The Sultan's Harem
by Colin Falconer Colin Falconer
Category: Fiction / Historical
452 pages; ISBN: 0609610309
Rating: 8/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Gail Cooke
Even the imaginative Scherazade could not have woven tales more fascinating than the stories revealed by those behind the giant doors of the Sublime Porte during the Ottoman Empire. "The Sultan's Harem" is revisionist historical fiction at its finest, skillfully weaving fact and fantasy to create a tapestry of intrigue and passion. Readers of Colin Falconer's story of Cleopatra, "When We Were Gods," will be equally mesmerized by his portrayal of the absolute ruler Suleyman and the women who were able to bring him down.
Rich with period detail "The Sultan's Harem" is an epic drama whose star is Suleyman the Magnificent. At that time Constantinople knew only one mighty ruler:sultan, Suleyman, "Lord of Lords of this World, Possessor of Men's Necks, Allah's Deputy." He ruled not with an iron fist in a velvet glove but solely with an iron fist.
His home was an opulent palace, and at the heart of the palace was his Harem, the envy of many European kings. Here lived hundreds of women, women of them never even saw their master. Traditionally, a harem was described as the women's portion of a Muslim household. In Suleyman's case it was a small community comprised of hundreds of women, including his mother, his daughters, his favorites, plus countless concubines and slaves. It was a place where power was currency.
Among those who had found favor with Suleyman were Gulbehar, the mother of his heir; Julia, a young Italian woman who had been kidnaped; and Hurrem from the Russian steppes who had been sold as a slave.
Of the trio Hurremwass the most greedy, the most conniving, determined to have total authority in the Harem and even over Suleyman himself. Step by careful step she undercut her rivals just as she ingratiated herself with Suleyman. He becames obsessed by her until she who was once a slave is now t mistress, holding the power.
Falconer's story is taken from a time during the 16th and 17th centuries in Ottoman Turkey which was called The Reign of Women, when the Sultan's mother and his favorites usurped his power and position. Factually little is known beyond that. Leave it to the innovative Falconer to once again bring history to wide screen, full color life.
- Gail Cooke