I read a lot of historical fiction and because of my interest in ancient Greece and Rome most of my reading is from those genres. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured out of my interest zone and picked up SJA Turney’s The Thief’s Tale, a tale that takes place in 15th century Istanbul. This trepidation was tempered by the fact that I have read other books by Mr. Turney; most notably the Marius Mules series, and was confident that he could write an excellent story no matter the historical time frame involved.
The story is a fictional account of a power struggle between two brothers vying for control of The Ottoman Empire and how another pair of brothers, one of them a Muslim Janissary, the other a Christian(at least nominally) street thief who find themselves irrevocably involved in a plot to assassinate the current ruling brother. The characters, both main and ancillary, are meticulously crafted as the author has done his research on not only the time period but also of Constantinople/Istanbul. The story flows seamlessly to its exciting climax which ironically involves a true historical fact; a lightning strike that hit Istanbul in 1491.
One of the major story lines reflects one of our foremost contemporary problems, the religious or ethnic intolerance between Muslim, Christian and Jew. Istanbul in 1491 could easily be Teheran or Jerusalem in 2013. The thief often finds himself dwelling on the paradox of three religions that worship the same God and yet are continually at each other’s throats competing for supremacy. The author, while offering no insight or solution to this worldwide threatening issue does inject the story with enough ironic situations that made me once again ask the question, why?
As with any good story that has sequels in mind, The Thief’s Tale leaves the reader turning the last page and hoping that the sequel has already been written. The Thief’s Tale is well worth leaving your genre comfort zone.