Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Cecilia Baffo Veniero is almost 12 when she loses her mother, her mentor, and home, all at once. Taken from the Republic of Venice to the Ottoman Empire as a slave, Cecilia is spared by her high formal education and chosen by the sultan to be the wife of his son, the future ruler. Speaking from her deathbed in a series of flashbacks to the defining moments in her life, Cecilia, rechristened Nurbanu, charts her life's path and her surprising rise to power. Nurbanu's story juxtaposes the mercy and cruelty within the empire: of its justice in allowing religious freedom and its brutal practice of fratricide to ensure no threats to the throne. Throughout, she notes the strengths and human flaws in each of the three sultans she comes to know, including her husband and son, whose rules she influences. The history of Nurbanu is the backbone of the novel, and Hughes has given her the sort of narrative voice that makes for historical fiction that is both factual and personal. This is a dense and heartbreaking read that marries a strong story arc with a dedication to historical details.--Shaw, Stacy Copyright 2017 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In her debut novel, Hughes fleshes out the historical record of Cecilia Baflo Veniero, who would later be known as Nurbanu, Queen Mother of the Ottoman Sultans. Nurbanu recalls her dramatic life from her deathbed: born illegitimate in Venice and orphaned at a young age, she benefits from her father's nobility and the education she received from her mother during her early years after she is enslaved by Turkish corsairs. Singled out by Suleiman the Magnificent and given to first one and then a second of his sons, Nurbanu receives opportunities for education as well as access to power. She uses her position to affect the nation's political direction, protect her family, and, most notably, oppose a barbaric law designed to maintain authoritarian control of the Ottoman Empire. Hughes adeptly mixes fictionalized elements with historical details. However, the narrative-told in the form of a deathbed memoir-often reads more like a history textbook than a novel. Depictions are sometimes gritty and graphic and may be disturbing to some readers. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
[DEBUT] Set in the 16th century, this remarkable and dense debut historical novel introduces Queen Mother Nurbanu (1525-83), who was part of the "sultunate of women" who for over a century exerted political influence in the Ottoman Empire. Born Cecelia Baffo Veniero in Venice, she is captured by Captain Barbarossa and taken to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul. Because of her father's name and position in Venice, she is educated and groomed for a higher purpose. Suleiman marries her to his son Selim, who eventually becomes sultan himself. Nurbanu, in her position of power, must make many difficult choices that not only transform her life but also change the lives of others. The story envelops many layers of history, including the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and the city state of Venice as well as how the Ottomans treated the small Jewish population within their borders. Verdict Hughes has richly imagined the life of a remarkable historical figure, little known in the West, and the world in which she lived. Fans of Philippa Gregory's Tudor-era novels (see above) and readers who enjoy in-depth historical detail and court intrigue will be riveted.-Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. Syst., TX © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.