Studies Trade Book, National Council for the Social Studies; Top Ten Historical Fiction (Booklist);
ALA Best Book for Young Adults; ALA Quick Pick; 2000 Books for the Teen
Age; a Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best 1999;" a "Notable
Social Studies Trade Book" (National Council for the Social Studies);
Arizona State University English Education Honor List; Texas Lone Star
Reading List; recommended book PBS TeacherSource; an Arrow Editor’s Pick; Honor Roll, Literature for Today's Young Adults. Listed in Great Books for Girls (Kathleen Odean, 2002), Anna of Byzantium was a featured book in the Scholastic Book Club and has been translated into French, Japanese, Dutch, and Italian.
Barrett does a remarkable job of painting moods and emotions with spare,
elegant sentences. . . This splendid novel about a neglected period of
history is the perfect choice for both teens with historical fiction
assignments and avid readers of the genre. . . Hard to imagine it being any better written.
— Voice of Youth Advocates
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. . . 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 Byzantine empire is often neglected in studies of the
Middle Ages. This exciting read—with a particularly enticing cover—will help change that oversight.
— Booklist, boxed review
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.
— School Library Journal
Barrett successfully transports the reader to another time in history and holds the reader with a tale of history, mystery and intrigue.
— Children's Literature
Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students.
Unusual in its focus on the political intrigue among three women—Anna,
her mother, and her grandmother—this novel paints a detailed picture of
palace life one thousand years ago.
— Kathleen Odean, Great Books for Girls, rev. ed.
Based on actual characters and events, this wonderfully engaging novel
both entertains and serves as a lively history lesson with its well-
researched background, dramatic plot and dimensional characters.
Barrett's descriptive, engaging prose will draw readers into a
fascinating historical time, filled with political intrigue and a
complex, admirable teen protagonist who faces her changing future with
an inspiring combination of heart and mind.
— Wichita Eagle
This captivating book introduces an eleventh-century princess, Anna
Comnena, who must fight for her birthright when it seems her younger
brother will take the throne. Intrigue and strong characterization are the book's hallmarks.
— Booklist Editor's Choices
Writing from a remote mountain convent, Anna reflects ruefully on the
missteps that led to her exile, and thereby involves readers in a
gripping saga of alliances, intrigues, deceits, and treacheries worthy
of a place among the tragic myths. . . Although separated from
contemporary readers by foreign custom, social rank, and almost a
millennium of Western history, Barrett's protagonist nonetheless commands YA empathy.
— The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review, cover story
Barrett's well-educated imagination comes into play as she shows readers
through the plot, the dialogue, and Anna's internal monologues that
they have much in common with a teenage girl who lived nearly a thousand
years ago. . . . I recommend enticing readers to the book by reading
Barrett's two-page "Author's Note," clarifying which part of the story
comes from historical facts and which part from Barrett's imagination. Barrett's skillful blending provides a good illustration of the writer's craft.
— The English Journal
This story of palace intrigue and a bold young woman will find many fans.
Readers . . . will be grateful for a story that shows readers how much they have in common with a girl who lived nearly a thousand years ago.
— Arizona State University English Education Honor List, 1999
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