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Harem (Classical Historical Fiction)

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Colin Falconer is the best selling author of CLEOPATRA: DAUGHTER OF THE NILE and AZTEC and over twenty other novels. His books have been translated into seventeen languages. "A page-turner . . . This peek behind the walls of the seraglio will seduce lovers of large-scale historical fiction." - Booklist He had everything a man might dream of; wealth, power and the choice of Colin Falconer is the best selling author of CLEOPATRA: DAUGHTER OF THE NILE and AZTEC and over twenty other novels. His books have been translated into seventeen languages. "A page-turner . . . This peek behind the walls of the seraglio will seduce lovers of large-scale historical fiction." - Booklist He had everything a man might dream of; wealth, power and the choice of hundreds of the most beautiful women in his Empire. Why then did he forsake his harem for the love of just one woman, and marry her in defiance of the centuries-old code of the Osmanlis? This is the astonishing story of Suleiman, the one they called the Magnificent, and the woman he loved. Suleiman controlled an empire of thirty million people, encompassing twenty different languages. As a man, he was an enigma; he conquered all who stood against him with one of the world's first full time professional armies - yet he liked to write poetry; he ravaged half of Europe but he rebuilt Istanbul in marble; he had teams of torturers and assassins ready to unleash at a whim - yet history remembers him as a great lawmaker. ''Harem' literally means 'Forbidden': Forbidden to men. Once the Sultan was the only man - the only complete man - who could pass through its iron-studded doors. But what was that world really like? For a woman living in the Harem the only way out was to somehow find her way into the Sultan's bed and bear him a son. But the young Sultan was often away at war and when he did return he neglected his harem for just one favourite wife. But one young Russian concubine inside his seraglio was not content to allow fate decide the course of her life. She was clever and she was ruthless. And she had a plan. Into this world are drawn two unforgettable characters; a beautiful young Italian noblewoman, captured by corsairs and brought to the Harem as a concubine; and the eunuch who loved her once, long ago, in Venice. Loved her? He still stopped loving her . From medieval Venice to the slave markets of Algiers, from the mountains of Persia to the forbidden seraglio of the Ottoman's greatest sultan, this is a tale of passion and intrigue in a world where nothing is really as it seems.


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Colin Falconer is the best selling author of CLEOPATRA: DAUGHTER OF THE NILE and AZTEC and over twenty other novels. His books have been translated into seventeen languages. "A page-turner . . . This peek behind the walls of the seraglio will seduce lovers of large-scale historical fiction." - Booklist He had everything a man might dream of; wealth, power and the choice of Colin Falconer is the best selling author of CLEOPATRA: DAUGHTER OF THE NILE and AZTEC and over twenty other novels. His books have been translated into seventeen languages. "A page-turner . . . This peek behind the walls of the seraglio will seduce lovers of large-scale historical fiction." - Booklist He had everything a man might dream of; wealth, power and the choice of hundreds of the most beautiful women in his Empire. Why then did he forsake his harem for the love of just one woman, and marry her in defiance of the centuries-old code of the Osmanlis? This is the astonishing story of Suleiman, the one they called the Magnificent, and the woman he loved. Suleiman controlled an empire of thirty million people, encompassing twenty different languages. As a man, he was an enigma; he conquered all who stood against him with one of the world's first full time professional armies - yet he liked to write poetry; he ravaged half of Europe but he rebuilt Istanbul in marble; he had teams of torturers and assassins ready to unleash at a whim - yet history remembers him as a great lawmaker. ''Harem' literally means 'Forbidden': Forbidden to men. Once the Sultan was the only man - the only complete man - who could pass through its iron-studded doors. But what was that world really like? For a woman living in the Harem the only way out was to somehow find her way into the Sultan's bed and bear him a son. But the young Sultan was often away at war and when he did return he neglected his harem for just one favourite wife. But one young Russian concubine inside his seraglio was not content to allow fate decide the course of her life. She was clever and she was ruthless. And she had a plan. Into this world are drawn two unforgettable characters; a beautiful young Italian noblewoman, captured by corsairs and brought to the Harem as a concubine; and the eunuch who loved her once, long ago, in Venice. Loved her? He still stopped loving her . From medieval Venice to the slave markets of Algiers, from the mountains of Persia to the forbidden seraglio of the Ottoman's greatest sultan, this is a tale of passion and intrigue in a world where nothing is really as it seems.

