The Literary Horizon: The Sultan’s Seal, Napoleon’s Pyramids

We’re going to take a look at the first books in two historical mystery series–perhaps they will get me back into mystery after my self-imposed exile from the genre?

The Sultan’s Seal by Jenny White

A stunningly lyrical debut novel about faith and desire, set within a gripping tale of murder in nineteenth-century Istanbul.

Rich in sensuous detail, this first novel brilliantly captures the political and social upheavals of the waning Ottoman Empire. The naked body of a young Englishwoman washes up in Istanbul wearing a pendant inscribed with the seal of the deposed sultan. The death resembles the murder by strangulation of another English governess, a crime that was never solved. Kamil Pasha, a magistrate in the new secular courts, sets out to find the killer, but his dispassionate belief in science and modernity is shaken by betrayal and widening danger. In a lush, mystical voice, a young Muslim woman, Jaanan, recounts her own relationships with one of the dead women and her suspected killer. Were these political murders involving the palace or crimes of personal passion? An absorbing tale that transports the reader to nineteenth-century Turkey, this novel is also a lyrical meditation on the contradictory desires of the human soul.

via Amazon

The Ottoman Empire is a fairly rare setting for novels, I have to say–I’m actually deliriously looking forward to Behemoth, as it’s the only time I’ve seen the Ottoman Empire be involved with science fiction. The setting is rife with delicious conflict and class issues that could complicate a murder investigation. The Sultan’s Seal sounds very intriguing, since it adds gender issues on top. Oh, history!

I’m trying more and more to use fellow book bloggers’ reviews on The Literary Horizon, and I found one for The Sultan’s Seal by Samantha of Book Worms and Tea Lovers. She quite likes the book, but it took her a little while to get used to the style. Reviews on Amazon are warm, but note an unevenness to the story. However, the character of Jaanan, an educated and bright Muslim woman who helps Pasha, intrigues me enough to check it out.

The Sultan’s Seal was released on February 17, 2007.

Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich

What mystical secrets lie beneath the Great Pyramids? Traveling with Napoleon’s ambitious expedition, American adventurer Ethan Gage solves a five-thousand-year-old riddle with the help of a mysterious medallion.

Moving from the lascivious salons of post-revolutionary Paris to the Mediterranean’s high seas to the treacherous sands of Egypt, Napoleon’s Pyramids is a riveting, action-packed thriller that will captivate readers and introduce them to this supremely talented author.

William Dietrich’s books have been hailed for their vivid imagery, evocative atmospheres, impeccable historical accuracy, and ambitious plots. Now, in the breakout novel of his career, he delivers an enthralling story of intrigue, greed, and danger.

Ethan Gage, assistant to Ben Franklin and expatriate American in post-revolutionary France, wins an ancient—and possibly cursed—medallion in a card game one night. It turns out that the medallion, covered in seemingly indecipherable symbols, may be linked to a Masonic mystery. That same night, however, Ethan is framed for a prostitute’s murder and barely escapes France with his life.

Faced with either prison or death, Gage is offered a third choice: to accompany the new emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, as France sails to conquer Egypt—with Lord Nelson’s fleet following close behind. Once Gage arrives, he encounters incredible surprises: one in the form of a beautiful Macedonian slave and another in the dawning knowledge that the medallion may solve one of the greatest riddles of history—who built the Great Pyramids, and why. What is revealed to Gage is more shocking than anyone could ever have imagined.

via Amazon

I love the Napoleonic era of history. As I have said to virtually everyone who looks down upon France’s military prowess, “Oh, sorry, we put all our military awesome into this one guy“. (I’m fairly sure my brother once delivered an impromptu lecture about Napoleon in college. Yeah, it’s like that.) But it’s not just my weird sense of pride, but also just an era of strange possibilities, with America a fledgling nation and one man attempting to change the face of the earth. Involve ancient Egyptian mysteries and an Indiana Jones type, and I do believe we are in business.

Reviews are fairly unified about Napoleon’s Pyramids. Historia of BiblioHistoria describes as a fun, Indiana Jones-esque romp, and Bill Bennett at the Bookshelf Reviews loves it. It sounds exactly as advertised, to be quite frank. I look forward to it.

Napoleon’s Pyramids was released on December 26, 2007.

4 thoughts on “The Literary Horizon: The Sultan’s Seal, Napoleon’s Pyramids

  1. I’ve been on the lookout for books set in the Ottoman Empire. I’m not sure if Sultan’s Seal will be quite the ticket though. For some reason the description of the young Muslim woman’s voice as “lush and mystical” turns me off. I guess I’m tired of women of non-western cultures being frequently painted as “mystical.”

    This Behemoth though, who is the author?

    • I’m hoping, due to the author’s extensive study of Turkey and the lead, that that description is due to a copy writer that’s not very good- but, of course, that’s no guarantee! If it’s any good, I’ll let you know.

      Behemoth is the sequel to Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld’s steampunk WWI novel. It’s not out yet. They were heading to Constantinople at the end of Leviathan, so that’s where I assume it takes up.

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