The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman

1 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

I picked up this book at the library mostly because of the intriguing cover and because I wanted a break from English historical fiction.

The story centers around two women – Celia, who lived as a harem slave in the late 16th Century, and Elizabeth, who is a 21st Century graduate student conducting research. Intrigued by a note written by Celia, Elizabeth sets out to discover what happened to her. Had the author stuck to this plot – and developed it – I might have enjoyed the story more.

Instead, the reader is sidetracked by the not-so-romantic tale of Elizabeth and Marius. Conceited and pompous, Marius simply uses Elizabeth. Worse, she lets him, all the while bemoaning that he does so. Then, determined to trace Celia, she bucks up and heads to Turkey.

Meanwhile, we learn about Celia’s romance. Prior to her capture, Celia was affianced to Paul Pindar. Pindar is an actual historic character – a wealthy merchant and later ambassador to Turkey. (To be clear, Celia is fictional.)

The plot centers around Celia’s attempts to escape the harem, Paul’s search for Celia, Elizabeth’s efforts to find out what happened to Celia, murder and intrigue within the harem, and Elizabeth’s developing relationship with a man she meets in Turkey. Do you begin to see the problem?

This 350-page book suffers from too many plots. Had the focus stayed on Elizabeth’s attempts to discover what happened to Celia; had the author not tried to connect the two women through their romances, this could have been a better book. Rating: Good.