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on 4 June 2013
Somewhat in line with Mehmet's life, of which about three quarters was spent campaigning, this book is mainly about his endless campaigns, from Albania to Anatolia and from Hungary to Greece.
The first part, about the rise of the Ottomans and the siege of Constantinople is quite good (although not nearly as good as Crowley's Siege of Constantinople); I also liked the final part where the Turks are actually entering Italy (you could see burning villages from the Campanile in Venice, and a Turkish invasion force briefly occupied some of the 'heel' of Italy at Otranto) & are only evicted because of a very unusual moment of christian solidarity and the death of Mehmet himself (again, the last part of Crowley's book about Venice which covers the same episode is better).
Most of the stuff in between is actually very repetitive, one siege after the next battle all against warlords that are forgotten & in places nobody has ever heard off. Then again, this was what Mehmet's life was all about. What kind of person he really was is probably not knowable given the scarcity of reliable sources. To conclude, on the plus side this book is pretty thorough (you do need your own atlas to follow the campaigns though) but the writing is unfortunately not the bestest ever.
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on 22 July 2010
Whilst this is a thorough and sweeping history of Sultan Mehmet and his heirs, I must say I came away disappointed. The author rushes through the first twenty years of Mehmet's life in very little time whilst devoting a great deal of the book to events after his death. I wanted to learn more about what made him tick, the upbringing and influences that shaped him. Roger Crowley's history of the Fall of Constantinople, "The Last Siege", did far more in this regard.

Much of "The Grand Turk" is given to rather dry listings of actions and conquests carried out in the Balkans and Anatolia and I never felt the author spent enough time on the characters and people surrounding Mehmet- for example Mara Brankovic gets little mention despite her importance in Mehmet's life.

All in all the book does a solid job in laying out the historical events of the Ottoman period but given its title and supposed focus on Sultan Mehmet, I was disappointed that the analysis of the man was little more than skin-deep.
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on 1 July 2014
to this man and his time: lets have more on the subject to quicken the pulse, put flesh on bones.
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on 20 June 2013
There is plenty of detail in this solid, if surprisingly dull, account of Mehmet, especially of his numerous campaigns, but the book seldom comes to life. We are told a lot about who did what and when, but the characters hardly ever come into focus as people (rather than just the creators of events). Mehmet was ruthless and extremely brutal, and probably a sexual predator (see the story of the fate of Lucas Notaras and his sons, here recounted in a matter-of-fact way, with no suggestion that Mehmet's sudden cruelty might have been caused by the frustrating of his lustful intentions). He was also a man who frequently and dishonourably broke his word. In short, as "great men" go he was a particularly nasty piece of work. The author doesn't say that, but readers will draw their own conclusions from this account of Mehmet's deeds and misdeeds.
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on 15 December 2009
Refreshing to read this book. Finally after Babinger's long and absolute despotic rule on Mehmed's biography in the English speaking world, a more balanced book is released. Freely pays less attention to the fanatically biased Doukas (which Babinger, Runciman and all the other Eurocentric old guard stick to religiously) and gives more weight to the most balanced and reliable contemporary source, Michael Kritovoulos. This is the best bio in English of Mehmed II, bringing out his fascinatingly complex character well, suitable for both specialist and general reader.
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on 19 February 2013
The Grand Turk - a tourist book,

Fatih Mehmet was a quite complicated and driven person. Any attempt to write a biography of him perhaps should have been approached with some fear and perhaps even trembling. What is especially annoyng about this book is its flippant handling of either the events, personalities around him (e.g. Murad II his father) or more cogently, the inner personality of Mehmet. At best this is a superficial scan of an extraordinary man, Freely knows Istanbul well and has lived in Turkey long enough to feel the country and its history and the impact of the Sultans to this day on it. I wondered as I read it about the possible response of Mehmet himself on having it read to him...
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