Katie Hickman’s romantic and historical mystery The Aviary Gate, set partially in present times and partially in 16th century Constantinople, will transport you from your summer vacation to the wholly forbidden world of the Sultan’s Harem, a world full of beautiful women and intrigue.
In Cambridge, England, Elizabeth finds a fragment of an ancient manuscript, one that may hold the key to the resolution of a woman’s disappearance – 400 years ago. Cecilia Lamphrey left England in the late 1500s on a merchant ship destined for Constantinople to visit her fiancé, Paul Pindar, English ambassador to the Sultan’s court. When the ship wrecks off the coast of Turkey, Cecilia is believed to have drowned. Years later, two inquisitive Englishmen find the Aviary Gate, a small gate that leads into the forbidden Harem. As they surreptitiously spy on the Sultan’s beautiful women, they notice a girl with blond hair and blue eyes. Could this be Cecilia, Pindar’s lost love? Elizabeth reads the fragmented account and is spurred to Istanbul, modern-day Constantinople, to solve the mystery and escape her own traumatic love affair. As she ventures deep into ancient Turkey, she begins to discover truths about Cecilia and herself that she never expected.
The bright blue waters of the Bosporus, the spiced air of the Harem, and the beautiful tiles and lilting fountains of the Sultan’s palace leap off the page, as Hickman’s descriptive language fully creates life in the ancient Ottoman Empire. Hickman’s deftly created tale of passion, manipulation, and yearning is sure to delight and captivate any reader who is looking for a romance, mystery, or historical fiction novel that is a cut above the rest this summer.Hickman's strength is her description and characterization in the historical sections. Her lush, vivid words create the entire scene, complete with sun dancing on the waves in the Bosporus and wind blowing through the wide atriums of the palace. Her descriptions of the characters are just as real. Ultimately, Hickman's efforts to tell the story in two different times is successful, the ending accomplishes this satisfaction, but getting there is a slog. The modern bits are more like a distraction: Elizabeth is sympathetic, but she is unoriginal and boring; Hickman's ability to create a scene from history does not extend to modern times, and the modern sections lack the rich setting descriptions and atmosphere of the historical sections. Hickman might have been better served by sticking only to 16th century Constantinople, rather than bogging her mesmerizing historical storyline down with modern day frills.
If you liked this, you might also like:
Courtesans by Katie Hickman - This was a bestseller here and in England and tells the stories of four actual courtesans and their experiences in 18th-19th century England and France.
Possession by A.S. Byatt: See above