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The Sultan of Byzantium
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on June 14, 2015
Umberto Eco writes "mysteries" that are amazingly ponderous but in which events unfold at a galactic pace and with little suspense. Dan Brown is spectacularly good at creating movement and suspense but spectacularly bad at capturing and recounting actual facts.
Altun is not as constipated as Eco, not as brainless as Brown. He offers a different look at things.
This novel postulates that Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor, did not die in the siege of 1453, when Constantinople, the last capital of the Roman empire, was captured by the Ottoman Turks. Constantine fled, hoping to take his city back and re-establish his empire. His hopes came to naught, but his line continued and carried his dreams forward.
Our protagonist turns out to be a descendant of Constantine's family and is facing a potential appointment as the Byzantine ruler in exile. He must learn in detail the history of his predecessors and explore places that preserve Byzantine history and spirit after hundreds of years of occupation.
This book is extraordinarily rich in symbolism that all points toward the unity or shared experience of the Byzantine and Ottoman worlds. The protagonist is sexually active with two women at a time (Rome and the Ottomans). His kingly status is recognized by lions in the zoo.
The story is wonderful exploration of the Byzantine world and how much of it remains hidden beneath the surface of the modern world.
This is an extraordinary exploration of the world beneath our world, a world that exerts unseen power on ours. I want to read it over and over again.
4 people found this helpful
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on October 1, 2014
Not only an engaging fiction, this book brings to life a sampling of the rich culture and history of Byzantium and also serves as a travelogue of selected places in the modern-day region, by someone intimately familiar with the subject. Like most westerners, I knew only a little of this important civilization and its place in European history, but this book has introduced me to it and whet my appetite to learn more about it. If you are curious about history and like a good story, this makes a good read.
3 people found this helpful
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on October 26, 2014
Having visited Istanbul, the lovely Haggia Sophia, and surrounding areas a few years ago, the book was a welcome reminder of the beauty of the country. I've recommended it to several friends who seem to be interested.
2 people found this helpful
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on May 25, 2015
After reading Selcuk Altun's Many and Many A Year Ago, I had to read more by him. _The Sultan of Byzantium_ is an entertaining read, but it is difficult to classify: it is part mystery, part travelougue, part historical fiction. As a result, it almost certainly isn't to every taste. For those familar with (or fans of) Byzantine history or those who have visited Istanbul, there is much to like here. For others, it may be a struggle.

The premise of the book is a newly minted professor is told that he is the decendent of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XII; in order to claim his birthright he must pass a series of tests, after which he must fulfill the last wishes of his long, lost relative before wealth beyond imagining are his. And thus begins a series of mysterious tests and challenges as the intrepid hero criss-crosses the old Byzantine empire.

Along the way we are treated to a first-person narrative of late Byzantine history, several brief expositons on the various sites visited, allusions and references to Turkish poets, and infrequent run-ins with Selcuk Altun. I found all of this charming, termendously entertaining and terribly interesting - I suspect that some may find it at best silly and at worst self-indulgent.

The resolution to the mystery (or rather, the mysterious nature of the conflict) was wholly unexpected, but very much in keeping with the almost surreal nature of the book. I recommend it, but with reservation - give Altun a good 50 pages before you make up your mind whether you like him or not.
One person found this helpful
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on January 25, 2015
Recommended to me by a friend as "kind of a Turkish DaVinci Code." It kind of is, but not nearly as exciting. Overall, the book was ok, but kind of anti-climactic. Great descriptions of a variety of places in Turkey, so that was fun.
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on October 29, 2014
This was very well written and I did enjoy the history lessons. On the other hand the central character was so smug and self-absorbed that it cast a huge annoying weight that dragged on and on through the entire story.
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on October 2, 2014
Fun premise, poorly realised. Almost put the book down several times. Improbable ending even by the books improbable standards. Don't pay a lot of money for it!
One person found this helpful
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on October 26, 2014
The author on NPR said it read like a Dan Brown book. I did not find that to be true. I thought it was difficult to follow!
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on November 10, 2014
The story was interesting, but the writing wasn't what I was expecting.
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on November 15, 2017
Nothing happened but t was interesting.
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