2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful flavours of 19thC Istanbul,
This review is from: The Sultan's Seal: na (Hardcover)
This book has many strengths - I loved the Ottoman setting - it evokes images of beautiful scenery and exotic customs and culture. The characters are well done, especially the detective Kamil and also main female characters, Janaan (niece of a respected Turkish scholar) and Sybil (the English Ambassador's daughter). I also enjoyed the descriptions of places and customs - the harems, coffee houses, bazaars, bath house etc.
So for me the strengths of this book are more about the time, place and location than about the plot. You get a wonderful flavour of the period and the setting of Istanbul during the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the fantastic wealth and opulence of the palaces and the political intrigue during a period of great change.
However, I wondered why White had chosen to write a detective thriller. She has made the plot line unnecessarily complicated; while all the threads are there, she lacks the skills as a writer to weave them into a strong picture for the reader. Parts of the story are well presented (particularly Janaan's story), but the political intrigue and the roles of various characters within it is muddled and doesn't come clear at the end - so we are left wondering who exactly killed whom and why!
My personal view is that it's a pity White didn't concentrate on those descriptions of people, place and culture that she does so well and keep the plot simpler.