Sunday, September 20, 2009
The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman
from the publisher:
"Constantinople, 1599. Paul Pindar, a secretary to the English ambassador, thinks he has lost his love, Celia, in a shipwreck. Now, two years later, clues begin to emerge that she may be hidden among the ranks of the slaves in the Sultan's harem. But how can he be sure? And can they be reunited? With a secret rebellion rising within the Sultan's palace, danger surrounds the lovers. A lush tale of treacherous secrets, forbidden love, and murder in the Ottoman palace. The Aviary Gate is exotic historical fiction at its very best."
I received The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman as an ARC from Bloomsbury publishers and was fascinated by the setting of the book: the mysterious, secretive, and sensual world of a sixteenth century harem.
It was quite an eye-opening experience learning of the hierarchy of the Sultan's women slaves and concubines, as well as palace protocol (eyes downcast, silence and submission, isolation), and the rituals of perfuming and adorning the body for the Sultan's pleasure.
The story alternates between the present day and 1599 as Elizabeth Stavely, a university doctoral student, researches captivity narratives and discovers a fragment of parchment with a clue that indicates that an English woman may have been captured at sea and brought to the Ottoman palace. As she travels to Instanbul to continue her search through archives to attempt to discover the fate of Celia, the narrative flashes back to Celia's tale of separation from the man she planned to marry and her experiences during a time of rebellion and intrigue in the Sultan's harem. Elizabeth hopes that her research will answer several questions: Did Paul Pindar have knowledge of Celia's captivity? Was Celia able to escape from the palace and pass through the Aviary Gate? Was she reunited with Paul Pindar?
The present day story, unfortunately, includes details of Elizabeth's own romantic troubles which detracted from the story. I skimmed through these sections and concentrated on the research developments which were much more intriguing. There were several weak points in this novel; some characters were not fleshed out enough, and the story does not neatly tie up all the threads of the plot. Overall, though, it was an interesting journey with a message that sometimes the past tries to speak to us to bring stories to light.
Title: The Aviary Gate
Author: Katie Hickman
Genre: Historical Fiction