18 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE SULTAN, THE VAMPYR AND THE SOOTHSAYER by Lucille Turner


AMAZON UK £4.99    / £10.99
AMAZON US $6.16   / $15.99
AMAZON CA $6.99 / $17.87


Ottoman Empire
15th Century 
Europe

In 1442, a certain Vlad Dracul is detained by Murad II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad is the prince of Wallachia, a country stuck between Hungary and the borders of the Ottoman Empire. In the ongoing struggle between the Ottomans and what little remains of the Byzantine Empire, whoever controls Wallachia has something of an upper hand. To ensure Vlad’s loyalty, his two younger sons, Vlad Jr and Radu, are taken as hostages. He will never see his boys again—he cannot betray his first loyalty to the Emperor in Constantinople. Instead, the two Romani princes are educated as Turks, and soon enough the sultan’s heir, Mehmet, begins to take an interest in the two young prisoners – and especially in Radu.

This is an interesting and well-written book, depicting the world of the Ottoman court in technicolour. Glorious descriptions of settings and interiors go hand-in-hand with well-developed characters, revealing just how much research the author must have done prior to putting pen to paper. Murad, Vlad Sr, the Grand Vizier Halil Pascha, all take on shape and form, but it is Vlad Jr who is the protagonist, a complicated person burdened with the affliction of night-walking and seizures. He is also bitter and angry— with his father for abandoning them, with Mehmet for taking advantage, with himself for not being able to protect his brother from Mehmet.

I must admit to having some trouble in fully accepting the portrayal of Mehmet. He is all of ten when Vlad and his brother end up as hostages, and already, as per this novel, he has murdered one brother and spent numerous nights sodomising young boys, plus is now the acting regent. Yes, Mehmet was very young when his father first made him regent, only twelve, but his appointment was initially in name only, with the real power residing with the Grand Vizier. Here, he appears older, and far more ambitious than a boy that young would be. I also find the timeline a tad confusing: in some cases, each chapter follows more or less immediately on the preceding chapter, in others it becomes evident time has lapsed – but is difficult to know how much. Likewise, I don’t fully understand the role of the soothsayer. The central story doesn’t need this addition, rather it distracts from the convoluted political machinations and the growing enmity between Mehmet and Vlad.

However, despite the above, Ms Turner delivers a fascinating read. The prose flows beautifully throughout, and in particular in the chapters featuring the ailing sultan, Murad. These are the chapters in which Ms Turner’s obvious skills in descriptive writing shine through, leaving me with images of shaded courtyards and shuttered walls, of women flitting by in veils while the sultan reclines on his divan and tries to ignore the problems caused by his son and heir. Recommended for all those with an interest in the Ottoman Empire – or with a somewhat “exotic” setting in general.

© Anna Belfrage


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