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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: Constantinopolis by James D. Shipman

Title: Constantinopolis
Author: James D. Shipman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Source: Review copy from publisher
Format: E-book
Constantinople is the impregnable jewel of the East. The greatest city of the Christian world, Constantinople has stood for a thousand years against invading hordes.Mehmet II, the youthful and rash Sultan of the Ottoman Turks is bent on taking the city. He is distrusted by his people and hated by his Grand Vizier. Mehmet risks all to prove he deserves the throne and to accomplish the impossible: the capture of Constantinople.Opposing him is Constantine XI, the wise and accomplished Emperor of the Greeks. Constantine is emperor in name only, for the Greek empire has dwindled to little more than the city itself. Short of resources, soldiers and hope, Constantine must fight against all odds to protect his people and his city from the most powerful army in the medieval world.
Since my first visit to Istanbul in 2004 I’ve been fascinated by its history, especially by its fall to Mehmet II in May 29th, 1453. For that reason I have read several books about the fall of Constantinople and about Mehmet II, a character that has always fascinated me.
Even though I know how the siege happened and how it ends I find intriguing the different takes by the different authors. I always find something new and interesting in the different stories. When I saw Constantinopolis by James D. Shipman available for review I couldn’t say no.

Mr. Shipman is a good storyteller; sadly I had problems with his portraits of Mehmet II and Constantine XI. Why? I think when you are telling a story about two different sides/individuals you should be as objective as possible and no take sides, but from page one it was clear that was not the case with Mr. Shipman.
Mr. Shipman’s portrait of Constantine is that of an understanding, loving, caring man that will sacrifice everything for his people. Even the love of the woman he loves. By the way, that woman was completely fiction. It was only one of many elements Shipman utilized to make Constantine XI seem more human and appealing in the eyes of the readers.
On the other side he portraits Mehmet II as an irrational, cruel, petulant and immature young man who made rash decisions, some of them with a lucky outcome. While the reality is Mehmet II was a very smart man. He spoke seven languages fluently and was educated by famous scholars. He was not the unprepared, uneducated man Shipman portrayed him to be. Mehmet II is also famous for his preference for well planned and well prepared campaigns, one of which was the siege of Constantinople.
Building a fleet of over 100 ships its not an easy feat, it takes time and planning. Towing his ships across Galata was nothing by genius. Those are not the actions of an unprepared, lucky child.

I found something else disconcerting. Shipman says Grand Vizier Halil was executed in Edirne in August or September while the widely known truth is that he was executed on June 1st, just 3 days after the city had been taken on 29 May 1453. That makes me wonder which other dates and information are not accurate in Constantinopolis.

As I said before Shipman is a good storyteller, he knows how to keep his readers interested in the story. I just wish he had been more objective and accurate.

Although Constantinopolis is not a bad book I can’t honestly recommend it. If you want to read the story about the Fall of Constantinople there are better and more accurate books than Constantinopolis.

My Verdict: 3 Paws

Other reviews Goodreads


  1. Replies
    1. I have better pictures of Hagia Sophia.

  2. You really referenced this one with actual history didn't you? Did he write a disclaimer about using his creative license to change things? Some authors take liberties like that so the book is really fiction inspired by real accounts. Maybe it would've been better if he wrote something like that so you wouldn't be as disappointed.

    1. He said he created the character of Constantine lover, but the rest he gives dates and specific information about the (real) events. For example the (wrong) info about Grand Vizier Halil execution is found in the epilogue, where he gives detailed information of each character and about the situation of the times.
      I know in historical fiction the author can bend the rules a little bit, but the book reads as if he's given the "real" information, no speculation.


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