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The Sultan's Wife

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,257 ratings  ·  166 reviews
1677. In Europe, the Enlightenment is dawning after a century of wars. On the seas and in coastal villages, pirates and corsairs are the scourge of the waves. And in Morocco, Sultan Moulay Ismail is concentrating his power, building an elaborate palace complex with captive labor.

Alys Swann is also a captive, but hers is a different lot: convert to Islam, marry the sultan
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Doubleday Canada (first published January 1st 2012)
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Wytzia Raspe Very good book but not for young readers. People are enslaved and victim to forced sex and castration. Although not mentioned in detail so not meant…moreVery good book but not for young readers. People are enslaved and victim to forced sex and castration. Although not mentioned in detail so not meant as an erotic novel. Just how things went in those day and age. Also a lot of fear for corporal punishment. But if you are mature and not that feeble it will certainly enrich your knowledge of history and it is not at all biased.(less)

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3.78  · 
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 ·  1,257 ratings  ·  166 reviews

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Mark Lawrence
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It has to be said that this book contains rather more about eunuchs and the process of creating them than I ever wanted to know. Legs were crossed!

That said, this is a great read. The setting (Morocco in the 1670s) is excellently realised and a trip to London in the book makes for interesting comparison. There may be a romance of sorts lurking at the bottom of this book and I am not a fan of romances, but this is not that kind of a tale. For every stolen touch there are at least two political in
Jonathan Gunson
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a MUST READ.

I was exhilarated by this glorious love story.

It opens in Morocco, then carries us right across Europe to the court of King Charles II, where the main character, Nus-Nus, collides with famous English luminaries of the time, including... well, no spoilers, I'll leave that to your imagination and discovery.

Apart from the beautiful writing craft and the page-turning narrative, it exhibits great depth of authenticity, demonstrating the power of drawing on personal experience
Feb 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I believe that I will have to state that I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I read the first three chapters and wasn't sure that I cared for the main narrator, a eunuch known as Nus-Nus. However, I kept on with it and it turned really interesting in part two. A young woman, Alys, is on her way to be married when she is captured and sent to live in Morocco as a part of the Sultan's harem. Alys, soon becomes the second wife and is forced to convert to Islam. Of course, the first wife ...more
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I devoured The Sultan's Wife in four days, which given what a slow reader I am and how every book normally takes me about three-four weeks, must be some kind of personal record. In fact I could hardly put it down. It's absolutely brilliant, Jane Johnson is an amazing storyteller and if you like the sound of a dark, gripping Arabian tale set in the 17th century, I very highly recommend that you give it a go!
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it

Let me start by saying I could hardly put the book down. It is so beautifully written and in a way that makes it really easy and enjoyable. I'm not used to the setting in the book (Morocco) and that only made it better for me since it made me discovered an entirely different culture.

As for the story itself, it is packed with action. That is the only "negative" side to it, because I thought at times there was just too much going on, and the actions were somet
Dec 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I enjoyed this novel a great deal and although I'm not usually drawn to fiction but when I do find myself reading, I get a little too carried away with my emotions. This book drew three major reactions from me; I LOLed, I gasped, I was sad to a point I didn't want to finish the book, but it all came to a pleasing end.

So again, I'm looking at this mysterious book cover only this time it was literally staring back (see that eye on the cover?) and I’m just wondering what it was that I was going to
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
First off, what a fascinating life-story Jane Johnson has! As someone who splits her time between living in England and Africa, it's really no wonder that she can incorporate both culture and history so intelligently into her writing.

Imagine any of the Arabian Tales, full of contrary rulers and their dark jealousies, of protracted punishment and treachery, and that is essentially what you will find in The Sultan's Wife. The protagonist is Nus-Nus, who tells the story in the first person and who
Jelena Milenković
maybe even 3.5 stars.
I just felt that the story was overwritten at times unlike the end when everything happened all at once and miracoulosly (is it really a surprise?) (view spoiler)
Not to mention that I guessed that major how to call it even plot twist at the end.

I was buddy reading it with Nadz and we both agreed that we liked Nus-Nus parts more than Alys's.
If you pick this book up you'll see why.

I am usually a fast read
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
I was hoping this book would be better, after reading all the glowing reviews. I did get some enjoyment from it, but, for me, the writing was somewhat simplistic and lacking finesse, also there were grammatical errors and anachronisms of language - very modern words and phrases used by people who were supposed to be living in the 17th century. It read something like a fairytale with a "they all lived happily ever after" ending. Left me feeling like I need to read some really decent literature.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
#NadirasPointOfReview: The Sultan's Wife by Jane Johnson.

