The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman
“The Aviary Gate” is a dual time period work of historical fiction. The majority of the plot takes place in Istanbul, both in the present day and in the year 1599. The present-day protaganist is a graduate student, Elizabeth Staveley, working on her thesis studying captivity narratives from the Ottoman Empire. One day, while working in the library, Elizabeth discovers an old fragment of a manuscript describing the captivity of a British woman, Celia Lamprey, in the harem of the Sultan. This is an unprecedented find for Elizabeth, who becomes very emotionally involved with Celia’s story.
Woven into Elizabeth’s search is the story of Celia’s life in the harem in Istanbul in 1599. Life for Celia suddenly becomes much more intriguing and dangerous when the Chief Eunuch is the victim of an attempted murder and the war between the Sultan’s mother and his favorite concubine heats up. It is among these events that Celia learns that Paul Pindar, her fiance who believes her to be dead, is in Istanbul with the English ambassador.
Hickman has a great deal of talent as a writer. The book is beautifully written, and the tale of Istanbul in the late 16th century is very intriguing. The present day storyline, however, is somewhat under-developed. Although Elizabeth is dealing with heartbreak and love, her story was never particularly compelling, and her emotional connection to Celia’s story is never fully explained. I definitely enjoyed this book, but I think I would have prefered had it only been the story of Celia, Paul, and the Sultan’s harem.
“The Aviary Gate” goes on sale Tuesday, May 27th. Buy it on Amazon.