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The Aviary Gate (The Aviary Gate #1)

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  1,441 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
Elizabeth Stavely sits in the Bodlean library with trembling hands. Before her is a fragment of parchment which provides the clue she has been looking for to a story that has been untold for 400 years: a tale of intrigue, forbidden love and dangerous secrets in the Sultan's harem.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2008 by Bloomsbury (first published January 1st 2008)
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Sep 04, 2008 Carey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Katie Hickman's "The Aviary Gate" is a story within a story. In present day Oxford Elizabeth Staveley, a graduate student, is looking through the Bodleian Library archives in search of material for her thesis on captivity narratives. She finds a fragment of a manuscript which describes a shipwreck and the unfortunate aftermath when the ship is boarded by Turkish pirates. The captain of the ship is murdered and several of the women are taken captive by the pirates, among them the captain's daught ...more
Jul 24, 2010 Adrienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh I couldn't give this book anything other than a 5 star rating, it has everything I enjoy in a great read. An historical 'romance' I've put the romance in inverted commas because it's not a typical romance with a HEA but rather a romance in the victorian sense of the word. Beautifully writen it captured my imagination right from the start. I love this time period 16th Century but not from an Elizabethan angle infact I find that period of 'English' history quite boring, no it's the Venetian and ...more
The Aviary Gate by Kate Hickman is a lush narrative that reaches back into the sultan's harem of Constantinople, 1599, to relate a bittersweet story of loyalty, love, and loss. Elizabeth is a modern day grad student at Oxford, entangled with a rake and researching captivity narratives for a bid at an MPhil. She stumbles upon some clues that suggest an Englishwoman named Celia Lamprey survived a shipwreck in the late 1500s only to be sold as a slave into the Ottoman sultan's harem. Elizabeth's qu ...more
Mar 12, 2009 Gerund rated it did not like it
Near the end of this novel, an Istanbul archivist, who is helping an English academic with her research, muses: "What is this western obsession with harems?"

Well, the popularity of novels about harems can probably be attributed to the bits which describe the, well, performance of a harem lady's raison d'etre. If that is what you are looking for, this novel certainly has a few paragraphs here and there which will please you.

But the author is best known for her non-fiction, and unsurprisingly the
Oct 26, 2011 DubaiReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life in an Ottoman harem.

This received quite mixed reviews on Amazon UK, and I had reservations when I began reading. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised and found it a very enjoyable read with plenty of historical interest and atmospheric descriptions.

There are two time frames used in the novel; the current day story of historical researcher, Elizabeth Staveley, is used as a tool to provide the background to the more interesting historical section. Elizabeth finds a fragment of a manuscript
Feb 09, 2009 Betty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of mystery, history, love stories
Mystery, History, and Love Story during the Ottoman Empire
Haunting & refreshingly different, the story begins when a small scrap of old manuscript, dating to 1599, is accidentally discovered among the texts of Elizabeth’s studies. Elizabeth feels she must learn the fate of Celia, the betrothed daughter of the ship’s captain after his ship has floundered & Celia has been captured & brought to the Sultan’s harem. So begins our student’s research, delving into the realm of the Sultans a
I am so bloody disappointed. By the ending! I mean that poem that Celia leaves to Anetta could have been from before she went to see Paul, that night. Or indeed, it could have been from later on, after having come to the conclusion she would have never seen him ever again.

Anyway, the novel was interesting overall. I got to envisage a picture of Istanbul that I loved and it made me want to visit it for real. But the ending, good God, the ending! Why choose such an ending to a 500 pages novel? (at
Jul 23, 2011 Zoella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! The start is incredibly uncomfortable to read - cue crossing legs and squirming. But once you get passed the mutilation and hardship the characters are instantly likable, even the cruel and rebellious ones. It's obvious how much research Hickman put into the novel (especially with the map and glossary), and one can not fail to appreciate this. On the other hand some writers get bogged down in their research and this can threaten to overshadow the plot and characters, but Hickman narrowly a ...more
Mar 22, 2012 June rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I discovered after opening this book that I had actually read it before, perhaps with a different cover, but I decided to go ahead and read it again anyhow, and I'm glad I did. I'm not always a fan of historical novels but I enjoyed this tale of an elizabethan englishwoman in the Sultan's harem ,and the intrigues and mysteries of Palace life. It was full of lush description and a lot of historical research..(some of the characters were from real life), and was something of an adventure story too ...more
Dec 07, 2012 Jae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable and richly told tale. However, as is usually the case with stories split between a modern and an historical character, the present day heroine wasn't as interesting as the, in this case, 16th century woman.

