The Sultan’s Wife

Written by Jane Johnson
Review by Lucy Bertoldi

A bewitching novel set in the 17th century, The Sultan’s Wife is an engulfing ride to exotic Morocco and into the palace of the horrific Sultan Moulay Ismail and his ‘witch’ wife, Zidana. From Morocco to England, the novel revolves around Nus-Nus, the Sultan’s African eunuch scribe, and Alys Swann, a virgin Dutch beauty kidnapped for the Sultan.

Life is but a breath short of death around the cruel Ismail, who decides the fate of all those around him depending on the degree of his wrath. Zidana offers no respite; her poisonous concoctions are a reminder that no one is safe from her tyrannical plans. Most important on her list of things to do is to rid Ismail’s harem of all unwanted heirs (and there were quite a few – history quotes roughly a thousand!) which should surpass her own offspring.

Every day is a challenge to stay alive for Nus-Nus, who works for these two evil masters. He must also find a way to make life endurable for Alys, whom he secretly loves. She in turn trusts only him. The story becomes that much more enticing when Alys gives birth to Ismail’s son, Mohammed. Of course, this is a major hurdle for Zidana. But the story then takes us to the court of Charles II in England, where a twist in development will forever change the fate of all…

Intricately woven, this novel is graphically filled with suspense and intrigue which is cleverly meshed in a blend of history, culture, religion and so much more. From beginning to end, The Sultan’s Wife is a passionately engaging book that will keep readers frantically flipping the pages longing for more. This is my first time reading Jane Johnson’s work, and it certainly won’t be my last! Loved it.