In 1402, the Christian city of Constantinople is under attack by a Muslim army. With surrender in the wind, the spoils are to be the key to the city and the 14-year-old Princess Theodota. In the twists and turns of historical fact, Geoffrey Fox delivers A Gift for the Sultan, a dramatic, fact-based novel that probes the cultural and religious life of the early 15th century and the leaders-royals, military figures, and politicians-who engaged in a religious conflict to the death. Weaving into his story a cast of historical figures-Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, his nephew Ioannes, the vezir Ali Pasha, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid, and Muslim khan Timur, among others-Fox entices readers into an era that shone a harsh light on a level of Christian-Muslim discord that changed the course of world history. Fox deftly writes of a complicated time, yet with such clarity that readers feel themselves in Constantinople and observing first-hand the unfolding drama.
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.88(d)|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This novel depicts events and the lives of people during the siege of Constantinople, the heart of the Christian Byzantine Empire, by an Ottoman Army around 1400. Such a book could easily slip into the facile "clash of civilizations" that is popular today among Pundits who want to think in black and white, but Fox is much too sophisticated for that. The book dramatizes on the one side the urban complexity of a great city and on the other the varied tribes and cultures that made up the Ottoman army, many of them not far removed from pastoral herders. The religion of the Christians in the city is the product of 1400 years of tradition, elaborately developed in some characters, largely ignored by others. The traditional religious beliefs of the motley besieging army in many cases persists beside recently acquired Islam. Fox appreciatively delineates these complexities and variations. Fox is the author of several books on urban institutions and it shows. You experience the sense of the city as a living body of buildings, communities, mercantile life, hierarchies, neighborhoods, classes, as you might in a lively and informed portrait of New York or Paris. The oppressive stress of the siege is always gnawing at the defenders. In the Islamic army you feel the tensions between nomadic clan loyalty and rigid honor and the politics of a totalitarian court. The prose is smooth and easy to read, sometimes lyric, sometimes visionary. The characters are expressive of the subcultures they come from and clearly drawn. Particularly engaging is the young Byzantine princess promised to the Sultan as a political gesture, the gift of the title. The plot, like history, does not give easy answers.