I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way. I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.
This book takes place in the turbulent Ottoman Empire in the 1820's. Esma Sultan, beloved sister of the Sultan Mahmud II sits comfortably in her own palace with her own harem of women that she has saved from the Constantinople slave trade. However, any of her lovers are cursed to be drowned in the Bosphorus by morning. The enslaved Janissary, Ivan Postivich, who carries out this dreadful dead for Esma begins to build a hatred for the woman who forces him to kill; he is known as her drowning guard. Esma Sultan also begins to feel a guilt for all of the innocent men in the Bosphorus. Her guilt manifests as rotting smells and screams that nobody else seems to smell or hear. The only person who may understand her plight and hear her confession is Ivan.
It took me a while to get into this story, it really was a slow start for me. I began to like it a lot more when Esma began to tell the stories of her childhood to Ivan and their relationship begins to grow. Through Esma's stories we get to learn a little bit more about the motives of Esma herself, her brother the Sultan and one of her mysterious harem women. The relationship that Esma forges through the stories for Ivan is beautiful. However, Esma Sultan abruptly stops confessing her story to Ivan after a short time and we are left with only a brief look into her past and we never get to find hear her true feelings of all the drowned men. The story then turns to the battle between Esma's brother, Sultan Mahmud II and the Jannissary corps that he is now trying to rid his Empire of. I really did enjoy reading about this different time period and setting along with the religious struggles between the Sufis, Shiites and Christians. At the end I learned that this story was mostly based on fact, which made it a little better for me. Esma Sultan was a real sister to Mahmud II and she really did have her own harem and own female orchestra and was one of the first feminists in this troubled time and area.
This book was provided for free in return for an honest review.
I almost forgot about bookish bingo, I guess this one can go for Woman Author: