Skip to main content

Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire by Leslie Peirce: A Book Review

Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire
Author: Leslie Peirce
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Basic Books
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Pages: 354
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The extraordinary story of the Russian slave girl Roxelana, who rose from concubine to become the only queen of the Ottoman empire.

     In Empress of the East, historian Leslie Peirce tells the remarkable story of a Christian slave girl, Roxelana, who was abducted by slave traders from her Ruthenian homeland and brought to the harem of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in Istanbul. Suleyman became besotted with her and foreswore all other concubines. Then, in an unprecedented step, he freed her and married her. The bold and canny Roxelana soon became a shrewd diplomat and philanthropist, who helped Suleyman keep pace with a changing world in which women, from Isabella of Hungary to Catherine de Medici, increasingly held the reins of power.

     Until now Roxelana has been seen as a seductress who brought ruin to the empire, but in Empress of the East, Peirce reveals the true history of an elusive figure who transformed the Ottoman harem into an institution of imperial rule.

     My Review: Roxelana is one of history’s most controversial figures. She was an unlikely girl who rose at great odds to become Suleyman’s wife. However, Roxelana has been known for her ruthlessness and was the cause of many of her rivals’ deaths. However, in Empress of the East, Peirce has contradicted many of the rumors that have circulated about Roxelana for centuries, and she has given us a portrait of the true Ottoman queen.

     Roxelana was a young girl from Ruthenia who was captured by slave traders. She was given as a gift to the Ottoman sultan, Suleyman. Roxelana, with her beauty, intelligence, and vibrant personality, quickly caught Suleyman’s eye. It was not long until she became his favorite. Suleyman broke the the tradition of the Ottoman harem by forswearing all other concubines. Roxelana gave Suleyman six children. Suleyman eventually freed her and married her. As queen, Roxelana became the most powerful woman in the Ottoman empire. She was a politically-adept diplomat and a philanthropist. Many of her philanthropist works would become her lasting legacy.

     Peirce does a great job in portraying Roxelana. Roxelana was a woman that knew how to make the best of her situation. She was determined and ambitious. She could also be jealous and temperamental. Despite these flaws, Peirce emphasizes Roxelana intelligence and her charitable work. She had an interest in the poor and the hungry. She was also very religious in her new faith and built many mosques. Therefore, Peirce brought out a balance in Roxelana’s character between the questionable and the positives.

     Overall, this was a fascinating biography of Roxelana. Roxelana’s story is very intriguing, and her rise to be empress was eye-opening. Empress of the East made for compelling reading, and it gave me a deep understanding of the Ottoman empire. Roxelana’s contemporaries were Isabella of Hungary, Catherine de Medici, and Elizabeth I. It is sad that she is often overlooked during a time of great queens. I recommend Empress of the East, not only to people interested in the Ottoman Empire or the Renaissance, but also to people who admire these other women as well. Roxelana has been maligned by her contemporaries. Hopefully, by reading Empress of the East, we can see her in a more positive light.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 


Popular posts from this blog

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1) by Lucinda Riley: A Book Review

The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1) Author: Lucinda Riley Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Publisher: Atria Release Date: 2015 Pages: 463 Source: My State Public Library Synopsis: Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, “Atlantis”—a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva—having been told that their beloved father, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage—a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of her story and its beginnings. Eighty years earlier in Rio’s Belle Epoque of the 1920s, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into the aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is devising plans for an enormous statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to

Blog Tour: Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles by Will Bashor

Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles [history/biographical nonfiction] Release date: June 15, 2020 Postponed due to Covid-19: July 30, 2020 at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Hardcover and ebook, 320 pages Author’s page | Goodreads SYNOPSIS Synopsis: This riveting book explores the little-known intimate life of Marie Antoinette and her milieu in a world filled with intrigue, infidelity, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases. Will Bashor reveals the intrigue and debauchery of the Bourbon kings from Louis XIII to Louis XV, which were closely intertwined with the expansion of Versailles from a simple hunting lodge to a luxurious and intricately ordered palace. It soon became a retreat for scandalous conspiracies and rendezvous—all hidden from the public eye.       When Marie Antoinette arrived, she was quickly drawn into a true viper’s nest, encouraged by her imprudent entourage. Bashor shows that her often thoughtless, fantas

Blog Tour: Girl With A Gun (Annie Oakley Mysteries #1) by Kari Bovee: A Book Review

  Join us for this tour from Jan 10 to Feb 4 ,  2022 ! Book Details: Book Title : Girl with a Gun (An Annie Oakley Mystery) by Kari Bovee Category :  Adult Fiction (18 + yrs), 316 pages Length : 9 hours, 24 minutes. Genre :  Historical Mystery / Cozy Mystery Publisher :  Bosque Publishing Release date:    April 2020 Content Rating :  PG + M: Mature themes, mild swearing  Source : This audiobook was given to me by iReads Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.   Book Description :      She’s on the rise to fame and fortune, but her sudden notoriety comes with some deadly consequences.      Annie Oakley thrives as a sharpshooter in the Wild West Show. Finally, she has a chance to save her family’s farm—and make her dreams come true.      But her act misfires when she discovers her Indian assistant dead in her tent. Uncovering a shocking secret from her assistant’s past, the girl with the gun believes it’s murder. Determined to find the truth, she ruffles some horse