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A Gift for the Sultan Paperback – October 3, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451582021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451582024
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,384,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chicago-born and Harvard-educated, I worked as a community organizer in working-class barrios of Venezuela, later earning a Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University and teaching in Latin America and the U.S. My experience in Latin America showed me the sparks that fly when cultures collide -- fireworks that light up A GIFT FOR THE SULTAN, about Muslim-Christian contacts in the final days of the Byzantine Empire.

Today I live in a fishing village in southern Spain with my wife, architect Susana Torre, who designed our seaside home. We travel a lot -- Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Meanwhile, here in Spain, I'm working on the next novel and learning to play Spanish guitar.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Smits on April 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a very satisfying historical novel. Before this book, I mostly read historical fiction of the nineteenth century (Aubrey/Maturine & Sharpe) so this was different for me. Fox clearly did his research as the story follows the actual history of the struggles between the Turks and Christians (and among the Muslim factions) in the early 15th century. I found myself continually looking up names of weapons and mythical figures mentioned in the text and that added to my enjoyment of the book.

Fox tells the story of the intrigue resulting in the near surrender of Constantinople and the battle between the sultan Bayezid and Tamerlane through the eyes of a number of characters: Christians, Turks, rich, poor, warriors, etc. This makes the story's unfolding interesting as it prompts the reader to imagine the events from diverse perspectives. Fox's narrative also brings to attention the intertwinings of the different political, religious and cultures of the times. Having thought that medieval world was divided strictly between its Christian and Islamic societies, it was interesting to understand that there were constantly shifting political, military and economic alliances.

The story builds to a climactic conclusion although I thought the final summing up (won't reveal it here) was a bit too compacted. That's a minor criticism and in all the book was a very worthwhile read.

As a sidenote, unlike the Cornwall novels about Richard Sharpe and some of O'Brien novels, this book is not vividly graphic in its passages of battle scenes. Readers who don't like that level of gore will not find it in this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dirk van Nouhuys on October 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
This novel depicts events and the lives of people during the siege of Constantinople, the heart of the Christian Byzantine Empire, by an Ottoman Army around 1400. Such a book could easily slip into the facile "clash of civilizations" that is popular today among Pundits who want to think in black and white, but Fox is much too sophisticated for that. The book dramatizes on the one side the urban complexity of a great city and on the other the varied tribes and cultures that made up the Ottoman army, many of them not far removed from pastoral herders. The religion of the Christians in the city is the product of 1400 years of tradition, elaborately developed in some characters, largely ignored by others. The traditional religious beliefs of the motley besieging army in many cases persists beside recently acquired Islam. Fox appreciatively delineates these complexities and variations. Fox is the author of several books on urban institutions and it shows. You experience the sense of the city as a living body of buildings, communities, mercantile life, hierarchies, neighborhoods, classes, as you might in a lively and informed portrait of New York or Paris. The oppressive stress of the siege is always gnawing at the defenders. In the Islamic army you feel the tensions between nomadic clan loyalty and rigid honor and the politics of a totalitarian court.

The prose is smooth and easy to read, sometimes lyric, sometimes visionary. The characters are expressive of the subcultures they come from and clearly drawn. Particularly engaging is the young Byzantine princess promised to the Sultan as a political gesture, the gift of the title. The plot, like history, does not give easy answers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jan Alexander, Author of Getting to Lamma on February 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
A multi-layered novel, as steeped in the nuances of ancient history as the city of Istanbul itself. Not just an adventure yarn and a history of the Ottoman siege of Constantinople, but a haunting, poetic rendition of royals and warriors as they might have been. What's most stylistically stunning though, is how Geoffrey Fox takes you into the cultural patterns and day-to-day thoughts of a time when magical realism lived in the minds of the populace. You'll be hooked from the first sighting of the simurgh bird nesting in the Tree of Life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Petkus on April 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
The great thing about reading a historical novel of which you have little knowledge is that it can read like good science fiction or fantasy. The bad thing about reading a historial novel about which you have little knowledge is that is can read like bad science fiction or fantasy.

Luckily, based purely on the Kindle sample (and it is a large sample), "A Gift for the Sultan" by Geoffrey Fox reads like good science fiction.

OK, what do I mean about reading like science fiction or fantasy? Well, take the name of the first character we meet, Arslanshahin Gazi, a Turkish warrior. That's a science fiction/fantasy name all right: Arslan meaning "Lion," and you can't help but think of that other great lion named Aslan. And like all good fantasy that you've just discovered, you're left floundering a bit, your mental tongue tangled around unfamiliar names, places and dates.

Ah, I see I've forgotten to tell you about the place and date. The place is Constantinople, which is besieged by the forces of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I and the date is 1402. I believe this is the first Ottoman siege of Constantinople, that fabulous city founded by the Emperor Constantine that sits between East and West and the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, a city, culture and empire that lasted a thousand years and gave us the useful phrases "Byzantine politics" and "Byzantine bureaucracy."

Constantinople, of course, finally fell in 1453 to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, and Fox's decision to write a book about the first siege, rather than the second successful siege, also makes reading this book like watching a Battlestar Galactica prequel series. You know how it's ultimately going to end, but that doesn't make the story any less interesting.
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