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Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett

Anna of Byzantium (1999)

by Tracy Barrett

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4471523,394 (3.53)11
  1. 10
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    Hollerama: Both are works that take a look at famous historical females whose legacies today are mostly negative.
  2. 10
    The Alexiad of Anna Comnena by Anna Comnena (inge87)

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I admit, I had never heard of this book before. The cover isn't particularly flashy--neither is the title, nor the jacket copy. Considering all this, it feels like a minor miracle that I read this book at all. I saw it on a library shelf and had been wanting to read more historical YA, and I don't know a lot about the Byzantine Empire besides the survey look from World History and AP Euro, so I wanted to give it a try. I thought I might give up on it early on.

To my surprise, it's a lot more engaging than the cover, title, or jacket copy led me to believe. I should've trusted the publisher; the book was clearly not published for mass-market appeal, after all. The first chapter didn't grab me immediately, and I don't usually like frame narratives (here, you start near the end and then stay in the past as Anna tells you how she got there, until the end). But I found that it worked really well here. Barrett's language is simple but evocative, and she did a good job making me care for the characters.

Even Anna, I was doubtful about in the beginning. I didn't relish the idea of reading a book about someone who is wronged and wants revenge, but the ending had better closure than I thought, and the ending was more satisfying than I believed possible from where it looked like it was heading.

I didn't expect any romance, and this is by no means a book I'd categorize as romance, but I really enjoyed the hints of it. I was getting really into it, but it was nipped in the bud pretty quickly.

Overall, if it's not a book I imagine myself returning to, it is still a lovely historical account that nevertheless sweeps you up in a good story, and resolves fairly well, all within only about 200 pages. ( )
  elephantine | Nov 27, 2015 |
Anna of Byzantium is loosely based on a historical figure, but I found her narrative voice in the first half of this book excruciatingly boring. The pace of the plot picked up about halfway through, and I ceased to be annoyed by the dryness of the tone, but overall it was not a great read. The main reason that I finished it is that I was pinned to the bed (by a nursing baby) and never got around to picking up another book in between nursing sessions.

That said, it did improve significantly in the last part of the book, and the history was good. I read the author bio in the back just after finishing it, which told me that this was the author's first novel. For a first effort, it was pretty good, but still the narrative voice wasn't engaging enough for me. ( )
  Amelia_Smith | May 2, 2015 |
I am too easily swayed to write a coherent review of this book, but I have been interested in the Crusades and this drew my attention. I would like to learn more about the Comnena family and this was a good start. ( )
  E.J | Apr 3, 2013 |
A story giving flesh to the historical character of Anna of Byzantium. Yes, it's historical fiction and liberties were taken with the characters, but overall I found it fairly interesting. The Byzantine empire isn't something I'm terribly familiar with, but this book definitely piqued my interest in it. I also enjoyed the references made to classical myths my Anna's teacher. Always fun to see classics at work. I enjoy reading books like this based on lesser known historical characters. We get caught up on the same few "big" characters of the past that so many other interesting people get overlooked. I'm happy to see fiction like this in the young adult section, letting children know about these lesser known figures like Anna.

That being said, I really disliked Anna. She's the main character and I suppose as such you're supposed to empathize with her and see things from her perspective, but I had trouble as seeing her as anything more than a spoiled brat who was trying to play a game that she didn't realize the rules of. Maybe I just got off on the wrong foot with her in the beginning chapters, after all, my first impression was of her whining about how horrible her life was and how everyone was against her and couldn't understand her. She's a spoiled princess. Instead I really enjoyed the character of her brother John. Sure he did some pretty bratty things, but somehow I doubt that Anna would have hesitated to do those same things if she had been in position to do so. Despite his dyslexia, John truly learns to play the game of politics and not only wins his way to the throne but also outmaneuvers the ruthless grandmother. He did what Anna tried to do but better, and in the end he proves to be a good person. True, Anna did redeem herself somewhat by the time the narration returns to her in the convent, but I still feel that on some level she was still the spoiled princess. ( )
  InfinityOutlaw | Mar 9, 2011 |
Very interesting tale of a young woman in a Byzantine court. The background information about court customs, food, and protocol is fascinating in itself. The story centers around the relationship of Anna and her domineering grandmother who continually puts Anna's mother down. Anna is caught between love for her parents and her ruthless grandmother who schools her in preparation to ascend the throne.

Anna, in real life, must have been very ambitious as she undertook to dethrone her brother not once but twice. The book takes a liberal hand with the story as it places Anna in exile in a convent as a teenager, but, as the author's note indicates, she actually had married and bore several children.

Anna is known as the author of The Alexiad, (available at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/AnnaComnena-Alexiad.html) an eleven volume book recounting events of her father's reign. I am especially curious about her true relationship with her grandmother, Anna Dalassena, as the one except I read held only praise for her abilities. ( )
  kthomp25 | Jan 19, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Ilene Cooper (Booklist, April 1, 1999 (Vol. 95, No. 15))
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. Category: Middle Readers. 1999, Delacorte, $14.95. Gr. 5-7.
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When I woke up this morning, I could see through my window-slit that the winter sky was dark.
"Negotiation, that's the key," she said. "Promise what you must, and keep only those promises that benefit you."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440415365, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:26 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.

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