A Gift For The Sultan, by Geoffrey Fox
image via betterworldbooks.com
I had expected this book to be a depiction of the historic Islamic siege of Constantinople – or Byzantium, if you will. Instead, it was an erudite look at the Christian and Islamic cultures that met in head to head fashion about a city that had been at the core of Christian culture since the inception of Christianity. All this, wrapped about the character of Theodota, a young woman who had been promised to the Islamic sultan. The author has done his history homework here, realistically depicting Moslem conflicts and Christian intrigue leading up to this siege.
The author's narrative is often enthralling as he describes both the harsh and mundane nature of these two complex cultures. What disappoints here has to do with the danger inherent in knowing so much about the history of such an event. He seems to want to share every tidbit, every nuance, all the while concocting the microscopic take on such characters that is the work of fiction. His device in doing this – is all too often dialogue. But one seems to hear in this dialogue a history professor acting out events in the voice of characters. This approach to fiction flattens the potentially intriguing lives of his characters, leaving them to be swallowed by the history they're involved in.
Still, this book is worth the read; the author's knowledge of this early fifteenth century religious and cultural clash is both comprehensive and detailed. I understand, via e-mail with the author, that the book may soon be published in Turkey. I wish him well with the venture.
My rating 15 of 20 stars