Katie Hicks’ novel, The Aviary Gate, was a change of pace for me. I adore Historical Fiction but tend to read predominately Victorian era novels. I enjoyed the exotic 16th century Turkish setting of Hick’s novel. She uses a the convention of juxtaposing a contemporary graduate student (Elizabeth Stavely) doing research against that of an imagined historical ‘subject.’ In this caes, the subject under investigation is a young English woman, Celia Lamprey, presumed drowned at sea but actually alive and well and living as a slave in the Ottoman royal harem. Her finance, a well to do English merchant/sea captain/scholar named Paul Pindar discovers her alive in the harem and seeks her rescue. The story is actually told predominately from Celia’s point of view and is rich in courtly/harem detail. I enjoyed this peek into an a world that was previously unknown to me. I did not love the ‘modern day’ sections that place Celia’s story within a ‘to be discovered’ mode. I found the contemporary graduate student rather vapid and was little interested in her failed romance. I found her distracting and thought Celia’s story was strong enough to stand on its own.
One other issue with this book is that the characters and language in the novel are numerous and a foreign enough to become confusing. Hicks has a short cast of characters and a glossary in the front of the book and I did find I had to continuously return to it. There are enough names/ concepts that are new that it was a necessary evil. I don’t like having to flip back and forth, but I got confused enough to have to paper clip the section for referral. Don’t let this keep you from reading it, if the topic is of interest. It’s definitely well written and an enjoyable read.
Despite my criticisms, I actually enjoyed this peek into harem life replete with scheming concubines, palace eunuchs, and astrology, and will happily pass this title on to other readers.
**Special thanks to Library Thing for giving me the chance to review this book!