Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman (a review)

3 out of 5: The Aviary Gate intertwines the story of modern Oxford researcher Elizabeth Staveley with the 400-year-old story of Celia Lamprey, a sea captain's daughter assumed to have died in a shipwreck but actually held as a concubine in the Sultan's harem in Constantinople. Celia's fiance, an English merchant, also happens to be in Constantinople serving as secretary to the British Embassy, and a rescue attempt ensues. Hickman recreates the world of the Sultan's harem in vivid detail, and this exotic setting is the best aspect of The Aviary Gate. The other nice touch is the ending. Without giving anything away, Hickman resolves the historical story of Celia and Paul with grace and restraint uncommon in many of the other historical books that are so popular right now. On the downside, Elizabeth and Celia are not particularly likeable or interesting as protagonists, though Celia shows more gumption and strength of character than Elizabeth, who continues to moon over an obviously commitment-phobic boyfriend. Also, some of the dialog in the historical story is overly modern and jarringly anachronistic. Overall, the interesting setting and the masterful ending make this book a worthwhile read.


Kathleen said...

"Elizabeth and Celia are not particularly likeable or interesting as protagonists"
... totally agree!

Lisa said...

I don't know - I thought Elizabeth did pretty well. After all, she realized that she was being an idiot about Marcus and did something about it (even if that something was "run away very fast").

I was less thrilled with the spooky bits Hickman added - the whole visions-in-the-harem and hearing voices bit. (And did anyone else get the feeling they wanted you to think the innkeeper was very mysterious? And surely it was not a coincidence that her nephew shared his name with Celia's sultan...)

Gwen Dawson said...


The spooky bits were pretty contrived, weren't they?