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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (760 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Katie Hickman Narrator: Josephine Bailey Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2008 ISBN: 9781400177790
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Elizabeth Staveley 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, 1599: 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 slaves 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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Quotes & Awards

  • “Combining elements of The Tempest with gothic intrigue and charged, poignant romance, this is a sensuously involving novel. Teasing, erotic, suspenseful, and expertly done.”

    Daily Mail (London)

  • “This cleverly written escapist novel looks set to turn Hickman into the next Philippa Gregory.”

    Evening Standard (London)

  • “Dear reader, lie back on your ottoman and relax. Katie Hickman will take you to a magical land, the Topkapi harem in Istanbul in 1599. The intricate courts, alleys, and secret staircases of the Topkapi are enticingly described and contribute to a plot full of headlong twists and turns. Luscious…exquisite…a box of Turkish delight. Enjoy!”

    Independent (London)

  • “Languorous and filled with vivid, dreamlike images.”

    Library Journal

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Louisa | 1/8/2014

    " Modern Istanbul and Ottoman Constantinople overlap in this book. Good for travelers, tourists, and anyone who likes a good story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hege | 1/5/2014

    " This book had everything I love in the same book. Love, history and a mystery. I have now idea about how it must have been to be living in a harem, but this book gives you a peak into a hidden world of love, hate, jealousy and intrigues. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Heather | 1/3/2014

    " Couldn't do it. This wasn't a bad book, just not for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Randee | 12/25/2013

    " This was an interesting look into 17th cent. harem. A different part of the world that I am familiar with. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathleen | 11/28/2013

    " An aspect of history I knew little about. Harem life in Turkey. The 19th Gift is similar. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margaret | 11/9/2013

    " Very enjoyable historical fiction -- well written, with an intriguing chronological twist. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judith | 11/5/2013

    " Not great but certainly good. Lots of intrigue. I do recommend it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shannon | 10/24/2013

    " So far, enjoying learning more about the Turkish Empire, harems, eunuchs... Intriguing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Catherine Howard-pickett | 9/25/2013

    " Wasn't expecting much but surprisingly interesting! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brooke | 4/3/2013

    " Would have been better without the modern storyline cutting in all the time. In fact, if you just skip over all the chapters with the header "the present day", it would probably be an enjoyable read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jodi | 12/23/2012

    " I enjoyed the portion of the book that focused on history and the turkish harems, just didn't appreciate the story line with current day anthropoligist wannabe nancy drew. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mona | 10/13/2012

    " woww... it was a wonderful read, multi-layered, and complex.At first I got a bit confused about the layers of the story, but after the first few pages, I could harldy put it down... extraordinary read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Iris Cora | 9/18/2012

    " Loved it..thought it's so sad... I wish there could be more books like this one. Written with such passion for mystery. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sylene | 7/20/2012

    " Takes place during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Describes life in the harem and some of its politics as well as how eunuchs are made. ending is disappointing "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Paula | 3/30/2012

    " I didn't even finish this book. From what other reviewers have said, I'm not the only one who found it dull. The two main characters are never reunited, what a waste of time. I also found the modern narrative to be very distracting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 3/18/2012

    " Great read! Again I was more involved in the "historic" part of the novel as opposed to the modern part, but both storylines were good! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Pam | 12/31/2011

    " I have started to read this book twice and stopped very early into the story..finally on the third try I've finished it because the concept kept pulling me back. The execution, alas was just poorly constructed - "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tamira | 12/9/2011

    " I found this to be an enjoyable book. The content was interesting, the presentation was interesting. The ending was sad and I'm currently tired of reading books that end poorly for the characters, but other than that I would highly recommend this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lauren | 10/6/2011

    " ARC,Constantinople,Harem,Oxford,Gave away "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Alesa | 7/29/2011

    " This book has some interesting historical detail, and a very graphic description of how they turn men into eunuchs at the very beginning. But it was too mainstream, or too much like an airport book, for me to finish. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tara O'Sullivan | 5/13/2011

    " Kitschy stereotypes aside, this book was a good read. Entertaining and filled with intrigue, while it didn't leave a WHOLE lot to the imagination, it certainly filled a weekend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tamira | 5/7/2011

    " I found this to be an enjoyable book. The content was interesting, the presentation was interesting. The ending was sad and I'm currently tired of reading books that end poorly for the characters, but other than that I would highly recommend this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brooke | 4/22/2011

    " Would have been better without the modern storyline cutting in all the time. In fact, if you just skip over all the chapters with the header "the present day", it would probably be an enjoyable read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Randee | 2/18/2011

    " This was an interesting look into 17th cent. harem. A different part of the world that I am familiar with. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amber | 1/5/2011

    " I was completely intrigued by this story. I love Historical Fiction and this took me to a place and time that I had never read about before. Truly original. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 11/16/2010

    " Not my favorite book but not a bad read. Some of the information about the harem was intereting. I wouldn't go out my way to read it unless you were obsessedd with harems. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 vania | 11/15/2010

    " un po' giallo, un po' rosa, un po' romanzo storico.....
    di tutto un po' o poco di tutto?
    comunque un piacevole svago. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Alesa | 10/24/2010

    " This book has some interesting historical detail, and a very graphic description of how they turn men into eunuchs at the very beginning. But it was too mainstream, or too much like an airport book, for me to finish. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shelel | 8/3/2010

    " I enjoyed the author's view of a time period that western civilization views as being mysterious. The book is rich with color and explains why so much of eastern culture is unknown - victorian age wasn't always ruled by men - women controlled more and still do. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emma | 7/26/2010

    " Loved the historic part in the Ottoman Palace... wasn't a fan of the present day interlude... The researcher Elizabeth seemed a little too wet behind the ears. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa | 7/14/2010

    " This is a good historic novel with romance, fact, fiction, and suspense all wrapped into one. I couldn't put it down, and it's still making me think (2 weeks after finishing it) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Runta | 4/7/2010

    " A very enjoyable read. I was impressed by the amount of fact she was able to work into the book and still keep it fiction. "

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About the Author
Author Katie Hickman

Katie Hickman is the author of five books, including two bestselling history books, Courtesans and Daughters of Britannia. She has written two travel books, Travels with a Circus, which was shortlisted for the 1993 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon. She is the author of the novel The Quetzal Summer, for which she was listed for the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award. Katie lives in London with her two children and her husband, the philosopher A. C. Grayling.

About the Narrator

Josephine Bailey’s impeccable narrations include the British classics Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden. She has also used her subtly nuanced style to enliven historical fiction and light romances. She has won ten AudioFile Earphones Awards and been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award.