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The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman
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The Aviary Gate

by Katie Hickman

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3794728,461 (3.34)65
  1. 00
    Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both stories focus on the intrigues and struggles for power in the harem of the Topkapi Palace. The Aviary Gate is a more literary historical novel set during England's Elizabethan era. Tears of Pearl is a historical mystery featuring a Victorian era couple as sleuths.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (elbakerone)
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    Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott (elbakerone)
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Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
For this challenge, I chose The Aviary Gate, by Katie Hickman, from my pile of TBRs. From the cover copy I assumed it was historical romance, which is a genre new to me, and so I expected to read a steamy bodice-ripper of some sort. I’m perfectly aware, mind you, that romance has progressed beyond the bodice-ripper, but all the same, I was expecting a 6-packed, studly hero, a feisty but pure heroine, and the hijinks that keep the couple apart, and the sexual tension that comes from that.

Well, yes and no. I found it was more of a historical intrigue, the tale of an English girl sold into the Sultan’s harem in 16th century Istanbul contrasted with the story of a modern-day Oxford Ph.D. getting over a bad romance with a teacher. The modern gal is researching the slave girl’s story, which acts as a framing device. The author is English and the writing was a lot different from the American style I’m used to. To begin with, it’s in third person omniscient, which is not used much, at least for romances, on this side of the Atlantic, though I’m used to it in the fantasy genre from writers like Neil Gaimon and Tanith Lee. I found it more scholarly yet less disciplined, and emotionally colder… which was oddly more visceral because it was less in your face than the American style. A few frothy elements of romance were there, mainly to do with longing, and I enjoyed them even though I’m not a fan of the genre. There was perhaps too much forced exposition through the characters’ dialogue, but that may be par for the course for this kind of book. I couldn’t help feel it needed a better edit, though.

The author did have a way with words, and her quirky use of language kept me well entertained. Certain parts of the story were pleasingly squicky, like the slave girl being prepared for the sultan’s bed, which entails a painful depilitation, perfume inserted in private places, and even sitting naked on a block of ice. These were finely balanced between erotica and horror. The descriptions of the black eunuchs were horrifying too. It was hard to discern what the author meant by all this. Perhaps it was historically true, yet overall the sex seemed too squicky and clinical for a romance, even the modern girl’s experience. The author has a background in travel writing and historical writing, so perhaps the clinical feel came from that.

The plot itself was slight in both eras. The slave girl realizes her betrothed is in Istanbul to deliver a gift to the Sultan and tries to contact him, but palace intrigue overwhelms her, and she loses her chance to escape; the modern girl leaves Oxford to England to research the slave’s story, and gets over her former lover, and finds a new one. It read less like an adventure and more of a panoramic travelogue through both eras. Like a story about a story, than a story itself. The characters felt twee at times, especially through their dialogue, and some were stereotyped, like the awesome, supportive Best Friend of the modern heroine, and the ne’er do well, cheeky sidekick of the 16th century hero and love interest. But overall, it was a pleasant read that worked in its way.

(For Turkish harem novels, however, Barbara Chase-Riboud‘s Valide was a lot better.)
  Cobalt-Jade | Sep 25, 2017 |
This appealed for two reasons. Some months ago I read the third book in this trilogy, The House at Bishopsgate (not realising at the time that it was a third book). Impressed by its quality, I was keen to read the earlier novels. And, secondly, Hickman’s insight into the world of 16th-century Constantinople promised to reveal the answer to a question that intrigues me. What exactly happens in a harem? Yes, that, obviously, but what about the rest of the time? Surely it can’t be all about lying on a chaise longue while eunuchs fan you and feed you grapes? Well, according to this book, it’s also about poison, vaunting ambition, intrigue and the gradual erosion of everything you know beyond the walls of the ironically-named House of Felicity...

For the full post, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2017/08/27/the-aviary-gate-katie-hickman/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Aug 27, 2017 |
Couldn't do it. This wasn't a bad book, just not for me. ( )
  Heather_Brock | Nov 23, 2016 |
When I was younger, harems intrigued me and enough of that fascination is left for me to pick up books like the Aviary Gate from time to time and immerse myself in the world of scheming women who are focused on a single man (and my inner feminist dies a little each time). This book makes for a compelling enough tale, caught between the present day world and a 16th-century Ottoman harem as a modern historian attempts to track down a English girl who may have ended up in the sultan's harem. Fun reading, although the ending left too many loose ends for sanctification. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Apr 10, 2016 |
Predivna prica o engleskoj robinji Siliji Lampri koja je oteta i prodana u harem jednog sultana,razdvojena od svog vjerenika Pola.Radnja se desava 1599 godine,ali i u sadasnjosti gdje jedna istoricarka otkriva skrivenu pricu o sudbinama rastavljenih ljubavnika... ( )
  ceca78 | Apr 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Footfalls echo in the memory, Down the passage we did not take, Towards the door we never opened, Into the rose garden. My words echo Thus, in your mind. -T.S. Eliot-The Four Queens
Dedication
This book is for my son, Luke Nur 'Aynayya Light of My Eyes who was there at the very beginning.

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The parchment, when Elizabeth found it, was the amber colour of old tea, frail as leaf mould.
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Book description
Elizabeth Steveley sits in the Bodleian library, holding in her trembling hands a fragment of ancient paper. It is the key to a story that has been locked away for four centuries-the story of a British sea captain's daughter held captive in the sultan's harem. Constantinople, 1959. There are rumors and strange stirrings in the sultan's palace. The chief black eunuch has been poisoned by a taste of a beautiful ship made of spun sugar. The sultan's mother faces threats to her power from her son's favorite concubine. And a secret rebellion is rising within the palace's most private quarters. Meanwhile, the merchant Paul Pindar, secretary to the English ambassador, brings a precious gift to the sultan. As he nears the palace, word comes to Pindar that the woman he once loved, Celia, may be alive, and hidden among the ranks of sloaves in the sultan's harem. Can this really be the same Celia who disappeared in a shipwreck? And if it is, can the two be reunited?
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In turn-of-the-seventeenth-century Constantinople, merchant Paul Pindar, secretary to the English ambassador, brings a precious gift to the sultan and learns that a woman he once loved may be hidden among the ranks of the sultan's concubines.

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