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The Drowning Guard: A Novel of the Ottoman Empire

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,288 ratings  ·  178 reviews
Each morning in the hour before dawn, a silent boat launches on the Bosphorous, moving swiftly into the deepest part of the waters halfway between Europe and Asia, where a man will die...

The Drowning Guard is the tale of the Ottoman princess, Esma Sultan - one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history and unlike any other woman in the Islamic world. In a gender
Paperback, 414 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Lake Union Publishing
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  2,288 ratings  ·  178 reviews

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Start your review of The Drowning Guard: A Novel of the Ottoman Empire
"Not all is as simple as Good and Evil."

That line speaks volumes about this story and the characters within it. This book is enthralling, profound, enraging, uplifting, beautiful, hideous, elevated, common - I could go on and on. Many of these words contradict each other, but that’s kind of the point. You see, this story is full of contradictions, in the best way. These characters are so layered, so intricately woven and complicated that you find yourself forever questioning their
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: somebody who wants an alternative to another regency romance
Recommended to Jaidee by: a distraction from starting Les Miserables.
3 "fascinating, a bit too fanciful, uneven" stars !!!

This book was more exotic romance than a work of serious historical fiction. This is not necessarily a bad thing but very much needs to be said. Having made that proclamation I also want to say I was extremely entertained despite middling writing, uneven narrative and a desire for more authenticity.

The setting was very exotic and the descriptions were rich. The grand court of Constantinople in the nineteenth century with intrigue, romance,
Allison Coffin
Sep 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
Dear God, did anyone even bother to edit the last third of this novel???

I love historical fiction. And strong women. Go Harem Ladies! Yay! This book start out okay, not that anyone would confuse it for Pride and Prejudice in the desert, but at least it was readable. Then it's like the author gave up. The last third felt like the author was just trying to get it over with already, and pretty soon I was with her on that. Poorly written, the ending felt like a barely-flushed-out summary rather than
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Drowning Guard is a beautifully written book, rich with descriptive details. I could see it, smell it, hear it, taste it. The author takes a piece of history from Constantinople and brings it alive, fleshing it out with her own imagination and characters. I was fascinated, brought into another world in another time.

I have trouble finding the words. I start thinking in fragments. The Sultan, the Sultan’s sister, the harem, the Sultan’s guard, the politics, the spying, the multi-cultures,
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Linda Lafferty has quite clearly never been taught to show, not tell. The plot of the first three quarters of the book is interesting, but the actual writing is amateur at best and the final quarter of the novel was just all around weak. There was no tension between Ivan and Esma - it just went from him hating her guts one minute to wanting to shag her the next - and I found the whole relationship between them to be forced and unbelievable. Despite the fact that Esma's "confession" was supposed ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Hands down this is the best Audible narration to which it has ever been my pleasure to listen. Suzanne Cypress transported me to another time and place so foreign as to be another world.

Never have I experienced such lush beauty interwoven with implacable cruelty. These are the stories of a princess and a slave girl, of a kidnapped boy thrown to the stables in a foreign land - of the deep unfairness of having to grow up hard and fast.

This was a good book I am never reading again.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After absolutely adoring Lafferty’s debut novel, The Bloodletter's Daughter, I have been keeping an eye out for the opportunity to read any more of her work. Here, Lafferty moves away from the Hapsburgs of 17th century Bohemia to the Ottoman Empire in 19th century Constantinople. Whereas her previous novel borders on the historical mystery, this one leans more in the direction of a historical romance - though a bodice-ripper this most certainly is not. Lafferty skillfully brings not only her ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I could not stay interested in The Drowning Guard. Something about the author's writing style did not resonate with me. I would start to empathize with a character, only to later think my empathy was misplaced.

Great narration

This is a dark and twisty book with really great characters. It's historical fiction about the Ottoman Empire - spoiled, twisted, freaky "royalty", but that's how they roll, I guess.

Main characters you hate and love all in the same breath. What I loved about the book is that I could never guess what was going to happen next. So unpredictable, so good.