30 review for Harem (Classical Historical Fiction)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Sultan's Harem, Colin Falconer In Constantinople there is only one ruler: Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, Lord of Lords of this World, Possessor of Men’s Necks, Allah’s Deputy, absolute ruler of the mighty Ottoman Empire. And at the heart of his palace is the Sultan’s vast Harem, the domain of hundreds of scented, pampered women—some wives, some concubines, some merely slaves. Among them is Gülbehar, the Sultan’s submissive favorite and mother of his heir; Julia, the daughter of an Italian l The Sultan's Harem, Colin Falconer In Constantinople there is only one ruler: Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, Lord of Lords of this World, Possessor of Men’s Necks, Allah’s Deputy, absolute ruler of the mighty Ottoman Empire. And at the heart of his palace is the Sultan’s vast Harem, the domain of hundreds of scented, pampered women—some wives, some concubines, some merely slaves. Among them is Gülbehar, the Sultan’s submissive favorite and mother of his heir; Julia, the daughter of an Italian lord, kidnapped when she attempted to flee Venice with her lover; and Hürrem, a Tartar girl from the Russian steppes, sold into slavery. ... تاریخ نخستین خوانش: نهم ماه ژوئن سال 2009 میلادی عنوان: سلطانه؛ اثر: کالین فاکنر؛ مترجم: جواد سیداشرف؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، زرین: نگارستان کتاب؛ 1376، در 700 ص، شابک: 9644071034، چاپ هفتم: 1385، موضوع: سلیمان اول، سلطان عثمانی (سال 900 هجری تا سال 974 هجری) برابر با سال 1496 میلادی تا 1566 میلادی، ترکیه، تاریخ، داستان - سده 20 م در قرن شانزدهم هنگامی که امپراطوری عثمانی در اوج قدرت است و سلطان سلیمان خان قانونی بر سه قاره و هفت اقلیم حکمرانی میکند. در پشت درهای بسته و دیوارهای بلند «توپقاپو سرای» 300 کنیز در بزرگترین حرمسرای امپراتوری جدا از دنیای بیرون روزگار میگذرانند. .............. هنگامی که «خرم» را که یک دختر تاتار رومی است به حرمسرا میآورند زندگی عادی و روزمره ی حرمسرا به یکباره دگرگون میشود .......؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 4 out of 5

    Reeda Booke

    I don't know much about this time period, or the Ottoman empire, but this book certainly pulled me in from the beginning! This is the story of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his harem, specifically about 1 of his slave girls from his harem and how she rose to have so much power. I'm sure no one knows exactly what she was like in real life, but in this book she was vile! Just a really vindictive and mean person, but I think that's why I couldn't stop reading this book...because I just had to I don't know much about this time period, or the Ottoman empire, but this book certainly pulled me in from the beginning! This is the story of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his harem, specifically about 1 of his slave girls from his harem and how she rose to have so much power. I'm sure no one knows exactly what she was like in real life, but in this book she was vile! Just a really vindictive and mean person, but I think that's why I couldn't stop reading this book...because I just had to know what this woman was going to do next! There was another side story going on the book that was just as interesting, at least to me, because it involved the chief eunuch in the harem, and that one was a bit sad. I hadn't read a Falconer book in a long time...since his Cleopatra book many years ago, (which I also enjoyed). But I have a few of them sitting in my kindle and I am definitely going to be moving them up the queue. Recommended for historical fiction fans. 4/5 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    God help me in my sorrow. That phrase was oft repeated in this book, and it pretty much sums up my feelings for it. Two main issues: 1) The history of Roxelana is wack in the book (in the book she's supposed to be a Tartar chieftain's daughter. In reality, she was the daughter of a Ukrainian Orthodox priest). And she is portrayed as a bitter, scheming, bitch of a woman. Really? History does not show that at all. 2) None of the characters have any redeeming qualities. None. The author clearly hated God help me in my sorrow. That phrase was oft repeated in this book, and it pretty much sums up my feelings for it. Two main issues: 1) The history of Roxelana is wack in the book (in the book she's supposed to be a Tartar chieftain's daughter. In reality, she was the daughter of a Ukrainian Orthodox priest). And she is portrayed as a bitter, scheming, bitch of a woman. Really? History does not show that at all. 2) None of the characters have any redeeming qualities. None. The author clearly hated them all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bren

    "The histories tell us the Greeks besieged Troy for Fourteen years for the sake of a woman. Will not the Turk, then, oppressed by piracies and invasions from this rock for over three centuries, endure one winter's siege?" Harem by Colin Falconer Wow. What a work of amazing quality this is! I went into it knowing nothing about the Sultan and Hürrem. It was quite an eye opener. SPOILERS: I was not helped in reading this by the fact that I despised Hürrem. I could not help it. Just reading about the in "The histories tell us the Greeks besieged Troy for Fourteen years for the sake of a woman. Will not the Turk, then, oppressed by piracies and invasions from this rock for over three centuries, endure one winter's siege?" Harem by Colin Falconer Wow. What a work of amazing quality this is! I went into it knowing nothing about the Sultan and Hürrem. It was quite an eye opener. SPOILERS: I was not helped in reading this by the fact that I despised Hürrem. I could not help it. Just reading about the incredible damage she causes in everyones' lives was enough to give me a headache. But it is impossible to stop reading this book once you start. If there is one thing I did not like and it is something that caused me not to rate it a five, it was the amazing amount of violence throughout this book. Most of it involved Julia's story and as much as I did enjoy this book. I really could have and would have enjoyed it more if her story was not even told. I was primarily interested in the story of Hürrem. And the Sultan had me grinding my teeth together. To me it seemed so obvious she was lethal and there were several times I wanted to shout through the book at the Sultan:"No. Don't do that". With each choice he made, all of which were terrible, I just got more exasperated with him. But the book did what it needed to. It was educational, interesting and well written. I couldn't put it down.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ana Mardoll