📚The story is set in #Morocco, during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail in the Year 1677.The novel takes you from Morocco to #England and revolves around Nus-Nus (the African eunuch slave and Sultan’s scribe) and Alys Swann (an Englishwoman who was taken as a prisoner and kept as a concubine in the Sultan’s harem). These two form an unlikely alliance to survive the Sultan – one of the tyrannical ruler in history.

📚Pros: Jane Johnson writes
If you think this is a story from 1001 Nights then you are wrong
This is the 1001 nightmare of a girl who is kidnapped and forced to be a slave and slave Nus-Nus
who becomes her friend who is the only bright spot in such a cruel world in which she is found herself
Every day is a challenge to stay alive for NusNus who works for these two evil masters. He must also find a way to make life endurable for Alys whom he secretly loves- she in turn trusts only him. The story becomes that much more entici
Farhana Faruq
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historical-fiction fans
I received this book through GoodReads First Reads.. a huge 'thank you' to Random House of Canada! :)

What an awesome read!! At a hundred and sixty something pages, you wouldn't think it would start of SO interesting!...but it does and continues at that pace. I couldn't get my nose out of it.

This is a historical-fiction taking place in Morocco. There is a lot I really enjoyed about this novel. The story line is very interesting, the characters are fascinating, the real names are used for most of
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
The characters were one dimensional and the story line was highly implausible bordering on the ridiculous including its happy ending. The main character, a eunuch slave working for the sultan of Morocco who falls in love with one of the harem's English concubines, survives so many potential deaths you'd think he sold his soul to the devil. The novel is quite readable though and it really picks about 2/3s of the way through. You can tell that that author did a reasonable amount of research on the ...more
Nelly (LightWeaver)
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of a kind, truly.
The main character's personality and backstory was fascinating and heart breaking all at the same time. Throughout the entire story, all I wished for was a happy ending for the main protagonists, the white swan and Nus-Nus. Being Moroccan myself, I thought I wouldn't be particularly fond of the traditions and the ambiance of the book, but I found it was entirely different than our current customs, and understandably so, given it was the 17th century.
Kristi Barr
Apr 23, 2012 rated it liked it
I have been a big fan of Jane Johnson since I fell into her book "The Tenth Gift" aboard a BC Ferry. "The Salt Road" was also a great read. This book... I struggled through. While the subject matter should be fascinating (Morocco, history, point of view of a eunuch) it just didn't engage me the way her earlier books did. I found myself rushing through the middle, hoping to get to the exciting part... which just didn't materialize.

However, the ending was worth wading through the book for. I'm gl
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Sultan's Wife is beautifully written. You feel compassion for the slavery parts. You will be able to drink in all the atmosphere. You will be able to smell the amber, pine & musk scent's. You can feel upon your feet the jewelled slippers they wear. All the characters are skilfully mapped out. A very nice rich read. You can buy this book on penguin book site.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book started off with real possibilities but the second half dragged along and I lost interest ...forced myself to finish it.
Shelley Schanfield
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent historical fiction set in 17th century Morocco about the infamous Moulay Ismail, who ruled from 1672-1727, a very long time for the era. It's told from the point of view of the eunuch Nus-Nus who befriends an English woman Albs who has been enslaved and is now a concubine in the sultan's court. Moulay Ismail's murderous wife Zidana makes life difficult for both.

While Alys and Nus-Nus are fictional, the setting and intrigue are meticulously researched and wonderfully brought to life.
Apr 22, 2019 added it
I loved the author’s Salt Road, which is why I picked this one up. But it was tough sledding for me. I lost interest in the characters and did not finish.
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What an excellent read! It takes place in Morocco in the year 1677 when the awful,tyrannical and powerful Sultan, Moulay Ismail ruled with his evil and monstrous wife Zidana.

