The Ottoman Secret

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Member Reviews

Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Those attempting to emulate the brilliance of Raymond Khoury's what-if thriller 'The Ottoman Secret' have a daunting task ahead...

My addiction to what-if novels involving alternative histories began when I read Robert Harris' 'Fatherland'. I despaired at ever thinking I could find a novel that lived up to Harris' haunting vision of a victorious Third Reich until I read Khoury's 'The Ottomon Secret'. Many authors have attempted and succeeded to a greater or lesser extent in sketching out their vision of an alternative history involving some thread of WW2. As a result what was once an original concept has become a well hackneyed trope. Khoury rips up the rule book in this respect with his engrossing dystopian tour de force involving an alternative history where the ideology and state apparatus of the Ottoman Empire dominates Continental Europe and the globe. The impetus for his vision is the little-known (to me anyway!) events of 1683 and the Ottoman Empire’s attempts to take Tulln, Vienna. Whilst the King of Poland's Hussars were victorious in our history books, Khoury reverses this outcome with the intervention of a time traveller. This is the wellspring for much of what follows in Khoury's chilling vision of a world dominated by the repressive cultural edicts of the Ottomans. When we fast-forward to the events of 2017 in the story, we can see some resonance with many fears today of real world Islamic fundamentalism and the black flags of ISIS,  but Khoury is by no means encouraging distrust of the cultural 'other'. Quite the opposite, in fact. We see through the characterisation of State Investigator Kamal Agha a man out of step with the cultural norms of his society, thus providing a trojan horse for human agency in even the most repressive regimes.
I was breathless until the end the end of this novel, and with its coup de grace in the final chapter of this novel, in awe of Khoury's brilliance. In fact what sets this novel apart from others in its genre is the chilling realisation of a world we recognise, fully sprung from this author's remarkable imagination.
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Hrmmm........that is likely to be the response of more than a few readers on completing this book. As an adventure story with plenty of heroes and villains fighting to a tolerable satisfactory denouement it certainly ticks lots of boxes - think Indiana Jones meets James Bond meets Lara Croft and you’ll get the idea. The historical research, too, is pretty good and you’ll finish the book knowing much more about the ebbing and flowing of the Islamic empire in Europe than when you started. Where it, perhaps, falters is in dealing with all the well-documented paradoxes that confront the intelligent time traveller. Jumping around in history is not to be taken as lightly as this book suggests. 