    Sultan's Harem / 1-4000-8312-5 "The Sultan's Harem" is a spectacular tale of hatred and revenge, as Falconer weaves the tale of a single woman - a slave of the most powerful man in the world - who tears down a powerful empire by careful manipulation of the man who loves her. This one woman, Hurrem, manages to take down an entire empire, all while only ever being seen by a handful of men - the sultan and his personal eunuchs. Falconer makes it difficult not to admire our cold-blooded heroine, who Sultan's Harem / 1-4000-8312-5 "The Sultan's Harem" is a spectacular tale of hatred and revenge, as Falconer weaves the tale of a single woman - a slave of the most powerful man in the world - who tears down a powerful empire by careful manipulation of the man who loves her. This one woman, Hurrem, manages to take down an entire empire, all while only ever being seen by a handful of men - the sultan and his personal eunuchs. Falconer makes it difficult not to admire our cold-blooded heroine, who staunchly refuses to be a good little harem girl and concubine to the man who bought her from her parents. She despises the man who tore her from her home as just another bauble to add to his vast harem, and whom she must amuse endlessly lest she be tossed callously aside for another girl in the harem. If she must play the game of harem politics to survive, she will play it - but survival is too meager a goal for her. Carefully and coldly, she devises a plan to bear a child, remove the Sultan's favorite, entice him to fall in love with her, and then secure her freedom and unprecedented marriage to the emperor. Even as a wife, she is still a slave in everything but name, and she ruthlessly turns her mental hold on her husband to send him spiraling into madness while the kingdom collapses slowly around him. Falconer carefully treads the personal and the political here, as with all his novels, and we see sympathetic glimpses into both the main players (sultan and sultana) and into the lives of the hapless girls living silently in his lavish harem. Each girl has her own history, her own loss, and her own sadness, and - faced with the realities of the harem, and of the monogamous sultan - finds her own pastimes and petty jealousies. Are these women better off than the ones on the outside? They are safe and pampered baubles in a collection of sex slaves that are almost never "used" by their relatively monogamous master. But the silence and loneliness gnaws at their souls and the passage of time weighs heavily on all involved. Is our dark heroine really so unusual in her hate and cruelty, or are her sisters in the harem just as enraged but powerless to act out? Gripping and suspenseful, "The Sultan's Harem" is a compelling read - I could not put it down. I agree with another reviewer in that the story would make a wonderful movie, should anyone ever acquire the rights. Like other Falconer novels, the writing is frank and does not shy away from the facts of life, but the writing is never lurid or vulgar. ~ Ana Mardoll

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Turmel

    Colin Falconer wraps history in melodrama and makes it entertaining every time. This story of Suleiman the Great and the zenith of the Ottoman empire is at turns romantic, chilling, and always intriguing. While it bites off an awful lot, and drags towards the end, it's a fun, captivating read. Colin Falconer wraps history in melodrama and makes it entertaining every time. This story of Suleiman the Great and the zenith of the Ottoman empire is at turns romantic, chilling, and always intriguing. While it bites off an awful lot, and drags towards the end, it's a fun, captivating read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stefaniab

    I stopped reading this book at around 400 pages of 450 or so. I wound up truly tired of the author's negative portrayal of Sultan Suleiman and his wife Hurrem, not to mention most of the unsympathetic fictitious characters. It was 19th Century Orientalist fantasy, as far as I'm concerned, and frankly offensive to me in 2018. If you look up the historical record for Suleiman the Magnificent, you don't necessarily find a wimpoid ruler, led by his nose by a power-hungry concubine with a secret plan I stopped reading this book at around 400 pages of 450 or so. I wound up truly tired of the author's negative portrayal of Sultan Suleiman and his wife Hurrem, not to mention most of the unsympathetic fictitious characters. It was 19th Century Orientalist fantasy, as far as I'm concerned, and frankly offensive to me in 2018. If you look up the historical record for Suleiman the Magnificent, you don't necessarily find a wimpoid ruler, led by his nose by a power-hungry concubine with a secret plan to destroy the world that enslaved her. Suleiman's armies terrorized Eastern Europe, but he finally ceased fighting and instead established enlightened rules for the times. (Suleiman was a contemporary of Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor, and Henry VIII of England.) And don't even get me into the portrayal of Hurrem as a conniving, power-hungry Tartar witch from the steppes of Russia. Oops, she was from Ruthenia, in Eastern Europe, where she is fondly remembered by the people of her homeland. There is no doubt she was a particularly powerful figure, a prominent member of the Sultanate of Women, who played an important role in Ottoman politics of the 16th and 17th century. But how is this necessarily wrong? Falconer seems to think so. His portrayal condemns Hurrem for wheedling Suleiman into marrying her. She then makes her weak husband dissolve his massive unused harem. In Falconer's Orientalist fantasy view, the harem is filled with 300 bored women who idle around in the baths, having sex with each other and eating too many sweets. Hurrem finds husbands for these women, maybe not the men they wanted, but at least they were cared for. Is this wrong? Falconer seems to think so. Finally, Falconer holds Hurrem and her Kislar Aga Abbas (Black Eunuch, and I think an historical figure) responsible for the fire that burned down much of old Istanbul. I'm not sure on this, but I think this is a folk tale, one of many that grew up around Hurrem. Finally, Falconer's fictitious characters are so unlikeable, I lost interest in them all. I admit that I watch the Turkish nightime soap opera, The Magnificent Century, with relish. Their portrayals of Suleiman, Hurrem, Valide Sultan Hafsa, Ibrahim Pasha, and others, are far more rounded and sympathetic. I'm well aware that Magnificent Century has been accused of playing with history and pandering to the current Turkish ruler Erdogan. But I'd rather see the Sultan's harem fully dressed in servant's clothes, learning the language, religion, history, playing music and cleaning the Serai than the Orientalist version of naked women getting a massage and getting fat, as in Falconer's Orientalist version.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Donnelly

