IMPERIAL PURPLE by Gillian Bradshaw


Email this review


Bradshaw's third historical excursion to Byzantium (following The Bearkeeper's Daughter, 1987, and The Beacon at Alexandria, 1986): the story of a pair of slaves inadvertently embroiled in a power struggle for the throne of the Emperor, Theodosius II. The hapless couple, Symeon, a fisherman from Tyre, and his wife, Demetrias, an accomplished weaver, are ""stray threads,"" forced to assist traitors when Demetrias is called upon to fashion a purple cloak for an aristocrat named Nomos. Since only the imperial family can wear such a garment, Demetrias knows that Nomos and his cronies are up to no good, but what's a lowly state slave who was once ravished by the local procurator to do? Symeon seeks help from Marcianus, the deputy of a famous general, who plans to use the information about the plot to unseat the Emperor's evil eunuch, Chrysaphios. Meanwhile, Demetrias finishes the cloak and is spirited away to Constantinople, where she falls first into Chrysaphios's hands, and then into the household of the Emperor's cagey sister, Pulcheria, who's retired from public life to an establishment for devout women. But Pulcheria is roused to action once again when she learns about the plot, joining forces with Marcianus to stop the traitors and collect evidence against Chrysaphios. Symeon, who's followed his wife to Constantinople in his trusty boat, the Prokne, nearly fouls up the works, but is at last reunited with Demetrias--just as Chrysaphios gets the come-down that's coming to him. As usual, Bradshaw uses sparse historical fact ingeniously, but her plot and characters aren't so compelling that they'd draw anyone to Byzantium who wasn't otherwise inclined to go.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin