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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 5 November 2010
This is an adventurous attempt to cover a period which has been neglected by writers of historical fiction. As a keen reader of this type of book, I looked forward to reading it.

"Siege" divides in to 2 parts, covering first the prelude and then the siege itself and Jack Hight brings an obvious historical knowledge to bear on his story. Where he is dealing with the many and varied political and religious intrigues, he demonstrates both knowledge of his topic and an ability to convey the complexities, Unfortunately this does slow the pace a little too often. Equally unfortunately, he is less assured when writing action scenes, which failed to convince this reader, and given that they are such an integral part of the story, provides a major flaw.

Using the main characters to give the human dimension, Hight imagines a number of scenarios which may have given rise to the key elements of the story and these do work, for the most part. The central "love story" is not one of those successful stories, though, as it too often seemed unlikely and superfluous. I would also have liked to see a map or two to help pin down the geography - mine was a Vine edition, which may not be typical though.

Perhaps the reason why the fall of Constantinople has not been covered in fiction is because of the sheer scale of the task of bringing together the many strand of those aforementioned intrigues, which overwhelm this apparently attractive setting for historical adventure. That said, Jack Hight has produced a decent novel, all things considered, but which would have been improved with more ruthless editing, or would have benefited from being 2 or even 3 books which culminated in the siege - there was certainly enough material.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have always been surprised that the epic siege of Constantinople in 1453, which saw the city fall to the Ottoman Turks, had not been novelised before - or, if it had, I was not aware of it. It was such a momentous event, signalling the final death throes of the Roman Empire, which had clung on in some form or another throughout the Byzantine period; so momentous, indeed, that the day on which the city fell, a Tuesday, has remained a bad luck day for the Greeks ever since.

Jack Hight has redressed the balance with this novel, "Siege", which has as its main character Longo, the historical commander of the defending forces at Constantinople. Obviously, much of Longo's (and other characters') back stories have been invented by Hight, but he starts us off in 1448, after the Turks' defeat of the Christian armies at Kossovo. From there the action moves to Constantinople, then to Italy, before coming back to the Byzantine capital for the siege itself in the final part of the novel. Interspersed with the actions of the Christian heroes, Hight takes us inside the Ottoman imperial household, recreating the tensions between the Sultan Murad and his young son Mehmed, who had already been an unsuccessful sultan once, before Murad's death propelled him back to the imperial throne - and his attack on Constantinople.

Hight deals with the intrigues of the Byzantine and Ottoman courts well, simplifying some of the theological details (a wise decision), and providing explanations for some of the more intriguing aspects of the siege itself - why, for example, Mehmed's Grand Vizier was executed at the end of the siege, and how the Turks managed to gain entrance to the city itself. Lacking any historical explanations, Hight's fictionalised explanations hold up reasonably well.

I enjoyed "Siege". I didn't really find the battle scenes quite as thrilling as I hoped I would; but they were solid and dependable, which is perhaps all one can ask. The love story element was rather predictable, and perhaps not entirely necessary; although it did provide some fresh motivations for the characters. Overall I would recommend the novel, particularly if one doesn't really know much about what was going on in the 15th century, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean. I wonder whether Hight should have included a note at the end to explain quite why the fall of Constantinople to the Turks was such an important event, and how it laid open the rest of Europe to future Ottoman attempts - considering the later Ottomans made it to the gates of Vienna, the danger their capture of Constantinople presented might have been made more explicit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For such a major event, the Siege of Constantinople in 1493 has had surprisingly little attention from either historical novelists or filmmakers: the only previous novel dealing with it that I can recall is Jill Paton Walsh's The Emperor's Winding Sheet way back in 1974.

Starting five years before the siege itself and charting the fall of the Byzantines through the eventual commander of the city's defences and various other historical characters in both the Ottoman and Byzantine courts, its attempts to fill in some of the gaps in the historical record with speculative `faction' while leaving others a mystery is for the most part convincing. Unfortunately, Hight is better at the history and the politics than the action or the rather gratuitous love story, generally keeping a better grasp of the countdown to the empire's fall and the rationale for both sides actions than the `personal' side - if anything the characters seem more convincing when he's putting them through history's paces discussing real events attempting to show them as flesh and blood characters in their private lives in imagined ones. Equally problematic is that too many of the large ensemble are stock characters that never rise above their predictable motivations enough to make us care about them and are either give too much space or not enough to justify their presence. As a result it's a decent rather than a great historical novel that benefits most from its rarely exploited setting even if, at times, it does feel like a less fully realised literary relative of Kingdom of Heaven.
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on 20 May 2011
I really enjoyed this book and I didn't think that I would after reading the first couple of chapters. It was quite slow to start, but I realise after completing the book that the slow start was necessary in order to construct solid foundations on which to set this quite ambitious and epic plot.

It is the last days of the eastern Roman Empire and Constantinople is under siege by an invading Turkish horde. Isolated and left to fend for themselves by the majority of Christendom, the Emperor and his band of faithful subjects seek to defend their city from an ambitious young Sultan. This is a story told from both sides involving, warfare, politics (both secular and religious), treachery, espionage, romance, revenge and honour.

The book is an example of superb historical fiction, yes there a couple of clichéd and highly romanticised scenes that would be better placed in a Hollywood blockbuster; but the majority of the book is a pure and unadulterated escapist time travelling adventure story. And impeccably researched too, the author certainly knows his stuff and imparts countless facts and other curiosities which are seamlessly embedded in the narrative.

I found the descriptions of the Turkish Court including the harem particularly interesting and was fascinated by the politicking between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. This is real history fictionalised in a way which was entertaining yet informative. I did find myself more interested in the lives of the Turkish characters, but that is possibly because their culture was so completely alien to my own! The villains were dastardly but not to a point where they were bordering on farcical stereotypes, but I did find the Christian hero Longo, slightly too saint like. A minor grumble, please don't let it put you off this brilliant book.

I was reluctant to finish the book as it had thoroughly held my attention throughout. On its conclusion however, I was left feeling satisfied and with a heightened anticipation for more of this author's work.

Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 7 February 2011
In line with several other reviewers here I enjoyed some parts of this book but not others. It is clear that the writer has done a lot of research into the period and his explanations of the intrigues, both political and religious, leading up to the fall of Constantinople are lucid.

While the historical side is fine, the actual story part is less satisfactory. There are too many stock characters, the man seeking revenge for the deaths of his family, the callow youth out to make his fortune and then also seeking revenge, the tricky monk, the assassin working against his will because his employer has something on him.

However, the real problem lies with the romantic element, unsubtly signposted from the opening pages when our lovers first set eyes on each other; she looking out of the castle and he riding in. Their eyes meet for a moment, they cannot look away, she thinks he looks handsome but hard... You get the picture. Needless to say our heroine is a feisty one and discovers tunnels under the city which help our hero (who is quite a killing machine)to penetrate the Turkish camp, but not before he grabs an illicit snog or two on the way.

There is a vague hint that another novel will follow featuring the child of one of the characters. If so, I hope that any romantic interest is kept to a minimum or handled more realistically. The main problem for me was that so many of the plot twists were so obvious and hackneyed - after a couple of chapters you know how thinsg will turn out with the characters but it takes a little too logn to get there.

Having said that, it's an enjoyable romp which helps to while away a few hours in a plane, akin to those old adventure movies taht whiled away wet Sunday afternoons.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 1 February 2011
As mentioned by another reviewer, this is not exactly going to be a classic. The topic is not hugely original, neither is it treated in a very original way. The romance between our hero (a historical Genoese character who did play a leading role in the Siege and died as a result of it) does sound a bit artificial, a bit as if the author had been required to produce one and had to somewhat reluctantly comply. A few others features are somewhat "overdone":
- the Genoese captain was not, at least to my knowledge, a former Janissary
- I got a bit tired with the plots and intrigues both within the Ottoman harem and on the Byzantine side, where everyone seems to be attempting to poison or betray everyone else of importance
- Princess' Sophia role is a bit "over the top" with almost any "bright" idea being attributed to her, to the extent that the Emperor appears to be courageous, dutiful but somewhat naïve, which is somewhat improbable. Also improbable is Sofia's meeting and negociation with the pope. Rather anachronistic and quite unrealistic. As another commentator make clear, somewhat to my amusement, it seems like the author felt obliged to include some "girlpower" in a - rather lame and commercial - attempt to increase sales.

Having made these reservations, the book also has quite a lot going in its favor.

The description of the last Byzantine Emperor's desperate situation is excellent. He was caught between his nobles and the Greek population, which adamantly refused that their Church becomes subservient to Rome and controlled from Rome, and between the pope, the only authority who could provide significant help by preaching a Crusade bjut whose help was conditional to the recognition of Roman supremacy

The other interesting point is that neither Venice nor Genoa provided substantial help to the Emperor. They did offer some help, but only a minimum, if only because they also had much bigger interests to preserve by not alienating the Ottoman Sultan. This kind of "appeasement" was also standard policy for both Republics with regards to relations with the Sultan during the whole of the second half of the 15th century, well after Constantinople had fallen.

The author has taken a number of liberties with historical facts. The city fell because the defenses were breached and they were no longer properly defended after Guistiani, badly wounded, was carried off to his ship. He would die on it a few days latter, while at sea. At least some of his Italian troops followed suit, abandoning their positions and weakening the defenses. To be fair, however, this was not their city. Treason does not seem to have played any role in the city's fall. As the book also makes clear, the City's walls were in any case seriously undermanned, even at the beginning of the siege. Although the garrison had repelled a number of assauts, it could expect little help and was fighting a ten to one siege against an ennemy that was slowly pounding the walls to dust with its cannons. All of the Greek troops seem to have fought to the last man, including the Emperor whose body was never formally identified.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 August 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I admit to a weakness for historical fiction. When in need of a diversion from 'serious' novels I find this genre of fiction a real pleasure. And this novel is a good example of this.

I really quite enjoyed this book. Jack Hight draws his characters well and in what I consider exactly the right style for this kind of novel. Enough depth so that you care what happens to them but without too much over-detailed analysis to slow the story down. The main character of Longo was an easy one to like, as was his love interest the Princess Sofia. The character I particularly liked though was that of the young Sultan. For me he was the best defined and had both admirable and loathsome qualities that made you think a bit more challenged about your views towards him. That sort of writing for me lifts an everyday entertainment novel into something far more worthwhile. However, I would say that at times there were perhaps one or two superfluous characters too. I'm not sure the story really needed the young lad William and it feels like one of those characters you come across occassionally in films, who was originally written with a bigger part but in the cutting room most of his major scenes got dropped. He might have provided the device to move the story on occasionally but he could have been more than that I think.

I thought the story itself was pretty good. A part of history I know very little about and as such it provokes me to go and find out a bit more, and that to me is a large part of the pleasure of these sort of novels. A good author for me is one who sparks your interest enough for it to be alive after you turn the last page. Jack Hight manages this very well. The story is also able to stand apart from the history too. A love triangle, a tale of revenge and lust for power all provide strong themes that the author weaves into the story. And does it well. I perhaps would have liked a bit more detail at times, particularly around the siege itself. Given the title of the novel I expected quite a lot more about the siege of Constantinople but it probably only took up about a fifth of the material. I guess it is possible this may have made the novel slower and less exciting but I think more concentration on the siege would have been really interesting.

Some people dislike this style of novel but I find it just the ticket when I'm in need of diversion. Jack Hight isn't quite on a par with Cornwell for me but I suspect with a couple more novels under his belt he won't be far off. Certainly the basic materials are on show to suggest the potential is there. From the evidence of this first novel I think Jack Hight is a talented writer and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of his work. As for this novel I definitely recommend giving it a try.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If only history was taught like this at schools more of us would've been interested!

Having recently read a variety of historical novels such as Dust and Steel,Arrows of Fury (Empire) and Empire of the Moghul: Raiders From the North, I have to say that this was the most enjoyable and intriguing.

Jack Hight does a fantastic job of weaving a myriad of characters and stories into one fluid and cohesive climactic ending, while remaining true to much of the history surrounding the seige of Constantinople in 1453. Needless to say, as it is based on history, many of the characters are real, while he does throw in a few fictional characters. Like any good historical fiction writer, he explains at the end of the novel which bits of the story and characters were fiction.

Although there are multiple settings in the story and three main strands of story till their final meeting, the book is easy to follow and the characters are all distinct.

If you are like me who didn't know how the story ends you will be drawn through the final part of the book at a rapid pace. If you do know how the story ends you will still enjoy the description and the way that Hight brings to life the various components and characters of the story and the battle.

If you are into historical novels, this will be one of the best that you have read. If you have never read a historical novel then this will be a great place to start.

You can't change history but you might as well enjoy learning about it!

Hope that helps.
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VINE VOICEon 12 August 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very good story, well researched and well characterised. It mixes historical and fictional characters and is true to the basic facts of the siege. He takes the story of the siege of Constantinople and draws us into the story of its fall. Contrary to another reviewer's assertion Longo was the historical leader of the forces protecting the walls of Constantinople. It is William who is the fictional character.

This did draw me into the story and I actually wanted to know more by the time I finished. The characters were believable and you know that some of the elements were fictional but it held your attention and did draw you in. Even though you know the eventual ending you still want to read on. There are one or two occasions when things do seem to drag but these are few and far between.

This is a tale of intrigue and draws us into the motivations that each character has for the actions; whether revenge, survival, power or religious extremism. We find people willing to sacrifice the Christian city in order to keep their version of Christianity pure and untainted by the heresy of Catholicism.

We see that members of the Genoan and Venetian trading powers were happy to sacrifice Constantinople to protect their trading interests with Turkey. To them we see that Christian solidarity meant less than profit.

Then we have treachery within the walls of Constantinople and also in the camp of the Sultan and many are trying to secure their own power and prestige. Their are plots to call many of the leading characters. Some are played out and others are left in mid-air.

This is a good summer read but remember that this is a work of fiction and, as the author states, not completely historically accurate.
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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Siege of Constantinople in 1453 is one of the pivotal events in European history, more important than the battles of Crecy, Agincourt or Bannockburn or whichever other nationally important battle your history teacher taught you about. It was the real end of the Roman Empire and the confirmation of the Ottoman Turks as the most powerful state in the eastern Mediterranean. Refugees from the city brought knowledge west into Europe that added fuel to the Renaissance. It really was a last stand, the end of one civilization and its replacement by another.

This book chronicles the last days of Byzantium as Mehmed II, Sultan of the Ottoman Turks sets out to make Constantinople his capital. Opposing him is Giovanni Giustanini Longo, a Genoese soldier to whom the Emperor Constantine XI has entrusted the defence of the Queen of Cities. The emperor's niece Sophia is betrothed to Loukas Notaras, megadux of Constantinople, but she is attracted to Longo. While Longo and Notaras try to defend the city the hard line Orthodox clergy plot to preserve their independent church and sabotage any union between the Catholic Church and their own, the Pope's condition for calling on the European Catholics to relieve the city. At the same time there is intrigue and plotting at the Turkish court and in the harem as the Sultan's officials and wives jockey for position and favour. The vizier, Halil, plots with the Sultan's first wife against his unfaithful concubine Gulbehar.

I liked this book, as an adventure and as a fictionalisation of history. The author captures the declining yet cosmopolitan city with its traditions and rituals and those of the opposition, he Ottoman Court (the "Divan") and the harem. The plotting and intrigues are well done and the battle scenes are exciting and fast paced. It's not a work of history but you do get how important an event in European history this was. If you like historical fiction and books about military history then this is one you should enjoy.
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