Princess Of Byzantium

Written by Josephine Allen
Review by Michael I. Shoop

        Princess Zoë of Byzantium, niece of Emperor Constantine Palaeologus Dragases, is the focus of this overlong novel, set against the backdrop of the last days of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The author provides a glimpse of a once-glorious, but now crumbling empire on the brink of extinction as the encroaching Turks under Sultan Mehmet prepare to overrun the decaying city. Enter Andras Bakony, a Magyar mercenary from Hungary, to help save the day, or at least to delay the eventual invasion and its brutal aftermath. After their paths converge several times, the princess and the mercenary fall in lust and love.

        The princess is beautiful, plucky and strong-willed, the hero is handsome and courageous; the plot contains more adventure and romance than history. Old hatreds, undying devotion, courage, jealousy, greed, court intrigue, and the constant threat of enemy invasion pervade this drama, complete with detailed descriptions of life in Constantinople, battle scenes, and obligatory sexual interludes. Although set in an earlier century, Cecelia Holland’s better researched novel Belt of Gold provides the reader with a more compelling story about life in the Byzantine Empire. A worthy effort that just misses the mark.