    There are really two stories that are mixed here, and I found the transition from one to the other difficult to make. Initially it seemed as if another book was started in the middle of the one book that most interested me. The Venice story didn't hold my interest as well as the story set inside the Harem -- that story had complex characters, with very complex motivations and intrigue. I wish that story had taken more of the book -- there would have been room then for a more satisfying ending (t There are really two stories that are mixed here, and I found the transition from one to the other difficult to make. Initially it seemed as if another book was started in the middle of the one book that most interested me. The Venice story didn't hold my interest as well as the story set inside the Harem -- that story had complex characters, with very complex motivations and intrigue. I wish that story had taken more of the book -- there would have been room then for a more satisfying ending (the story stops really, rather than ends, and I would have rather found out more about what happens next to the main characters). So, a good read, but a tad disappointing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    It is a fantastic historical book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    Suleiman I, aka Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566) was the leader of the Ottoman Empire at the apex of its glory and achievement. The ten sultans before him built the foundation for the empire, including the conquest of Constantinople; Suleiman expanded upon their conquests, made the Mediterranean a Turkish lake, and crafted a set of laws intended to ensure the peaceful succession of sultans and the permanence of the empire. This book is a fictionalized account of Suleiman's reign, beginning wi Suleiman I, aka Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566) was the leader of the Ottoman Empire at the apex of its glory and achievement. The ten sultans before him built the foundation for the empire, including the conquest of Constantinople; Suleiman expanded upon their conquests, made the Mediterranean a Turkish lake, and crafted a set of laws intended to ensure the peaceful succession of sultans and the permanence of the empire. This book is a fictionalized account of Suleiman's reign, beginning with his successful campaign against the Christian stronghold of Rhodes in 1522 and carrying through his relations with his sons over who would be sultan after him. The book's title comes from the fact that one of its main characters is a woman from Suleiman's harem who became his favorite wife, or kadin, and it also illustrates the kinds of politics that occurred within the harem and influenced events outside the harem as well. Since it follows the historical course of events of Suleiman's reign the book doesn't have the sort of self-contained story arc that pure fiction might, so the end is, predictably, a little disappointing--the main characters all age and many of them die, the end. In that sense I think Sharon Kay Penman's books about the Plantagenets are a little better written for entertainment value. But this is offset by the very compelling and educational look inside the structure and politics of the Sublime Porte at the height of its power, and for that alone I would gladly recommend The Sultan's Harem to anyone interested in the period or Ottoman culture. (Some of the story takes place in Venice, the Turks' main rival for control of the Mediterranean, and the contrast between Turkish Moslem and Venetian Christian cultures in also very well highlighted.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this one. While it was entertaining at times, I thought the characters were a little much. Mostly Sultan Suleyman just annoyed me (what a sissy!) and Hurrem was WAY over the top. I just find it hard to believe that Hurrem could have gotten away with everything she did. And I felt a little sorry for her, she was a terrible person...but the fact that she gained so much power, so quickly, eh.... And I found some of the story line completely unbelievable, b I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this one. While it was entertaining at times, I thought the characters were a little much. Mostly Sultan Suleyman just annoyed me (what a sissy!) and Hurrem was WAY over the top. I just find it hard to believe that Hurrem could have gotten away with everything she did. And I felt a little sorry for her, she was a terrible person...but the fact that she gained so much power, so quickly, eh.... And I found some of the story line completely unbelievable, but giving that my knowledge is definitely scrappy when it comes to Middle Eastern history, maybe that's the really the way things were? But, I did speed through the book, when I got a chance to read, and I guess that says somethings for it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Azap Feješ

    High recommendations :D My special moment in the book is the mention of the military squad "Azap" - like mylast name!!! And of course, one new aspect of the story - what if Hürrem did not loved Süleyman? What if she hated him because he turned her into the slave? What if hers final revenge was the destruction of the all mighty Ottoman dynasty? I know that lot of readers did not liked this kind of view, but I say "why not?" Could you love a man that enslaved you completely? If before that you kne High recommendations :D My special moment in the book is the mention of the military squad "Azap" - like mylast name!!! And of course, one new aspect of the story - what if Hürrem did not loved Süleyman? What if she hated him because he turned her into the slave? What if hers final revenge was the destruction of the all mighty Ottoman dynasty? I know that lot of readers did not liked this kind of view, but I say "why not?" Could you love a man that enslaved you completely? If before that you knew the freedom of open sky and presence of other men, and the possibility that could be? Could you loved the man that took all that from you? I do not know? This is historical fiction, and it should be treated like that - just one other "what if". Personally, I liked it ;)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mercedes