This story is told by Nus Nus, the son of a Chieftan who was taken by slavers and now works for the Sultan as a lowly scribe. He has a book where he records all of the Sultan's sexual activities. The Sultan has a huge harem of which his horrible wife, Zidana is in charge of. History records that this Sultan fathered over 90
Aug 31, 2012 rated it liked it
A good read, this historical novel takes place in 17th century Morocco&England. Alys Swann is abducted by Moorish pirates when sailing to England from Holland to get married. She ends up in the
harem of Moulay Ismail-a cruel capricious vindictive king-where she will give birth to a son Mohammed,which puts her at odds with the First Wife Zidana who rules the harem & uses all means to secure the succession for her brood. We meet NusNus an African slave of royal descent, whose 1st master is
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
A bewitching novel set in 17th c., THE SULTAN’S WIFE is an engulfing ride to exotic Morocco, into the palace of the horrific Sultan Moulay Ismail and his ‘witch’ wife, Zidana. From Morocco to England, the novel revolves around NusNus, the Sultan’s African eunuch scribe and Alys Swan a virgin Dutch beauty kidnapped for the Sultan.
Life is but a breath short of death around the cruel Ismail who decides the fate of all those around him depending on the degree of his wrath. Zidana, on her side offer
Ben Kane
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Having read and enjoyed The Tenth Gift by the same author, I was looking forward to the publication of this novel. Set slightly later in the 17th Century, it's written partly in the first and partly in the third person, a tricky feat, but which Johnson carries off very well indeed.

The central character is Nus-Nus, a black eunuch in the Arabic court of the Sultan of Morocco. He's a deeply attractive and nuanced character who from the first page lives in constant fear of his life - not just from h
This book was well researched, and it told an interesting story, but it just wasn't my taste. I read it because of a recommendation. It deals with very harsh subject matter, such as torture, slavery, various sexual atrocities, and general disregard for life. I just didn't enjoy reading it... it was painful and so horrible to think of a time when such things were the way of life - and I hope that they aren't like this anymore. I'd like to think it's all an exaggeration, but I fear it is not. How ...more
Antara Raisa Khan
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
For a book whose title is every bit misleading as it can get, I was majorly expecting a tastefully crafted romance mixed with some royal riches and drama. But what I got instead was an overdose of politics, court-rivalry, wars and a crazy glimpse into the harem culture with witchcraft and voodoo integrated all throughout. Even as the story took a turn from the confined court of Morocco to the liberal streets of England, I got very little of the romance that I had expected.

The ending was too rus
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved loved loved The Salt Road and The Tenth Gift, so was looking forward to immersing myself in "Jane's world" again. This was one of those all-too-rare books that I raced through because I loved reading it, and was sad to finish. It took me quite a few days to figure out what to read next, because I didn't want to break the spell with anything less entrancing.
If you enjoy learning about other lands, other cultures, other times, this is a great and cosy read. The plot is intriguing and the cha
Demoness Tenebrae
I honestly expected a little bit more after The Salt Road which was amazing. I guess I got spoiled in the process.

The best thing about this book is how vividly and realistic Jane describes the historical setting, scenery, life and death, rape, harem, the plague... You are drawn in and you feel as though you are living the story. That is the author's greatest asset.

Few things bothered me but nothing as much to ruin the pleasure of reading it. She could have made more contact / more encounters b
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
My first book by this author and I was really impressed, will definately read her other books and would recommend to others.

Has an exotic feel throughout and lets you enter a secretive world of the harem and the rule of a cruel Sultan. Although throughout there any many scenes of violence, tortune and general unpleasantness it was never too much and added to the style of the book.

I would would describe this as a historical romance loosely based on actual events and charactors however Ayls and N
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
As I read the first few chapters of this book, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. It starts off a bit slow. But I really enjoyed it in the end, and I'm glad I continued!
I enjoy historical fiction, but had never read anything set in Morocco before. The story follows two main characters - Nus Nus, a slave of the sultan, and Alys, a captured English woman who becomes part of the sultan's harem. At times the story is a bit peculiar - but there are some surprises along with the way that
Rosemary Morris
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The sights and sounds of Morrocco and those of Charles' IInd's London are brought vividly to life by Jane Johnson; and so is the pitiable condition of slaves captured by barbary pirates.

At every twist and turn of the novel I hoped Nus Nus a ennuch of African origing and Alys Swann captured by corsairs, faced with death if she did not renounce her faith in order to become a member of the tyrannical Sultan Moulay Ismail, would triumph over their many tribulations.

The final resolution took me compl
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aka Jude Fisher, Gabriel King (with M. John Harrison)

Jane Johnson is from Cornwall and has worked in the book industry for 20 years, as a bookseller, publisher and writer.

She was responsible for publishing the works of J R R Tolkien during the 1980s and 1990s and worked on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, spending many months in New Zealand with cast and crew. Under the pseudonym o