Setting aside this possibly pedantic quibble, this is a book that covers plenty of ground, maintains a robust pace for the most part, conveys quite well the unique ‘feel’ of places across the centuries and is particularly good when dealing with action sequences. Persist to the end and you will not be too disappointed. Recommended.
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Ambitious and complex story about time travelling altering the course of history essentially around the Ottoman Empire. A secret formula discovered at Palmyra is used initially to alter the fate of Vienna and the rest of Europe resulting in an Ottoman rule across Europe. The person responsible travels to Paris for treatment and his secret is discovered there by one of the doctors. The tale gets ever more complicated and probably too much so but as an entertaining yarn it just about works. Hard work but....!
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This was a what if story. A time traveller goes back to the time of the Ottoman Empire and changed how things worked with his knowledge of modern warfare. Frightening concept.
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I like history and although this is alternate history (and perhaps in some ways more akin to science fiction) I found it interesting, though difficult to get into initially.  The time travelling aspect of the book, that allows the villain of the novel,  Ayman Rasheed Pasha, a modern day Jihadist, able to use explosives to cause devasation some 200 years before they'd been invented,  is crucial to the plot in creating a Paris that is Islamic in the modern day. I liked this novel,  but I didn't love it, perhaps because it is so totally different to anything I normally read.
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I am big fan of books that utilise an alternative political future but basically keep the science the same, I thought this book was one of the better examples of how to rewrite the history but not make it a complete farce, I was thrilled and fascinated by the premise of story and the characters are complex and interesting, a very good read so thank you to netgalley for the advance copy 😀
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An excellent, imaginative, page-turning thriller:
What if you could change the outcome of a key point in history, to facilitate a political system and world more in tune with your ideals? That is the key theme which Raymond Khoury explores so imaginatively in this novel.
During an interrogation, an ISIS terrorist extracts, under torture,  an ancient secret from a Librarian, which enables the terrorist to travel back in time and change the outcome of a key historical battle between the forces of Christendom and Islam: changing history forever.  
Europe is not as we know it now, but rather part of a Great Islamic Empire. America has pursued a route of Christian Fundamentalism and is the Islamic Empire's biggest enemy. Europe forms part of a repressive Empire which ensures its continuity by oppression and torture. Personal freedom doesn't exist in any shape or form.
The novel starts when the ISIS terrorist, returning to the present day for much needed surgery,  inadvertently shares his time-travel secret, whilst under the influence of anaesthetic, with his Anaesthetist.  When the Anaesthetist and his children become subjects to be eliminated to preserve the Islamic Empire, then it falls to his wife and brother to try to set history on its true course. A big challenge.
The Ottoman Secret is a "what if" novel, similar in some respects to Robert Harris's "Fatherland" but with a difference: time travel.
Meticulously researched, topical and showing admirable imagination I found "The Ottoman Secret" a great read. The novel is a mixed genre book: historical fiction, thriller, science fiction and fantasy all thrown in. I'd definitely recommend this thriller to others.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this copy in return for an impartial review.
As someone with a high level of interest in history this alternative view of the outcome of events centuries ago was right up my street.
Mr Khoury had claerly put a lot of effort and research into this novel and it showed.
Good strong characters and it really set me thinking "what If"
Five stars, loved it.
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Wow! This is what can be described as a high octane, passionate, emotional story. Time travelling and history all weaved together to provide an alternate present - reminiscent of the tv series Quantum Leap.
Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking on many levels. The author has done it again - couldn't wait to finish the book once I started - had to keep going, prose was that gripping. 
Fantastic read. Recommended.
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I was really looking forward to reading this book with all the hype around it and the author. However, this book did not manage to grab my attention in the way that I wanted and, indeed understood. - with time travel involved. I was unable to reach the end.

Perhaps I want more in the genre of historical fiction?

Thanks to Net Galley and Penguin random House for the chance to read and try to review.
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My thanks to Penguin U.K./Michael Joseph for an invitation via NetGalley to read Raymond Khoury’s ‘The Ottoman Secret’ in exchange for an honest review. It was published on 30 May 2019. I decided to buy its audiobook edition, narrated by Raphael Corkhill, to combine with their digital edition.

In the USA it will be published in October under the rather more sinister title of ‘The Empire of Lies’. 

I have read a few of Raymond Khoury’s novels over the years and so was very pleased to receive this invitation. It’s a bit of a departure from his usual thrillers as it features an alternative history in which a time traveler influences the outcome of Siege of Vienna in 1683 in favour of the Ottoman Empire. This paves the way for them to conquer Europe.

This has resulted in a very different world as the Ottoman Empire has now ruled Europe for over 300 years. While at times a relatively liberal society, the current sultan has imposed very strict rules upon his people. One of its main characters, Kamal Agha, is a special investigator for the State Police. When a body turns up in the Seine, he is assigned to find the mysterious tattooed murderer.

Complicating things for Kamal is the news that his sister-in-law, Niseem, is becoming increasingly involved in politics and in danger of running afoul of the current repressive regime. We are also introduced to Kamal’s brother, Ramazan, who is an anaesthesiologist. By coincidence, he is involved in an emergency operation to save the life of the tattooed man and becomes intrigued by his patient’s tattoos. In the fog of anaesthesia, the man makes claims that increases Ramazan’s curiosity.

The concept of using time travel to change the course of history is a fascinating one and I found Khoury’s approach very innovative as no technology was involved.

‘The Ottoman Secret’ was certainly well researched, especially in terms of the Ottoman Empire and events of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars. It’s not a period of history that I had much awareness of. 

This was certainly an intelligent, thought-provoking novel with plenty of action. Despite the high tension, Khoury took time to explore relationships. The poignant, non-requited love that Kamal feels for  Niseem was handled with sensitivity. Indeed, Niseem was an amazing character in general.

So often ‘what ifs’ alternative histories focus on WWII, so this was quite a refreshing change. Although set in Europe, there were a few glimpses of changes in the development of American society.

