Patricia S. (Chicago, IL)
The Drowning Guard
When I first read the description of this book it didn't sound like something I'd ever pick up on my own. But the setting in early 19th-century Constantinople was a nice change from England and the Ottoman princess was certainly exotic. What difference did it make if she was also a murderess? Not as much as I thought it would. I found this book very atmospheric; the Bosphorus was almost a character in its own right. The (other) characters were well done, the secondary ones surprisingly so, and they were believable enough to keep me interested. While Esma Sultane's actions did not make sense to me, the history included in her reminiscences were fascinating, and I was very taken with Ivan and Esme's harem ladies. If you want something very dark and moody, with a wonderfully realized setting and characters that come alive, this book is for you.
Mary D. (Claremont, CA)
The Drowning Guard
This book grabbed my attention right from the start, and held on to it! I was sorry when I was finished. There was plenty of history, Istanbul in 1826, a time period when Jews and Muslims actually got along and "had each other's backs" when defending against the Christians!! The characters were drawn exceptionally well, scenes and places were vivid and there were enough interesting twists and turns to keep me completely engaged. I read almost 2/3 of the book in the first sitting and only stopped because I had to go to bed! Truly a wonderful trip in a literary time-machine to a place of great beauty yet much violence and deception. I would actually give this a rating of 7-8 if possible!
Tracy B. (New Castle, DE)
The Drowning Guard
The Ottoman Empire is not a time that I have much knowledge of. Reading this brought me back to a trip to Istanbul 15 years ago. Topkapi Palace was one of the tourist stops brimming with opulence.
The description of how the Sultans were raised as children gives clues of what they become as adults. In this place where one must become a Muslim the majority of the slaves, soldiers, eunuchs and others who serve the Sultan's family were raised as Christians. Can a person truly rid themselves of their past?
What could Esma, a very early feminist and sister to the Sultan, and Ahmed the Drowning Guard have in common? By killing her Christian lovers is she as evil as the Sultan?
I was delighted by the authors weaving together of pride, history, love, religion, pain and respect that emerged into a story that will be with me for a long time.
Jacquelyn H. (Blanco, TX)
Exotic, enchanting Istanbul
I love Istanbul so was delighted to read a book about Istanbul and its exotic ancient culture and history. The story lagged at times but still had two well drawn and interesting protagonists and a fascinating yet tragic beginning where the Princess Esma Sultan ordered the drowning guard, Ivan Postivich, to drown her latest lover as she did with all the men she called to her chambers for a night of intimacy. Intrigues, battles and love affairs followed. The pace of the novel was indeed slow at times but never did I feel I should put it aside. Unique plot twists kept me going.
L. Michaels (Boise, ID)
The Drowning Guard is a nice period piece about the Ottoman Empire after Islam became the governing religion. The writing created a world filled with the sights, sounds, smells one would expect to find in a region that is the crossroads of trade. I could definitely see what was coming, but enjoyed the journey. The women in the book were smart, strong, wily and beautiful. The men were backward womanizers and that made me both mad and sad. The premise of this story - a man forced to murder night after night for a Sultane begins to fight back in his own way and wins her. On the way, however, he wages another battle with her brother, the Sultan. The court intrigue and the usual bad eunuch/good eunuch combination was predictable. I enjoyed the short interludes back in time - they were necessary to round out the characters. This is a light read, but enjoyable. The grammar and spelling errors were distracting; however, the story carried the day.
Norma R. (Secaucus, NJ)
Be prepared to be transported to Constantinople in the 1800's. The city is part of the vast Ottoman Empire. People from all over live here - Armenians, English, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks, Jews from Spain, Serbo-Croats. The story centers on the lives of a brother and sister, the Sultan and Sultane. They live in luxury and have control over the ordinary citizens. The main character is Ivan Postivich, a Serbo-Croat, who was forced to give up his identity and religion to serve the Sultane. The novel is a reversal of the "Tales from a 1,001 Nights. Esma tells her life story to the soldier Ivan, The novel held my attention as each night more is revealed. The royal family was so cruel in so may ways but also protective of those in good favor. I enjoyed this book because I was immersed in another era. The novel had several suspenseful story lines.
Elizabeth L. (Beavercreek, OH)
The Drowning Guard
The author did an excellent job creating the scenes in the book. Her imagery was so vivid, it was almost possible to smell the scents in the streets of Istanbul. The plot, however, lagged a bit in the beginning. It took some time to get involved with the characters but untimately I enjoyed the story so I am glad I stuck with it. This is an excellent book for those who enjoy historical fiction as well as those who like strong female characters.