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The Sultan’s Seal by Jenny White

Not only did I want to challenge myself to read something that I wouldn’t usually pick but I was drawn to the novel by its cover. This particular edition is quite befitting, with its powder blue sleeves, with an embossed white building framing the title. I’ll tell you a little about the book and my verdict, as usual!


The Novel


19th Century Turkey is the scene in which the protagonist Kamil Pasha, the local magistrate, has the task of finding who has murdered a drowned European governess. Consequently he probes reluctant subjects for information and clues, filtering through falsehoods. This would seem a fairly of the norm crime plot but the Ottoman Empire is in turmoil and so the political climate is constricting, especially with the constraints of society with regards to behaviour standards. As one would expect, the investigation is not an easy task, and even the most seemingly trustworthy of people turn out to be players of deceit and betrayal.


My personal response


As I said previously, this kind of novel is not my kind of thing. I’m not too into crime novels and I can often find settings such as this hard to get into. As expected, this novel took me a while to be hooked. Days went by and I would often read a few pages and then leave it for a few days. I did not feel like this novel pulled me into it. You know when you can’t put a book down, and every time you see it sat there it is almost like it’s calling to you “hello there, do you think you might want to read on a bit more?!”, well if you do know that feeling – I didn’t have it with this book.


While she gives a plethora of description that is sensual and admittedly incredible, unless you know the specific terms, or have an in-depth knowledge of this time period and place, it can often seem confusing. The terminology of places and people and such like are hard to understand at times (unless you are in the know) and consequently I often found myself Googling the terms before i could read on. For example “his father had been a kadi” – a kadi being a judge in a Muslim community, my point is if you don’t know what a kadi is then your perspective of his father could be completely different, or you may not grasp important aspects of the novel.

Why you should read it – Don’t be deterred!

The Sultan’s Seal is beautifully written. Some of the description is so sensual it makes your toes curl with delight, and the detail is so vivid at times you lose yourself in the exotic setting. If you do have an interest in crime novels, or you like novels with a mixture of history and interesting locations then you should give this book a try.  

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