    What a story! Even though I read it years ago, I still think of it after all this time. Terrific characters, well researched, really transports you back to the peak of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, this book weaves a story about the beginning of the decline of the Empire, summed up in the name of Suleyman's successor, Salim the Sot. Clever story, very well told. What a story! Even though I read it years ago, I still think of it after all this time. Terrific characters, well researched, really transports you back to the peak of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, this book weaves a story about the beginning of the decline of the Empire, summed up in the name of Suleyman's successor, Salim the Sot. Clever story, very well told.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Natasa

    It is an intriguing historical work of fiction that highlights four decades in the inner court of Suleyman the Great during the first half of the sixteenth century. The tale crafts a sweeping, vivid look at the mores of the harem and to an extent the royal court the intrigue, treachery, and strange bedfellow politics, but places none of this on the bigger stage of significant events.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ana Mardoll

    Sultan's Harem / 1-4000-8312-5 "The Sultan's Harem" is a spectacular tale of hatred and revenge, as Falconer weaves the tale of a single woman - a slave of the most powerful man in the world - who tears down a powerful empire by careful manipulation of the man who loves her. This one woman, Hurrem, manages to take down an entire empire, all while only ever being seen by a handful of men - the sultan and his personal eunuchs. Falconer makes it difficult not to admire our cold-blooded heroine, who Sultan's Harem / 1-4000-8312-5 "The Sultan's Harem" is a spectacular tale of hatred and revenge, as Falconer weaves the tale of a single woman - a slave of the most powerful man in the world - who tears down a powerful empire by careful manipulation of the man who loves her. This one woman, Hurrem, manages to take down an entire empire, all while only ever being seen by a handful of men - the sultan and his personal eunuchs. Falconer makes it difficult not to admire our cold-blooded heroine, who staunchly refuses to be a good little harem girl and concubine to the man who bought her from her parents. She despises the man who tore her from her home as just another bauble to add to his vast harem, and whom she must amuse endlessly lest she be tossed callously aside for another girl in the harem. If she must play the game of harem politics to survive, she will play it - but survival is too meager a goal for her. Carefully and coldly, she devises a plan to bear a child, remove the Sultan's favorite, entice him to fall in love with her, and then secure her freedom and unprecedented marriage to the emperor. Even as a wife, she is still a slave in everything but name, and she ruthlessly turns her mental hold on her husband to send him spiraling into madness while the kingdom collapses slowly around him. Falconer carefully treads the personal and the political here, as with all his novels, and we see sympathetic glimpses into both the main players (sultan and sultana) and into the lives of the hapless girls living silently in his lavish harem. Each girl has her own history, her own loss, and her own sadness, and - faced with the realities of the harem, and of the monogamous sultan - finds her own pastimes and petty jealousies. Are these women better off than the ones on the outside? They are safe and pampered baubles in a collection of sex slaves that are almost never "used" by their relatively monogamous master. But the silence and loneliness gnaws at their souls and the passage of time weighs heavily on all involved. Is our dark heroine really so unusual in her hate and cruelty, or are her sisters in the harem just as enraged but powerless to act out? Gripping and suspenseful, "The Sultan's Harem" is a compelling read - I could not put it down. I agree with another reviewer in that the story would make a wonderful movie, should anyone ever acquire the rights. Like other Falconer novels, the writing is frank and does not shy away from the facts of life, but the writing is never lurid or vulgar. ~ Ana Mardoll