Highly recommended. 

4.5 stars rounded up to 5.
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Playing out time travel in such ambitious way is absolutely top entertainment, and focuses on what people really,  really want (as the song goes). It takes a while to learn who we are focused on  but essentially the original time traveller ruthlessly changed things so the ottoman empire prevailed.  Our author doesn't like that ethos,  we gather,   but anyhow when two young agent/cops get onto idea they see its possibilities too, and turn on each other.  We witness the great medieval battles in Vienna going absolutely wrong way around  and then,  why it happens the way it did. Robust,  good fun. Lots of dead bodies ..
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A departure for this author with the added part of time travel but still has the elements of adventure and thriller in it. Took a little while to get into this book but picked up pace as it progressed.
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A very different and unusual read for me BUT different and unusual is good sometimes and before the review got to say I did enjoy reading something so different, once I accepted it wasn’t one of my usual genres it was quite exciting, almost rebellious!! 😃

So, the story
Basically its a tale about time travel, a very VERY detailed historical story about the Ottoman Empire and what happened when one man discovered time travel and went back and with modern warfare knowledge changed the outcome of a war in 1683( The Ottoman Empire/Vienna, a real historical war ) and so with that change it means everything since that war has changed and the book   starts in Paris, 2017, as a Muslim land complete with architecture, language, laws and terrorism!,world wars haven’t happened and everything as we ( the reader) knows it is different,  the ruling Sultan is becoming oppressive and some dont like it and are reacting.......the man who changed history in 1683 is back ( he is ill and needs modern day medicine ) and a Dr, his wife and brother then discover his secret ( he is covered in tattoos that hold an incantation ) and they embark on their own time travel to change history, again, so the world
is how it was meant to be after the 1683 war ( ie as we live now )
Confused?? I was, at times, and I really did have to stop and think after some pages and get things straight in my mind and piece together what had happened and why and where we were in history
I kinda enjoyed doing it tbh!
(Sometimes the time travellers have to do calculations re what changes occur in their lives if they arrive at a certain date, thet can be also confusing and not just to them!! ) 
The detail is outstanding, I honestly cant over emphasise how much detail re history and present day affairs this book goes into, its mind blowing to be frank
One thing I never really got used to was the tradition of saying arabic names in full when the characters address each other, only a small irritant and it was right to include this for authenticity, none the less
it was annoying
There is some duplication of events and speeches and general things from time to time and the author is very keen on describing minarets and temples!
The characters are kind of there to facilitate the story, imo, and the actual story is way more interesting than any of them were
Graphic and disturbing in some descriptions in the savagery of war
A book that begs a film/ mini series and one if I went to a book club can imagine would herald lots of debate
In giving this 10/10 5 Stars Im doing so as its pushed me, the detail is exquisite and the author really deserves no less, it doesn’t though  mean everyone will love it!! 
So 10/10  5 Stars!
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I was sent a copy of The Ottoman Secret by Raymond Khoury to read and review by NetGalley.
I was really looking forward to this novel after reading the blurb and the reviews, unfortunately for me it didn’t live up to the hype.  Although the story has an interesting concept and gave a good deal of background information about the Ottoman Empire I felt it was let down by the rather sloppy writing and the often gaping holes within the plot.  In fact I almost gave up completely part way through the book but I felt that I needed to continue to see whether the narrative tightened up and became more believable.  Even within the genre of fantasy/science fiction the reader must be sufficiently absorbed in the story for it to seem possible that the events occurring could take place.  This ‘tour de force’ had no such pull for me, in fact I felt that the writing was quite juvenile in places and did not quite get to grips with the immense difference between the times travelled.  I was very surprized to read that the author had written some of the brilliant screenplays for the likes of Spooks and Waking the Dead, both favourites of mine, so perhaps the modern-day crime thriller novel is really more his thing!
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Unfortunately this book did not engage me and despite trying I found that I have been unable to finish it. Thank you for the opportunity of trying the book. It is just not my genre.
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Interesting and original story - difficult to categorise but certainly entertaining.