This novel is very similar to The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson, but I agree with Ben Kane that it isn't really in the same league, nevertheless it is a very engaging story which I had a lot of pleasure reading.
Tina Bahat
May 27, 2015 Tina Bahat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Divna povijesna priča u kojoj se izmjenjuju prošlost i sadašnjost, ljubav i intrige, odanost i izdaje, borba za život i borba za moć...Životopisni opisi i nevjerojatni likovi, zagonetni i mistični do samoga kraja...Okrenite prvu stranicu i dopustite da vas uvuče u tajanstveni i zabranjeni svijet skriven iza vrata harema...
Nov 01, 2013 Lulu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down. I started out listening to it on tape, and the reader had a beautiful accented voice for the characters. Then I had to buy the book on my Nook to see how all the names were spelled, and read along while I continued to listen to it every chance I got. The author crammed a lot of stuff into this book, some more successfully than others. Her main character, Celia, was very weakly sketched. I wish she had given us more on the voyage and shipwreck itself, on Celia's yea ...more
Apr 25, 2010 Carole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story begins in the present time when student Elizabeth Staveley discovers a parchment in the Bodleian library that she's been looking for and which could hold the key to a mystery that's been hidden for 400 years.

In Constantinople in 1599 the Sultan's mother (the most powerful woman in the land) discovers the bodies of two people who have been poisoned in the Sultan's Palace. One is the chief of the eunuchs and the other is a young slave girl.

This is the start of an epic tale of love, murde
Oct 17, 2013 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book, I suspect that made the experience even more painful. There were such long narrative bits that had nothing to do with the plot and felt like the author was preaching. Celia was bland and a little too unrealistically stupid, or maybe that was realistic, but who wants to hear an adventure story from the perspective of a mewling, ignoramus who refuses to adapt? Which brings me to Elizabeth, our modern heroine.

What a boring, pathetic person who didn't convincingly change. I
Ben Kane
I heard about this novel about 3 years ago on Radio Four. Neglecting to note down the title because I was driving, I discovered it again by posting a query on an historical fiction forum I'm on. Funnily enough, I ended up reading it just after I'd read a similar tale of piracy and women carried off into captivity, The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson. Sadly, this book wasn't in the same league as Johnson's novel.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, because I did. Hickman has clearly done her rese
sigh. i really wanted to like this book of two parallel love affairs - one from the 16th century and the other present day. it had all the right elements...meticulously researched, nicely written, desperate lovers, and a harem? maybe i could learn something! but it just didn't click for me. i never connected with celia, the young englishwoman sold into slavery after surviving a shipwreck, and paul, her merchantman betrothed, even less. never felt the love, esp. since they do not share ...more
Carol Fillmore
Jul 31, 2011 Carol Fillmore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a good one and it's jam packed with details about life in a harem 1600s. This author has researched extensively. How many hours did she spend getting the details to bring this tale to life? Am not too far along yet, page 82. I will read more tonight before bed:)
Finished July 31.... story just haunting me and had to keep reading till I found out what happened to Celia Lamprey! Won't give away the ending as that would not be fair;) It had some twists at the ending that I didn't see comin
Jul 24, 2013 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh that ending was horrible! I was so intrigued by the entire book then after the effort I put into reading it, the ending was so unsatisfactory. I think if she had just resolved the Celia-Paul relationship and given more time for the Elizabeth-Mehmet relationship, the ending would have been great. I think Kate Hickman tried to hard in making the ending seem "different"

i have to admit, i hated it when i finished it, but then i realized that i craved for other books like it, and i still c
Nov 27, 2008 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: november, 2008
The Aviary Gate is a story of two romances. One takes place in ancient Constantinople, the other takes place in present day Istanbul. Elizabeth Staveley is our modern day heroine who stumbles across part of a letter detailing the story of Celia Lamprey, a young woman who was captured and sold into slavery. The story alternates between Elizabeth's trip to Istanbul (taken to further research Celia's story), and Celia's adventures in the sultan's harem in Constantinople. Overall I found both storie ...more
Sep 13, 2008 Vivienne rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book even though the modern part of the story seemed rather weak and might have been improved by just having it as a vehicle for exposition rather than how it was (no spoilers!).