It's really a complex story that is so much more than the book description.

Now, who will like this book? Well, it's not
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great story that kept me engaged from the start. Not something I would usually read so it was nice to find I really enjoyed it. Love story, war story, murders and exotic locales all in one.
I can't even give a rating due to the terrible narrator this audio book had. It was not the author, so I will buy or get the book from the library and re-read it myself because most of this book was a giant blur as I could not understand the narrator! Whatever you do, don't buy the audio!!!! The narrator was in a huge hurry to read this book! Speed reading 101
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a nice book. Oriental magic, wealth and devestating drama,
I was surprised by the details and how true the facts for the Ottomans were.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Islam and feminism

I have a limited knowledge of world history, with bits and pieces of European and Egyptian history comprising the majority of what's in my head. I had no idea this was based on real history - people that actually lived and events that actually occurred. I picked this up partly because someone told me it was like a version of 1001 Arabian Nights with the gender roles reversed.

I feel that categorization is a poor representation of the essence of this novel. It's more about a
Mikki Crisostomo
Please don’t be misled by the terrible cover. It is the only bad thing about The Drowning Guard. This is actually a terrific book marred only by that atrocity on its face, rather like how I am a terrific person, marred only by the atrocity that is my face.

At first I was pretty lukewarm about the story and the characters. Yes, the prose was lush and vibrant (adjectives that are so commonly used in stories about the Ottoman empire that now I feel like I cheated a little) -- when Lafferty
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
An Unlikely Romance Amid the Luxury and Depravity of the Ottoman Empire

Each night Ahmed Kadir starnds guard outside the palace of the sultan's favorite sister, the Sultanes Esma, waiting for her discarded Christian lover who he must drown in the Bosphorous. Ahmed, a Janissary, hates his enforced idleness. He wants to return to his Kapikulu calavary regiment, but his prowess has earned the envy of the sultan, so he is banished and sent to guard the sultan's sister.

Esma falls ill. No one can help
Tara Chevrestt
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Extremely pleased with this book. It's 1001 Nights but with a woman responsible for the deaths of her lovers--a white Christian male nearly every night. As the Sultan's favorite sister, any man who beds her is forbidden to live. Her drowning guard takes care of the dirty deed...and because of his knowledge, when struck with illness, he becomes her confessor.

It's a twisted and fascinating tale with dashes of feminism and female empowerment in an otherwise oppressed world. It's rich in history, of
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you recall last week I was Gushing over a book by Linda Lafferty called the Bloodletters Daughter. This week I availed myself of another story she has published called the Drowning Guard (a Novel of the Ottoman Empire.)

It was a little different but almost as enjoyable. Which in this case is super duper awesome. It takes place in the late 1500’s early 1600’s. The beloved sister of a ruling Sultan, with her own kingdom, has sex with non Muslim men, then has her drowning Guard, a Serbian
Night Goddess
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the second book I have read from Linda Lafferty and she is easily becoming a favorite of mine. The Drowning Guard is a historical fiction novel about the Ottoman Empire in 19th century Istanbul. It tells the tale of the Ottoman Princess, Esma Sultan and her drowning guard Ivan Postivich, who has the grim job of executing the sultaness's Christian lovers each night once they have fell victim to her seduction. Ivan loathes Esma for the atrocities he is forced to commit but he soon finds ...more
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
The idea of taking less well-known figures from history and building a story around them is an interesting one, but this book doesn't really deliver in the end. The author suffers from trying to take on too many issues, and the story ends up being unclear. The conclusion,in partcular , feels rushed .
Cassandra Brotherton
Quite enjoyed the story. Easy read. I liked the Historical references too.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm really surprised I finished this at all.

(it's on kindle unlimited - even the audiobook is free to listen to! Don't do it, though, the audiobook is trash)

After the Wrath and the Dawn, I was convinced it would be impossible to create a worse retelling of Shehrazad's framing story in 1001 nights. I was pretty much accurate, it IS impossible. But Linda Lafferty tried, bless her.

