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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Sunday 28 June 2020

Porphyry and Ash

My latest bedtime fiction reading has been Peter Sandham's 'Porphyry and Ash', which is based around the siege of Constantinople in 1453.

The author keeps fairly close to the history of siege, even taking actual historical characters and developing them. His main character is a Scot, John Grant, who arrives in the city as a mercenary, seeking repentance for a shady past. While Scots have a habit of turning up any war, I didn't know of this one. 

The other is Anna Notaras, daughter of the Byzantine Megas Doux, Loukas Notaras. She gets involved in a significant number of sub-plots, which take the reader into the history and factions of the last Roman occupants of the city.

The story of the siege is told from the inside. The Ottomans are largely kept 'over the wall' until of course the Janissaries finally breach them. The tensions between the Genoese and Venetian communities as well as the religious divide are all teased out.

The life of the city has been thoroughly researched. This shows in the detailed descriptions of everyday life - the food and drink, the streets, occupations and business. You can smell the city in the words.

This isn't a Bernard Cornwell style historical fiction. The battle scenes are excellent, but you get a slow build-up with many sub-plots to consider. As others have commented, this is historical storytelling at its best.

I really enjoyed this story and I have already downloaded the next in the series.

28mm Janissaries of the period

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