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This is really the story of three women. Gülbehar, the sultan's favored concubine and mother of his son, the next in line for the throne, Julia, a kidnapped Italian noblewoman who finds herself in the sultan's harem and soon in mortal danger, and finally Hürrem, a ruthless, red-headed Russian who hoodwinks and deceives the sultan to turn him away from Gulbehar and over to her side. Insanely jealous, deceptive, cunning, and irresistibly beautiful Hurrem soon has no trouble convincing the sultan to This is really the story of three women. Gülbehar, the sultan's favored concubine and mother of his son, the next in line for the throne, Julia, a kidnapped Italian noblewoman who finds herself in the sultan's harem and soon in mortal danger, and finally Hürrem, a ruthless, red-headed Russian who hoodwinks and deceives the sultan to turn him away from Gulbehar and over to her side. Insanely jealous, deceptive, cunning, and irresistibly beautiful Hurrem soon has no trouble convincing the sultan to break numerous traditions on her behalf and schemes to make her son the next sultan. As Hurrem's victims mount and the sultan's power grows fainter and fainter it soon becomes apparent that Hurrem is in over her head and has made more enemies than friends. In all honesty, I couldn't get through this book all the way. It really peeved me because I was more than halfway through it too. I picked up this book thinking it would be incredibly sexy and romantic. It was nothing like that. Basically it boiled down to a court battle set in the Middle East. Soon there were too many characters to keep track of. I never knew who knew what, who was planning what and how some of the characters were interrelated. I got the connection of Hurrem to Gulbehar, but to me Julia was a complete mystery. Her existence did not further the plot at all and this irked me as Julia was one of the few characters I felt had any depth or warmth to her. "The Sultan's Harem" wasn't awful, it was full of intrigue, color, and historical references that made the general story seem decently real. On the flip side, the novel lacked true excitement, understandable plots, and relatable characters. The reading was slow going and frustrating. Towards the end my patience waned and finally left me completely. I can see why some would like or even love this book...I just wasn't one of them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This book, free from Amazon, was quick and easy to read. The mechanics of good writing were good. There were a few editing errors, but none slowed my reading. I had trouble rating this book because I wanted it to have more about Suleiman and the Ottoman Empire than it did. But, by the book's title, the author promised to write about the women in Suleiman's life. Suleiman had a harem from which he took his women at his pleasure. The first woman gave Suleiman a fine son. The second harem choice wa This book, free from Amazon, was quick and easy to read. The mechanics of good writing were good. There were a few editing errors, but none slowed my reading. I had trouble rating this book because I wanted it to have more about Suleiman and the Ottoman Empire than it did. But, by the book's title, the author promised to write about the women in Suleiman's life. Suleiman had a harem from which he took his women at his pleasure. The first woman gave Suleiman a fine son. The second harem choice was Hummen, and he married her. She was a she-devil who hoodwinked Suleiman and killed anyone she perceived as dangerous to her lifetime goals. I was reminded of Samson and Delilah. The other story is about a Moor who falls in love with a young and wealthy Venetian girl of noble birth. A good contrast is made vis-a-vie these two couples and how they loved. This book has a sophisticated writing style which would lead the reader to expect an exceptional story. In retrospect, the story was exceptional, just not the story I expected. The multifaceted story will have me thinking about it for a long time. Ergo, four stars. Books should make readers think. Thank you, kind sir, for a good read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    As you already know, I am a fan of novels set around the Ottoman empire. It was such a different time with a culture so different from our own that I find it absolutely fascinating. This book shows two sides of the Ottoman empire: one within the world of the Harem and one without. It seems to beg the question: Is the life one lives better in the Harem (especially as a woman) under the scrutiny of the Sultan, or outside, where one is "free" but living under the scrutiny of the Sultan's minions? A As you already know, I am a fan of novels set around the Ottoman empire. It was such a different time with a culture so different from our own that I find it absolutely fascinating. This book shows two sides of the Ottoman empire: one within the world of the Harem and one without. It seems to beg the question: Is the life one lives better in the Harem (especially as a woman) under the scrutiny of the Sultan, or outside, where one is "free" but living under the scrutiny of the Sultan's minions? A great book, but sad at times, The Sultan's Harem is a great profile of life during the Ottoman empire.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roxolana

    An interesting insight into the life of the last sultan of the Turkish empire... His wife was a slave from Ukraine brought to Turkey at the age of 15 and using her strong mind became a survivor and a winner. She is described as cruel and ruthless - but it is interesting to think how much the environment shapes us who we become. It is almost a mirror book to one that was written before by the Ukrainian author who of course described her more kindly and with a great insight into development of her An interesting insight into the life of the last sultan of the Turkish empire... His wife was a slave from Ukraine brought to Turkey at the age of 15 and using her strong mind became a survivor and a winner. She is described as cruel and ruthless - but it is interesting to think how much the environment shapes us who we become. It is almost a mirror book to one that was written before by the Ukrainian author who of course described her more kindly and with a great insight into development of her character.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Megan-Elise

    An interesting insight into what the realities of harems and their politics. The story spans a lengthy period of time, and at times, the point of view switches back and forth leaving the reader struggling to determine when the POV is taking place.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    After watching Magnificent Century: Kösem during quarantine, I decided to read books about the Ottoman Empire. After reading/skimming this book about half way, I remember that I’ve read it before. Since I’ve been watching the show, I’ve read a bit into the real history behind the characters and their ancestors. If you enjoyed either Magnificent Century or Magnificent Century: Kösem or want to read a historical fiction book based on the Ottomans, I DO NOT recommend this book. It’s pretty clear th After watching Magnificent Century: Kösem during quarantine, I decided to read books about the Ottoman Empire. After reading/skimming this book about half way, I remember that I’ve read it before. Since I’ve been watching the show, I’ve read a bit into the real history behind the characters and their ancestors. If you enjoyed either Magnificent Century or Magnificent Century: Kösem or want to read a historical fiction book based on the Ottomans, I DO NOT recommend this book. It’s pretty clear that Falconer detested the Ottomans, their place in history, and their culture. I don’t know why you’d write a book about people and a culture that you hate, but I digress. Modern Turks take great pride in their history. Hürrem is overall beloved by the people, historically and contemporarily. Suleyman is also held in great esteem and certainly with some good reason. With that in mind, it’s clear that Falconer hated them given that their characterizations in his book have no precedent with what we know to be true about them. In this book, Hürrem is no more than a hateful, spiteful, manipulative, controlling bitch, and Suleyman is no more than a spineless, lovesick, hermit sop. With what we know to be true about their deeds and how their contemporaries saw them, it is impossible to reconcile Falconer’s text with historical and contemporary esteem. I can think of no better quote to demonstrate my point than this: “After Süleyman there were twenty-five more Sultans, an unbroken line of weaklings or degenerates who debauched themselves in their Harems, bled the Empire’s fiancés with extravagance, or satiated their lists with acts of unbridled cruelty to those unfortunate enough to fall under their power.” “... Scholars have speculated that the line was unbroken. It can never be proved. It may simply have been the natural result of an excess of power, riches, and ease.” While there were many things unfair, unjust and certainly patriarchal about the harem, it was no better or worse than what women in Europe were experiencing. It is also unfair to label all the sultans as “weaklings or degenerates” when again, the kings in Europe were no better and no worse to their own people’s. I will not be reading another book by Falconer. It is clear to me that he exoticizes cultures outside of his Western perspective and cannot be trusted to have an unbiased view of history and that context in which to write about historical figures.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisa thomas

