The Aviary Gate, Paperback
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Elizabeth Stavely sits in the Bodleian Library, her hands trembling as she holds a fragment of parchment, the key to a story untold for four hundred years Constantinople 1599: the English merchant Paul Pindar must deliver an extraordinary gift to the Sultan.

Grieving for his lost love, drowned in a shipwreck, he hears rumours of a new golden-haired slave in the Sultan's harem.

Could this be his Celia?




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A really unsatisying read: the split narrative (surely an overworn idea, especially since the modern-day heroine always seems dreadfully self-obsessed in these things: see Kate Mosse's awful Labyrinth for a useful comparison with the dreary Elizabeth) just drags the story down. Any supposedly intelligent woman who falls for a leather-trousered academic who texts "Where u baby?" deserves all she gets, frankly. As for the section in the harem, Celia is barely sketched and just seemed slightly dim and far too passive, the overly-complex powerplay between the Valide and the Hasecki was just yawnsome and the resolution left me with a feeling of "so what?".Some nice bits of historical interest (the Valide's backstory, the clock, Pindar's cook Carew, the astronomer) but far too padded out with unnecessary waffle, particularly in the first half of the book. A firmer hand editing, the excision of the modern-day framing device (Marius as modern-day harem owner, yeah, we get it) and some character injected into the bloodless Celia and this would have been a much better novel.

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