Sixteenth century Istanbul -
a city of wonder and danger.
When a young boy, Jahan, arrives with a gift for the Sultan - a white elephant called Chota - the pair are sent to the palace's menagerie. There they learn to guard against the scheming of animal tamers, gypsies, deceitful courtiers and the mischevious Princess Mihrimah.
Welcomed into this foreign land, Jahan and Chota travel to the furthest corners of the Sultan's kingdom - and to war. But one day when Jahan meets the royal architect, Sinan, he is given the chance to rise in court. To accept is to enter the marble halls walked by Princess Mihrimah, where the treacherous also plot - a true place of wonders and dangers ...
- Back Cover Blurb
It was past midnight when he heard a fierce growl from the depths of the dark.
- First Sentence, Istanbul, 22 December 1574
'What've you done, imbecile!' Jahan hoollered from the stretcher he was being carried on. 'They'll chop off your balls ... send you to the slaughterhouse, cook you with cabbage and onions. And they will cast me into the dungeon!'
- Memorable Moment, Page 122
SOURCE ... A reading group read.
READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.
MY THOUGHTS ... More used to finding myself in the court of Tudor England, it made a refreshing change to find myself in the Ottoman Empire of sixteenth century Turkey.
Based loosely on historical events, fact and fiction blended seamlessly. The Michelangelo of his time, the architect of the title, Sinan actually existed, not so his architect.
Just as the actual architectural wonders are explored, so too are the metaphysical as the author probes the constant renewal; the constant construction (and destruction).
Wonderfully atmospheric, I closed my eyes for a moment and found myself actually able to see the sights, smell the smells and hear the sounds as the characters told not only their own stories but that of Istanbul itself.
What should have been a good read, and yet ...
Arguably too many elements of the story were too superficial to carry it through its 450 (or thereabouts) pages meaning the story dragged at times.
Likewise there were certain elements of the story when things happened a bit too conveniently to be credible meaning the historical aspect wasn't always sustained.
Sad to say the love interest just didn't do it for me. Perhaps more about my expectations than anything else BUT, hoping it would be more pivotal to the story, I'm afraid, to use my niece's expression, I found this aspect of the story all a bit, well, meh.
So, all in all, what I felt was an OK read but not one I can see myself returning to.