Anna Comnena grew up in the palace. Her parents, and her grandmother, groomed her to succeed her father as emperor. She was very secure in her position – until her brother was born.
At first, his brith meant nothing. Her father, as emperor, could choose his successor, and he had chosen her. But as her grandmother trained her in statesmanship, as her father hosted foreign guests with different traditions, and as her brother grew older and nastier, Anna began to wonder.
Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett is the fictional account of a real young woman. Anna was groomed to rule the empire, but was disgraced and sent to a convent, where she lived out the rest of her life. While in exile, she wrote an 11-book epic of her father’s life – the major source of information of life in the Byzantine Empire.
The author’s note explains clearly the liberties Barrett took in writing the novel. It’s written from Anna’s perspective, after first arriving at the convent.
Even though it is an exciting story, I was dreading the ending because I knew she would live out her days in the convent. Barrett manages to end the story with hope instead of despair, which I appreciated very much.
Anna’s story illustrates the enormous responsibilities and dangers of being a real princess – a great antidote to the Disney-fied princess stories girls generally consume.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
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