Top critical review
Terrible depiction of Hurrem/Roxelana
Reviewed in the United States on January 6, 2020
Many of the characters in this book are based on real people who lived in the 16th century Ottoman Empire. The two main characters, of course, are Sultan Suleyman and his favorite young woman from his harem who became his wife in 1534. The author's depiction of these two characters is totally false. There is so little truth on which to base the characterizations of these two characters that the book is basically worthless, in my humble opinion. It's not fair to the real people of history to turn their story into such a terrible, awful mess, especially Hurrem's story. Just one example from real life explains a totally different woman than what is written here: Suleyman and Hurrem married in 1534. Suleyman gave her 100,000 gold ducats at their marriage. In 1537 when she and Suleyman started to plan the mosque complex that she wanted to build in Istanbul, Hurrem took the entire 100,000 gold ducats and contributed it to the foundation that would fund the building of this complex. Not only that, Suleyman wanted her complex to be located near the Hippodrome in the city, a place of prominence close to his palace (Topkapi Palace) and the Aya Sophia. However, Hurrem asked that the complex be built in an area used by the women as a market and closer to the slave market where she had actually been sold when she arrived in Istanbul. Suleyman agreed. The complex was started by one architect but when progress was slow, Suleyman chose Mimar Sinan to take over and that became the first of many, many commissions that Sinan completed in Istanbul and many other areas of the Ottoman Empire.
We learn about people primarily when we find out about their choices. Hurrem made many good and beneficial choices to help her husband, her children, and the Empire as a whole. If you decide to get this book and read it for the fiction, that's fine. But please understand that Hurrem was not at all like the woman depicted in this book. I personally think that Suleyman honored and respected her as much as he loved her. A lot of new research has been written about her in the last 10-20 years. Dr. Leslie Peirce is a Professor at New York University, a world renowned scholar on the Ottoman imperial harem, and has written a very good, readable book about Hurrem/Roxelana. If you're interested in Hurrem's history, it is an accurate story of this remarkable woman. You may be able to check out the book through your local public or university library. [Peirce, Leslie. (2017). Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl became Queen of the Ottoman Empire.] Just trying to be fair....