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Jem by Roderick Conway Morris
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JEM: MEMOIRS OF AN OTTOMAN SECRET AGENT - by RODERICK CONWAY MORRIS

This novel is a lively espionage adventure set in the fifteenth century, when the Mediterranean was divided between Christianity and Islam.

After the death of the Turkish Sultan his two sons battle for control of the throne. Prince Bayezid is the eldest and the throne is his by right, but he is an unpopular religious ascetic. Prince Jem is the younger son and has every quality necessary to be a good Sultan, except for the timing of his birth.

At the height of this civil war Jem disappears, only to re-surface in Christian Europe. Manipulated by the piratical Knights of Rhodes, he is made into the figurehead for a new Crusade preached by the Pope. Civil War threatens to become Holy War.

Captain Barak, a former naval officer and unwilling secret agent of Ottoman Imperial Security, is sent undercover to Europe. His mission: to find and recover the missing Prince. On his shoulders rests the fate of the Ottoman Empire.

As is often the case, the dust jacket is a pack of lies. This novel is not "action-packed", although it does move at a good pace. Nor is Captain Barak at all like Flashman, being neither a coward, nor a womaniser. Nor is he "James Bond in a turban".

What you get instead is an entertaining, well informed page turner, apparently based on documents from the Ottoman Imperial Archives. The only complaints I have are the thinly sketched characters and the cringe worthy sex scenes.

Otherwise this is an enjoyable romp through the colourful late medieval world, made all the more interesting for the unusual and somewhat exotic choice of an Ottoman as protagonist. ( )
  GYAD | May 4, 2012 |
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