I also agree with other reviews that the Elizabethan part of the story felt too modern but then historical romances can often suffer from this.

Still I did enjoy it despite this and felt the descriptions were very vivid.
Sasha Strader
Oct 06, 2012 Sasha Strader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
How long has it been since I've been this frustrated by a book? Quite a while, I can tell you.

Comprised of two parallel stories, a captured English woman in a harem and the graduate student researching her fate, you would really expect a lot more content than you actually get out of the book. It's a little like they've entwined the dreams of the grad student (What she imagined happened) with her own life and it gives the book a very pleasantly flowing feel.
Dec 23, 2011 Alayna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My perfect kind of book for winter break, this historical fiction takes place a harem in the Ottoman Empire. Some loose ends were never resolved, particularly in the contemporary frame story. The writing style is better than the typical historical fiction but not spectacular. I mostly enjoyed this book for the interesting details on life at this time in Constantinople, especially the portrayal of behind-the-scenes power struggles among the women of the harem.
May 27, 2009 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book. A betrothed woman is shipwrecked, rescued and sold into a Turkish Harem. She is ambitious in moving up in the "ranks" of the women until she discovers her would be husband may or may not be in town. All the while we are finding this out through modern day times as a research paper is underway through the finds of a possible diary or other artifact. Good stories past and present I just felt a little unsatisfied with the conclusions. Ah well.
Apr 03, 2011 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The way the author switches from her modern day heroine to her 16th century heroine is actually quite seamless. It's an historical mystery of an English woman's presence and possible escape from a Sultan's harem in 16th century Constantinople. Nicely written without being overly descriptive and definitely keeps the the intrigue alive til the end.
Feb 12, 2012 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haven't used Goodreads for a long time but Laura shames me by the number of books she both reads and records ... ! Read The Aviary Gate a while ago but thoroughly enjoyed it as escapism and a good story. Very easy style to read and different subject matter. Am just reading its sequel, more of which anon ....
Katy Goodwin
Sep 11, 2016 Katy Goodwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having been to Istanbul I am always keen to read books that take me back there. The Topkapi Palace is a must see place and this book manages to bring it to life again, populating it with memorable and interesting characters. One of this book's strengths is it has a little of everything, history, romance, friendship.
This book was OK. I really want to give it 2.5 stars. The novel is set up as a frame story with a set of characters in the present and a set in the late 1500's. I felt like the characters in the 16th century were a little more fleshed out, but that there was a lack of character development for all. The ending sucked.
Jo Barton
Apr 08, 2010 Jo Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this sumptious look at life in a 16c harem in Constantinople. Told through the eyes of Celia Lamprey, an English woman,who has been captured and sold into slavery when her father's ship was attacked by pirates.
With a present day tie-in ,this is a great adventure story.
This book had everything I love in the same book. Love, history and a mystery. I have now idea about how it must have been to be living in a harem, but this book gives you a peak into a hidden world of love, hate, jealousy and intrigues.
Nov 14, 2010 Aileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this one. The leaps between present day and late-16th century Istanbul were interesting and well tied up. I would have liked to know exactly what did happen to Celia, but as there is another book which follows up the story of Paul Pindar, that may well tell me.
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Katie Hickman was born into a diplomatic family in 1960 and has spent more than twenty-five years living abroad in Europe, the Far East and Latin America. She is featured in the Oxford University Press guide to women travellers, Wayward Women.
More about Katie Hickman...

Other Books in the Series

The Aviary Gate (2 books)
  • The Pindar Diamond

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