The first 20% were so painful to read I nearly preferred cleaning to listsning to it. And I also preferred all the
Djay H
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was truly a magnificent read.

The text requires a lot of patience, especially that the narrative shifts its focus every now and then--almost at every high point. I recommend this novel to everybody who is open to experiencing new concepts and definitely a new world.

The novel is mainly set in the Bosphorus, and the main story line unveils an Ottoman princess's lifestyle. Despite it being slightly of a historical essence, the novel could be read without historical background. Nevertheless,
-Bookish Gal-
Rating - 2.5 stars.

When everyone is determined to present someone as a monster, there are two possibilities: either he’s a saint or they themselves are not telling the whole story. - Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

This book has left me with mixed feelings. I cannot hate the book but I don't really love it either and I really don't know what to make of that.

The reason I requested an ARC of it was owing to the peculiar title, the synopsis and my love of historical fiction.

The reason
Jeanne Werth
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I did really like this book. It is a little strange - it starts with the Sultane's bizarre behavior of having her lovers drowned but then quickly moves into hearing the story of her upbringing. I anticipated that we would eventually understand why she does this but the reason isn't because of her but because of her brother. It was all a bit strange.

That being said - I'm not one of those people who only reads books that are plausible. I like all kinds of books as long as the characters are well
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got this book because I really liked many of Linda Lafferty's other books and the subject matter looked quite interesting ....the Ottoman Empire and Esma sister of the sultan. Well it is quite violent and I cannot say I like that many of the characters with a possible exception of Ivan. It does wander somewhat and while it attempts to be historical I felt it was somewhat lacking somehow. Unfortunately the brutality and violence takes up a lot of the book so much so that I was disappointed in ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I loved this long winded love story! It is not only a story of love developed by hate but a fascinating story of historical proportions. I learned a lot from this book that I never would have read about.

I loved the development of the personalities of Ivan Postivich and Esma Sultane. At first you hate what they represent but as the love subtly develops, and the mutual respect as well, the stories unfold and you find yourself liking them both.

This is a long novel but, in my opinion,
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A story of Palace intrigue in Constantinople that is rich in descriptions of passion and equally full of the history of Turkish society.

This novel is not a fast read. It is dense with many plots and lives of many characters. It is worth reading slowly as a Turkish delight. Having the good fortune to visit Istanbul in the 1990's, I savored the description of architecture which still exists. It is an erotic love story and also a trip into another time.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable

I dont know much about the Sultans and their lives and ive read only one book dealing with harem life, but The Drowning Guard is a wonderfully told story of historical aspects that I find fascinating. While the story of the guard may be fictional, it certainly sets the tone for a tale of intrigue, love, betrayal, and jealousy perfectly.
Kaitlin Moore
I had a lot of mixed feelings for this book. On one had the complexities in the characters was a real draw. Esma is just terrible. But in a very complex way. In a kind of 1001 nights gender twist every night she sleeps with and then murders a Christian man.

She is in love with the man responsible for drowning them.

This is more or less the story. The language is flowery, and the story is at times hard to follow, but a worthy read that stuck with me several years later.
Hristina Ivanova
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Hmm, this book was kind of if the autor didn't really want to put the effort in it. The historical facts were used to create a superficial fictional story. I found it very underdeveloped and even cringy at times. Surely not the worst I've read, but I wouldn't recommend.
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The daughter of a naval commander, Linda Lafferty attended fourteen different schools growing up, ultimately graduating from the University of Colorado with a master's degree and a PhD in education. Her peripatetic childhood nourished a lifelong love of travel, and she studied abroad in England, France, Mexico, and Spain. Her uncle introduced her to the sport of polo when she was just ten years ...more
“The pressure of politics can change the course of history, and even the word of God.” 3 likes
“It is the face of rebellion and determination. It does not show age, terror, or ennui. It is frozen in time, in a moment when you took a stand against a man who abused you. It is a mark of rebellion against man’s dominion, even an Ottoman Sultan. What face could be more beautiful, Kucuk?” 2 likes
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