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The Aviary Gate

(The Aviary Gate #1)

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,727 ratings  ·  223 reviews
Elizabeth Stavely sits in the Bodlean library with trembling hands. Before her is a fragment of parchment which has about it a dusty fragrance of roses, of sadness and great age. Here is the clue she has been looking for, to a story that has been untold for four hundred years. It is as though a voice is whispering softly to her across the centuries. Constantinople, 1599: m ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 2nd 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published October 1st 2008)
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3.49  · 
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 ·  1,727 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Sep 04, 2008 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 10, 2010 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
Roman Clodia
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it
At the end of this book, Hickman mentions all the research she did: but sadly while it definitely pays off in terms of atmosphere - rustling silks, perfumed gardens, glittering jewels - it does little to sustain a plot which is a standard `English girl in a harem' cliché.

Set, as so many novels currently are, in a dual time of 1599 Constantinople and present day Istanbul, this tells the story of two women entrapped: one literally in the Sultan's harem following a shipwreck, the other in a self-de
The characters do not inspire emotional attachment; the plot is sufficiently predictable to prevent reader interest, and the writing style is littered with a character’s thoughts. While not actively bad, The Aviary Gate is boring and instantly forgettable. I was disappointed.
Oct 11, 2011 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
Nov 05, 2008 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
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
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 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 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
This book was okay, but I was never entirely hooked and there was an early scene that I found should have been cut, but that may just be me. Other people might not mind.

The story set in 1599 was very vivid though and so I was curious to see what might happen to Celia. Especially since I read the second book in the series first.
*screams into the void of darkness* I NEED ANSWERS. LIKE NOW!
(view spoiler)
But seriously can someone explain why all the male characters named have, to begin with, the letter M?
RTC. this was way better than I was expecting. At least there are 2 more books in this series. Because I need answers! NOW!
Okay, I bought this because I am Ottoman Empire trash, - but why the f*** is Nurbanu mentioned in the list of characters if she'd been d
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2013 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 15, 2010 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
Sep 14, 2012 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
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 23, 2011 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
May 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, november
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
Jul 04, 2013 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
May 15, 2009 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.
Sasha Strader
Nov 11, 2011 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.
Nov 25, 2011 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.
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Katy Goodwin
Mar 08, 2014 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.
Apr 03, 2011 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 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 ....
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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.

Other books in the series

The Aviary Gate (3 books)
  • The Pindar Diamond (The Aviary Gate #2)
  • The House at Bishopsgate (The Aviary Gate #3)