Customer Reviews for

The Sultan's Harem

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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  • Posted January 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    I cannot put this book down. I do not want it to end for it will be hard to find another book which stirs my emotions like this one, yet, I need to know if these characters who suffer so much will be justified. If that is even possible after the unbelievable cruelty and suffering they have endured. Colin Falconer has outdone himself with this one. I recommend you read all of his books but this is by far the most intriguing and chilling.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    Slow Sweet Revenge

    Sultan's Harem / 978-0-307-23845-0 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. While all this may seem completely cold-blooding, out heroine staunchly disagrees with the idea that she is a slave now, so why not make the best of it and be a good harem girl? She despises her sultan, the man who tore her from her home as just another bauble to add to his endless harem, the man whom she must keep amused lest she be tossed aside for another faceless girl waiting, claws ready, in the harem to overthrow her. Carefully, coldly, she designs to bear the sultan a child (not necessarily HIS child, if the situation requires), remove his previous favorite, entice him to fall in love, and then maneuver her freedom and unprecedented marriage to the emperor. No longer slave, but wife, she is still a slave in all but name, and she uses 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 have little freedom, but they are safe and pampered. Since the sultan is not particularly voracious in his appetites, they are not even really 'sex' slaves. Yet the silence and loneliness gnaws at their souls and the passage of time weighs heavily on all involved. Is Hurrem, our dark heroine, really so unusual in her hate, cruelty, and madness? Perhaps all the other women in the harem feel as she does, but does not have the fortune 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 not overly lurid or vulgar, and he does not give into the temptation to throw in gratuitous sex scenes to try to increase readership. ~ Ana Mardoll

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2005

    Hurricane Hurrem And The Downfall Of An Empire

    A tale of a revered ruler and the woman who would ultimately destroy him, his sons, his allies and his dynasty. Author Colin Falconer effortlessly breathes colour and life into a tale of obsession built around a ruthless and fascinating woman ¿ Hurrem. Brought to the Sultan¿s Harem from her country of Ukraine, the Tartar red haired vixen was determined that she would not live the life of a slave in an empire she despises. When a terrified Jewish harem girl confides in Hurrem that she is pregnant, Hurrem seizes the opportunity to use this information against the Kapi Aga, who, fearing for his life, yields to Hurrem¿s threats and ensures that Hurrem shares the Sultan¿s bed. One night was all she needed for thereafter no one else existed before the Sultan. With the Sultan¿s firm and unbending fixation on her, Hurrem¿s power over him and the empire becomes catastrophic, as she succeeds in influencing him to destroy his loyal followers and those who sincerely loved their Sultan. Falconer leads us through the turbulent times behind the giant doors of the Sublime Porte during the Ottoman empire, and brings us face to face with names we have encountered in history, bringing to life honourable men such as Suleyman¿s Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha, Suleyman¿s honourable firstborn son, Mustafa and their tragic endings. The fictional side story of Venetian beauty Julia Gonzaga and Abbas adds a more mesmerising tune to this haunting depiction of 16th Century Turkey. Falconer¿s dark, caustic storytelling flair and elaboration of every morbid and particular detail cleverly recompenses for the wooden dialogue and repetitive, tiring descriptions of the exotic surroundings. Those interested in tales of vile, malicious and venomous women would shiver at Hurrem¿s touch. A revisionist historical fiction at its finest that will slip under your skin, invade your bloodstream and seize your heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2005

    Interesting story, but left me with questions

    I enjoyed the historical aspect of the book, and it did create an interest in the story for me. The story grabbed my attention pretty quickly, and always seemed to have something exciting happening, so it never really got dull. I did find the last few chapters a little tedious, and didn't particularly care for the war scenes. A few things that would have made this book better would be a pronunciation guide at the beginning (A LOT of unfamiliar/foreign words), and maybe a description of each character at the beginning to help readers keep everything straight (there were also quite a few characters, some who floated in and out of the story so they weren't easily remembered), and I also wish that Hurrems history had been shared with the reader. For instance, why was she so angry, why did she want revenge so badly, etc. Also, I really wanted to know what happened to Hurrem's letter, and a little more closure on Julia. Overall, I was actually relieved to have finally finished this book, and move on to something a little more enjoyable.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    intriguing historical fiction

    In sixteenth century Turkey Sultan Suleyman has three hundred women in his harem. Of all these beautiful females his favorite is Gulbehar because she has given him a son. However, truth be told, the weight of empire building and international relations plays heavily on the weary Suleyman so he has little interest in the inner goings-on inside his harem as long as the ladies do not disturb him.---- The omega entry in Suleyman¿s harem is the newcomer the Russian Hurrem, who resents being a slave and worse being the runt amongst a pack of subservient succubae. Her plan to be first in line immediately is to use her body to seduce Suleyman and her wiles to defeat these jackals that surround her. Thus, the ladies of the harem who previously understood their place in the queue now battle for supremacy in a scheming arena of intrigue, blackmail, and homicide. Hurrem is the ruler magically seducing Suleyman over time so that even some of his supporters in the royal court consider emulating the queen of mean to take control of the empire.---- THE SULTAN¿S HAREM 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 comprehensive (somewhat exhausting) vivid look at the mores of the harem and to a degree the royal court especially the intrigue, treachery, and strange bedfellow politics, but fails to place any of this on the bigger stage of momentous events. Readers who appreciate an interesting solid diligent glimpse at pebbles with no boulders will enjoy the regal intrigue of Suleyman¿s harem.---- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2004

    EXCELLENT REVISIONIST HISTORY

    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

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    Posted July 20, 2010

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    Posted October 31, 2010

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