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The Sultan's Harem


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About the Author

Colin Falconer is the author of "When We Were Gods" and" Feathered Serpent," as well as several other historical novels that have been published throughout the world. He lives in Perth, Australia.


Lengthy, involved and meandering, this epic soap opera by veteran historical novelist Falconer (Feathered Serpent, etc.) is set in the court of the 16th-century Turkish sultan Suleyman and its harem of 300 beautiful women. Suleyman favors Gulbehar, who has borne him a son, but Hurrem, a ruthless red-haired Russian, schemes to be next in line, seducing the sultan with her wiles: thus begins an epic catfight. For nearly four decades (1522-1559), Hurrem conspires mercilessly against her enemies, employing lies, blackmail and poison. One of her victims is Julia, a captive Venetian girl, whose own unlikely story (she once loved the man who is now the eunuch in charge of the harem) plays out in counterpoint to Hurrem's. As Hurrem becomes bolder, Suleyman falls under her malevolent spell, until his ability to rule is questioned. Although filled with meticulous detail about the customs and role of the harem, the book pays little attention to the greater historical events of the era. Loaded with court and harem intrigue, it is short on action and long on bedroom conspiracies, which lose their juicy appeal long before the drawn-out conclusion. Agents, Tim Curnow and Anthea Morton-Saner. (July 13) Forecast: Of a recent glut of harem novels, the best is Janet Wallach's Seraglio (Jan. 2003), but Falconer's rep should help his heroine get noticed in a sea of nubile competitors. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, Suleyman the Just was regarded as the most significant ruler of his time by both Muslims and Europeans. His armies expanded his empire significantly during his rule, and he was directly responsible for the advancement of culture, architecture, philosophy, and education in the East. Falconer (When We Were Gods) presents an entirely different vision of Suleyman. His sultan is a man weighed down by the cares of empire building who wants nothing more to do with warfare, preferring to spend his days writing poetry. When a newly arrived Tatar slave named Hurrem catches his eye, she quickly becomes a favorite, supplanting the mother of his son and upsetting the order of the harem. Enraged by her slavery and empowered by Suleyman's love, Hurrem engages in a long-term plot to avenge herself on the sultan and Islam. Originally published in Great Britain in 1992, this is a gripping novel of intrigue, power brokering, obsession, and sensuality. Recommended for all public libraries.-Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"A page-turner . . . This peek behind the walls of the seraglio will seduce lovers of large-scale historical fiction." --"Booklist"

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