The main premise of this book is that time-travel allows people to change history.  In this case, the Ottoman Empire "succeeds" at the Siege of Vienna and goes on to conquer all of Europe. Various characters get involved in either struggling to stop this happening or to allow it to happen. Kamal and his family get involved with heartbreaking loss and there's plenty of bloodshed and death as the plot develops. I've always been wary of the time-travel / changing history plot (The Butterfly Effect, Back to the Future, countless comics) but this novel works in a lot of different ways. Enjoyable and action-packed. Recommended to lovers of something different!
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What an interesting book. If I had just gone on a brief description and assumed “time travel” I might have just passed it by but having been given the opportunity to read it, I’m glad I did. This was so much deeper and thought provoking with a scenario that might have played out had history been so different. Sure it’s been done before from say a WW2 standpoint but to go so much further back, rooted in fundamentally two very different religious cultures, makes you realise how significant historical events are. The characters provided a more than adequate mechanism for the plot but it was the feeling of being a witness to each stage as the story progressed that held me. Grateful thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.
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A fascinating and well researched book by Raymond Khouri about a Europe controlled by the Ottoman Empire, following the defeat of the Christian Army at the siege of Vienna, in 1683. From a military history perspective, ‘What-If’ scenarios of world-changing battles are incredibly fascinating and engrossing. The course of European, and possibly world history, would have been dramatically changed if this battle had been lost by the Christians. 
It has been quite a while since I enjoyed a book quite as much as this one. Especially as Khouri gives the reader an engaging insight into the lesser known customs and traditions of Muslim society.
 His well portrayed strong characters are well rounded and believable. The storyline is imaginative, and gripping throughout the book. I found it difficult to put down.
As the author highlights, the concept of traveling back in time to potentially change history is fraught with danger. It can lead to unknown catastrophic events along the disturbed timeline. 
I hope Khouri intends to write a sequel to this book, I will be one of the first to buy a copy. I am convinced that this novel would make an amazing movie or mini-series!
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Everyone seems to love an alternate history. A scenario that takes a moment and time and asks the question what if it turned out another way. And they have been around for a long time, the first being recorded in the fourth century BC. But they really came into their own in the Twentieth Century and there are so many examples of this subgenre of speculative fiction that the subgenre itself can be divided up. Raymond Khoury’s The Ottoman Secret falls into the camp of alternate history created by way of time travel. The premise being that someone goes back in time to ensure that the Ottoman Empire wins a crucial battle in 1683 and goes on to conquer Europe and last hundreds of years.
When the book opens it is the equivalent of 2017 in our time. Paris, like the rest of Europe is ruled by the Ottomans, with an iron fist. Kamal is a member of the secret police, charged with rooting out enemies of the state. But his sister-in-law Niseem is somehow involved and he walks a tightrope of loyalty to the state and an unrequited love for her. At the same time Niseem’s husband, an anaesthetist is treating a tattooed stranger who came into the hospital needing heart surgery. He learns that the stranger is a time traveller, who had gone back in time to ensure the ongoing success of the Ottoman Empire. On learning this secret all hell breaks loose for all three. More time travel at that point is inevitable.
Talking about the plot too much would give away too many of the twists and turns of what is essentially, in the end a fairly linear thriller narrative. The trick is not to think too deeply about the mechanics of the time travel that make this all work because it makes little to no sense. And of course, ever since Terminator, time travellers always emerge naked (hence the tattoos). But Khoury is really interested in the logical (if such a thing exists) mechanics of time travel. The Ottoman Secret is about using that mechanic to play with history and make his characters improvise as they deal with the constraints of different historical periods.
The problem that Khoury has is the probable lack of familiarity of his readers with the history of the Ottoman Empire. This is essential knowledge if readers are going to appreciate how he has played with word events. However, this necessarily leads to huge slabs of information needing to be worked into the narrative. But once that is out of the way, The Ottoman Secrets settles into being a pacey, if somewhat unbelievable (even in its own context) thriller.
The Ottoman Secret is what is generally referred to as a beach read. It is silly and not worth spending too much time thinking about but Khoury has an easy style to the point that when the exposition stops, the pages practically turn themselves. And Khoury does, eventually, have a serious point to make about the modern world and the philosophies that it is based on. Which does not necessarily justify the time spent with the book but does give readers something to think about after the dust has settled.
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