    I am intrigued I am a history fanatic. However, I never have much thought to the ottoman empire or its lasting effect on world history. Shamefully, my focus has always been with the European legacy. After reading this book, that has changed! Falconer does an amazing job of drawing the reader into the time and place. I was transported to the harem of sultan saladen. Almost as if I could step through time into the gilded cage, that was reserved, solely for beautiful women, and castrated men. The ho I am intrigued I am a history fanatic. However, I never have much thought to the ottoman empire or its lasting effect on world history. Shamefully, my focus has always been with the European legacy. After reading this book, that has changed! Falconer does an amazing job of drawing the reader into the time and place. I was transported to the harem of sultan saladen. Almost as if I could step through time into the gilded cage, that was reserved, solely for beautiful women, and castrated men. The horror and the opulence, the injustice vs. A contradictory fairness, that existed in the Turkish\muslim world. In many respects, it was difficult to discern which of the characters were heroes and who had outright villainous intent. For me, this book showed the indomitable ability of humans to adapt and survive, regardless of soul or conscience. If you seek a fairy tale, with a happy ending, this book is not for you. In its pages you will find princes with feet of clay and slaves with iron will, and untold patience. Prisoners of fate , and the capricious whims and appetites, of powerful men, await you. The longing for vengeance , is underscored, on every page. Right beside the blissful lack of awareness, and entitlement, enshrined in the hearts of those believing themselves rulers, ordained by god.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joyce McCombs

    Whew... Harem was astonishing on many levels. I do love historical fiction, and always enjoy a behind the scenes story of a famous person or event. This book has both and I was firmly planted in the Ottoman Empire the whole time. I paused to fact checked many things since I didn't know much about the era, and found that the author had done an amazingly accurate job of weaving some of the imagined characters and story line into actual history. The writing is startlingly descriptive -- intense bat Whew... Harem was astonishing on many levels. I do love historical fiction, and always enjoy a behind the scenes story of a famous person or event. This book has both and I was firmly planted in the Ottoman Empire the whole time. I paused to fact checked many things since I didn't know much about the era, and found that the author had done an amazingly accurate job of weaving some of the imagined characters and story line into actual history. The writing is startlingly descriptive -- intense battles, agonizing death scenes and other horrors abound, and yet there are many passages that were pure poetry -- intricate descriptions of the palaces, the daily life in the harem, and the agonizing relationships, both personal and political, made Suleiman's palace intrigues come alive. Even the descriptions of how he tried to change the society from a war mongering one to one that was more law abiding (his name means "Law Giver") was interesting. As ruler of more than 25 million people for 46 years, his influence was huge in the 1500's and this glimpse into history was a great read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lynelle Clark

    I have to admit that I struggled to get in this book at first but once I caught on I struggled to put it down. I downloaded this book so long ago that I forgot about it until I started to rearrange my Kindle the book cover got my attention. The storyline captured and draw me in and you got lot in the hallways of the Harem and the occupants. Within these walls laws were laid down to serve the Sultan the best way possible. Though the women had lost their freedom some found their way around the law I have to admit that I struggled to get in this book at first but once I caught on I struggled to put it down. I downloaded this book so long ago that I forgot about it until I started to rearrange my Kindle the book cover got my attention. The storyline captured and draw me in and you got lot in the hallways of the Harem and the occupants. Within these walls laws were laid down to serve the Sultan the best way possible. Though the women had lost their freedom some found their way around the laws to bend and serve them. Three women were high-lighted, their journey from freedom to slavery and into the bed of the Sultan's bed documented so that you could truly understand the Sultan hold over them. At the end, with all the laws, one woman brought him to his knees and love prevailed even though through deceit, lies and bribery. But the one story that truly stands out is that of Julia and Abbas. Love is definitely a marvel no one can understand but those connected by heart.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Victor Carson

    Colin Falconer's books are quick-paced action adventures - with bold clearly defined, unambiguous characters, within historically important events. Of the books I have read, I like The Silk Road the best for the travel from the Holy Land to China during the time of Kubla Khan. The Harem is a close second, however, for its exploration of the long life of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul from 1520 to 1566. His domination of the Mediterranean was nearly complet Colin Falconer's books are quick-paced action adventures - with bold clearly defined, unambiguous characters, within historically important events. Of the books I have read, I like The Silk Road the best for the travel from the Holy Land to China during the time of Kubla Khan. The Harem is a close second, however, for its exploration of the long life of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul from 1520 to 1566. His domination of the Mediterranean was nearly complete. How that power was directed into the rebuilding of Istanbul/Constantinople is interesting. How it may have been disapated by rivalries within his own family and his harem is fascinating. How would a harem slave rise to become the Sultan's wife and would one of her sons rise to succeed his father?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    Power is thicker than blood Riveting story of Suleiman the Magnificent, the greatest Sultan that ever lived. It explores the many relationships he had with his two kadins, favorites from his massive harem, and his struggles to turn the Ottoman Empire from a warrior civilization to one that emphasized learning and culture. Although he hated the traditions of past Sultans of killing off any family members, sons, nephews, even father's, Suleiman eventually resorts to the same behavior. Encasing the s Power is thicker than blood Riveting story of Suleiman the Magnificent, the greatest Sultan that ever lived. It explores the many relationships he had with his two kadins, favorites from his massive harem, and his struggles to turn the Ottoman Empire from a warrior civilization to one that emphasized learning and culture. Although he hated the traditions of past Sultans of killing off any family members, sons, nephews, even father's, Suleiman eventually resorts to the same behavior. Encasing the story of Suleiman. Is the tale of a Moor in Venice who becomes besotted with a lovely Italian girl. When her father finds out about the illicit relationship, he has the man mutilated and sold into slavery. He becomes a trusted eunuch in the Harem of the Sultan, and his love is captured and becomes one of the Harem.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This was a decent story, but I have no desire to read any of the author's other books. I'm not sure how much it is based on truth...not much I'm guessing. A lot of the story is based on the stories of people who would have never written down their experiences or wouldn't have been allowed to. As historical fiction I think this leans extremely heavy on the fiction side of things. The author seemed to have a fascination with eunuchs. Down to a description of one of the characters becoming one and t This was a decent story, but I have no desire to read any of the author's other books. I'm not sure how much it is based on truth...not much I'm guessing. A lot of the story is based on the stories of people who would have never written down their experiences or wouldn't have been allowed to. As historical fiction I think this leans extremely heavy on the fiction side of things. The author seemed to have a fascination with eunuchs. Down to a description of one of the characters becoming one and the 'surgery'. It wasn't gory detail, but it was enough/too much. Another theme throughout the book was women needing to turn to one another when a man wasn't fulfilling their sexual needs. Really? I also have trouble believing that would've been openly okay in a historical harem.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kmccomb

    I agree that the editing is awful and that the characters are portrayed stagnantly. Living in Turkey, this certainly wasn't the take on Suleiman and Hurrem that I was expecting. Also, as I tend to research the historical facts of the historical fiction I read, it is hard to overlook the fact that Julia's story is completely fictionalized. While Ibrahim did try to kidnap this girl as a gift for the Sultan, he did not succeed and she became known as a pillar of widowhood living her entire life in I agree that the editing is awful and that the characters are portrayed stagnantly. Living in Turkey, this certainly wasn't the take on Suleiman and Hurrem that I was expecting. Also, as I tend to research the historical facts of the historical fiction I read, it is hard to overlook the fact that Julia's story is completely fictionalized. While Ibrahim did try to kidnap this girl as a gift for the Sultan, he did not succeed and she became known as a pillar of widowhood living her entire life in Italy. It makes me wonder where else the author allowed his poetic license to run free. Overall, this story is too black and white, the characters too one dimensional.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marie Z Johansen

    3.5 stars really! Well Written, Interesting Book Written about an era, a place, and rulers that I never really read about made this an interesting read. Comparing the history with the novel was interesting as well and the author did an excellent job, it seems, of following the facts. Why only 3.5 stars then? I found the pace to be a bit off for my taste and felt it lagged quite a bit in places. I wanted to stay up late to read this, but just was not “hooked” quite enough to do that. I am, however, 3.5 stars really! Well Written, Interesting Book Written about an era, a place, and rulers that I never really read about made this an interesting read. Comparing the history with the novel was interesting as well and the author did an excellent job, it seems, of following the facts. Why only 3.5 stars then? I found the pace to be a bit off for my taste and felt it lagged quite a bit in places. I wanted to stay up late to read this, but just was not “hooked” quite enough to do that. I am, however, quite interested to read more about both Suleiman and Hurrem and I am looking forward to reading more books by Colin Falconer!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    This was sort of meh. I expected a story full of political intrigue and backstabbing and I got something that tried very hard to do that but failed. The book was written in the most confusing way possible. The chapters were impossible to follow and there were too many places and characters and I found it very hard to understand where things were and what was going on. It had potential, as I liked the characters for the most part, even though they were all terrible people, but I just don't think This was sort of meh. I expected a story full of political intrigue and backstabbing and I got something that tried very hard to do that but failed. The book was written in the most confusing way possible. The chapters were impossible to follow and there were too many places and characters and I found it very hard to understand where things were and what was going on. It had potential, as I liked the characters for the most part, even though they were all terrible people, but I just don't think this book managed to do any of the things it was trying to do.

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