Sunday, 25 April 2010


Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (2009)
Pages: 430 (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10


The story begins in the present time when student Elizabeth Staveley discovers a parchment in the Bodleian library that she's been looking for and which could hold the key to a mystery that's been hidden for 400 years.

In Constantinople in 1599 the Sultan's mother (the most powerful woman in the land) discovers the bodies of two people who have been poisoned in the Sultan's Palace. One is the chief of the eunuchs and the other is a young slave girl.

This is the start of an epic tale of love, murder, treachery and secrets in the 16th century Ottoman Empire. The book centres on the discovery of a young English girl -- Celia Lamprey -- who was a slave in the Sultan's Palace. By chance, she is seen one day in the Palace grounds by an acquaintance of Paul Pindar, the secretary to the English Ambassador, who was betrothed to her and who he thought had been lost in a shipwreck two years ago.

The chapters alternate between the two time frames and the Sultan's mother is one of the central characters who uses her wits and intelligence to maintain her powerful position, while the English are trying to trade with the Ottomans and must tread carefully.

Elizabeth goes to Istanbul to try and find out more about Celia Lamprey's story and my favourite chapter is when she visits the old Topkapi Palace and while wandering round the rooms where Celia and the other concubines lived in the harem, she thinks she can sense their presence......can she hear them?

The plot was interesting and fascinating, but I was a little disappointed with some of the characters, like Celia, who I didn't really connect with, she was central to the story but I felt she wasn't very well developed.

The author Katie Hickman's website can be found here.

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