The Sultan's eyes by Kelly Gardiner
Angus and Robertson, 2013.
Highly recommended. With The Sultan's Eyes, as with its predecessor Act of Faith, Kelly Gardiner has created the thinking person's historical romp. I thoroughly enjoyed this imaginative and well researched tale of the inquisition.
This is excellent adventure against the historical background of early printing which enabled the spread of ideas that lead to the Enlightenment. Kelly Gardiner gives the reader a delightful heroine in Isabella Hawkins. The novel features a fine supporting cast of characters, and rich description of both Venice and Constantinople
Isabella has to flee Venice, when the inquisition arrives and poses danger to herself and her friends. They have to outwit their old enemy Fra Clement and they escape to Constantinople where the fame of the four friends has preceded them and they have to juggle the politics in the court of the young Sultan very carefully.
Isabella comes into contact with an old friend and his family also in exile from England and has to reassess her understanding of his behaviour and past. Her connections from the past tantalisingly offer the poisoned chalice of freedom from exile and the right to return to England. Will Isabella abandon her friends to return?
The reader observes as Willem and Isabella circle each other with their feelings unsure of how they feel for each other, and wary of the new people in their lives, who may break up the four adventurers and exiles. The adaptation of a new life means that each takes their own direction until the opportunity arises to print a lost book of Hypatia.
An unexpected twist in the plot brings matters to a head and Isabella has to work out who she loves and trusts in order to plan her next move.
Kelly Gardiner has written an intriguing well researched story of the Enlightenment with flair and aplomb and just enough 21st century nouse. Her plotting and characterisation is a joy.
In a world of sparkly vampires and new adult readers this intelligent story is highly recommended.