The Lion House
Christopher de Bellaigue
‘Every bit as gripping as Wolf Hall’ The Times
‘There are books that enlarge the mind, there are books that enrich the soul, but rarely comes a book so beautifully written and profound that it manages to do both’ ELIF SHAFAK
An immersive reconstruction of the life of the most feared and powerful man of the sixteenth century – from the Baillie Gifford Prize shortlisted author of The Islamic Enlightenment
‘Reads as a non-fiction novel … behind the bejewelled descriptive prose a thumping pulse of action tugs us through’ Financial Times
‘Luminous, erudite … a gripping account that evokes an epic poem, saga or ‘book of kings” Spectator
Venice, 1522. Intelligence arrives from the east confirming Europe’s greatest fear: the vastly rich Ottoman Sultan has all he needs to wage total war – and his sights are set on Rome. With Christendom divided, Suleyman the Magnificent has his hand on its throat.
From the palaces of Istanbul to the blood-soaked fields of central Europe and the scorched coasts of north Africa, The Lion House pioneers a bold new style of eye-witness history to tell a true story of power at its most glittering, personal and perilous: Suleyman’s rise to become the most feared and powerful man of the sixteenth century.
It is a journey built on brutal choices and intimate relationships – with the Greek slave who becomes his closest friend, the Venetian plutocrat who sells him gems and wins him allies, the Russian consort who steals his heart. Within a decade, Suleyman has mastery over millions of souls, from Baghdad to the walls of Vienna, while his pirate admiral Barbarossa dominates the Mediterranean. And yet the real drama takes place in small rooms and whispered conversations: as the Sultan exchanges love letters with his own vizier; as he awakes in terror after dreaming of his own assassination.
The Lion House is not just the story of two civilisations in an existential duel and of one of the most consequential lives in world history. It is a tale of the timeless pull of power, dangerous to live with, deadly to live without.
‘A magic talent’ ORHAN PAMUK, Nobel Laureate in Literature
‘Non-fiction with the readability of a thriller’ VICTORIA HISLOP, author of The Island
‘Essential reading for anyone wishing to understand political ambition’ ROBERT PESTON, Political Editor ITV News
‘Riveting and expert’ PETER FRANKOPAN, author of The Silk Roads
‘Narrated with a verve and flair that make the characters burst from the pages’ EUGENE ROGAN, author of The Fall of the Ottomans
History at its most gripping ... This vivid study of Suleyman the Magnificent is as enthralling as fiction * The Sunday Times * An urgent, immersive, present-tense gallop ... the book reads as a non-fiction novel ... cinematically vivid tableaux ... Each spangled scene ... rests on a solid foundation in the primary sources ... De Bellaigue enriches his storytelling with the colourful, meticulous dispatches of its traders, envoys and spies ... behind the bejewelled descriptive prose a thumping pulse of action tugs us through ... de Bellaigue's glittering, deft and often witty prose adds pleasure to each page * Financial Times * Luminous, erudite ... a gripping account that evokes an epic poem, saga or 'book of kings' ... It is as immersive as the blurb claims, conjuring the world of the eastern Mediterranean, Anatolia and south-eastern Europe in the early 16th century with the limpid clarity of the many gems that stud its pages ... Even more than the detail, it is the characters that intrigue and often inspire ... The book leaves the reader with Suleiman truly magnificent * Spectator * Those lucky readers who come to Christopher de Bellaigue's book in proximity to reading Mantel can suddenly have a new panel thrown open to them like an unfolding altarpiece ... all written in the present tense. This creates the obvious sense of liveliness and urgency ... Bellaigue sets about the task with such confidence and skill that it works ... a dazzling and dark work. Witty and often wise, it speaks to the frailties and the precarity of power -- David Aaronovitch * The Times * Vivid and compelling * Economist * There are books that enlarge the mind, there are books that enrich the soul, but rarely comes a book so beautifully-written and profound that it manages to do both -- ELIF SHAFAK, author of The Island of Missing Trees Christopher de Bellaigue has a magic talent for writing history It is as if we are there as the era of Suleyman the Magnificent unfolds -- ORHAN PAMUK, Nobel Laureate in Literature Essential reading for anyone wishing to understand political ambition and the role of narcissistic leaders and scheming courtiers in any age -- ROBERT PESTON, Political Editor ITV News De Bellaigue is a riveting and expert guide to the story of Suleyman's quest for power -- PETER FRANKOPAN, author of The Silk Roads Ambitious and original ... This is history, but not as we know it. It is non-fiction posing as a novel, rich in incident and cinematic detail ... it's tremendous -- Justin Marozzi * The Sunday Times * Narrated with a verve and flair that make the characters burst from the pages. Outstanding history and an incredibly good read -- EUGENE ROGAN, author of The Fall of the Ottomans Non-fiction with the readability of a thriller. Unputdownable -- VICTORIA HISLOP, author of The Island Reads like the most gripping fiction ... could very well be Netflix's next epic * Radio Times * Poised effortlessly between two worlds and two ages, a book as pungent and mysterious as the age it depicts -- RORY STEWART, former British Cabinet Minister and author of The Places In Between Sensuous and scholarly, meticulously researched and deliciously irreverent, The Lion House is an intoxicating journey through the Ottomans' golden age -- AMBERIN ZAMAN, correspondent, Al-Monitor, Turkey correspondent for the Economist (1999-2016) and Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC The Lion House presents a historical universe that captivates and astonishes and is near-impossible to put down. A superb example of historical literature and research -- RICHARD WHATMORE, Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews Full of breath-taking events at the cross-roads of empires at a moment in history when notions such as Europe, Asia, Christianity and Islam were infinitely more fluid and permeable than they are today -- KEREM OKTEM, Professor of International Relations at Ca' Foscari University, Venice An exhilarating read -- Rose Shepherd * Saga Magazine * This account really grips... it does so by bringing out the fascinating individuals, the adventure, the lurid details, the barbarities, the opulence and squalor and near misses of the story -- Melanie McDonagh * Evening Standard * Readers used to de Bellaigue's elegant prose will find much to admire in these pages. His command of his main characters and his grip of the wider history in which they wage their wars and plot their rivals' demise is never less than sure-footed... thoroughly gripping -- Justin Marozzi * Sunday Times *
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