Title: A Place Called Armageddon
Author: C.C. Humphries
Review: I do not often read historical fiction, typically opting for narrative nonfiction (think Erik Larson), but since I had actually lived in the country this book was discussing I decided to make an exception. This book focuses on the siege of Constantinople, a Greek city, by the Turks. It is told through the eyes of several characters on each side of the battle.
The history was very good, and it became abundantly clear that a lot of research went into getting the basic facts of the battle correct. From the treatment of the citizenry, the methods of long term sieges, the nature of battles, and the overall climate of the city. As a history guy, I felt I got a good macro perspective of the battle that was both interesting and accurate. For me, a good measure of historical fiction is whether you come away from the story wanting to know more of the details. Humphries does an excellent job of just giving you enough information to keep you interested, and at the same time stoke a fire of curiosity that makes you hit the internet to learn even more.
Along with the history several plot lines involving a large cast of characters is presented. For the most part they were entertaining, but the sheer volume of characters detracted from getting to know any one of them to well. It is why a good mystery has the investigating officer only looking into one crime, otherwise it gets confusing, and you never really get into the case(s). So while Humphries is a fine writer, it is tremendously difficult to present a cohesive story on this scale. I enjoyed the book but wanted a little more balance on character development.
Overall this was an excellent book and a extremely interesting topic. If you are fan of the genre you will not be disappointed, and if like me you are new to it, you couldn't ask for a better introduction; especially with such a great writer like Humphries.
Quick Review: 4 stars out of 5
Why I Read It: I enjoy history (typically non-fiction) and this fictionalized account of the siege of Constantinople (Istanbul) appealed to me since I spent four years in Turkey as a kid.
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review.
Synopsis: To the Greeks who love it, it is Constantinople. To the Turks who covet it, the Red Apple. Safe behind its magnificent walls, the city was once the heart of the vast Byzantine empire.
1453. The empire has shrunk to what lies within those now-crumbling walls. A relic. Yet for one man, Constantinople is the stepping stone to destiny. Mehmet is twenty when he is annointed Sultan. Now, seeking Allah’s will and Man’s glory, he brings an army of one hundred thousand, outnumbering the defenders ten to one. He has also brings something new – the most frightening weapon the world has ever seen...
But a city is more than stone, its fate inseparable from that of its people. Men like Gregoras, a mercenary and exile, returning to the hated place he once loved. Like his twin and betrayer, the subtle diplomat, Theon. Like Sofia, loved by two brothers but forced to make a desperate choice between them. And Leilah, a powerful mystic and assassin, seeking her own destiny in the flames.
This is the tale of one of history’s greatest battles for one of the world’s most extraordinary places. This is the story of people, from peasant to emperor - with the city’s fate, and theirs, undecided... until the moment the Red Apple falls.
Author Biography: C.C. Humphreys was born in Toronto, Canada, and grew up in Los Angeles and London. A third generation actor and writer on both sides of his family, he returned to Canada in the nineties and there his writing career began. He won the inaugural playwriting competition of the New Play Centre, Vancouver with his first play, 'A Cage Without Bars' which was produced in Vancouver and London. He was a schoolboy fencing champion, became a fight choreographer and thus turned his love of swashbuckling towards historical fiction. He is married and lives in Finchley, North London.