Venice, 1522. Twenty-three men in robes of scarlet and blue assemble to hear the most sensitive intelligence from Istanbul: the Ottoman Sultan, the 'Grand Turk’, has everything he needs to wage total war. By the end of the decade, a vast swathe of Europe will lie under Muslim rule.
Deploying the techniques of a novel and written almost wholly in the present tense, The Lion House presents an immersive drama of espionage and international power-broking in sixteenth century Europe – a time when the great fear of Christendom was Suleyman the Magnificent, who vied with the Holy Roman Emperor for the title of 'Sovereign of the World’, and his terrifying pirate commander Barbarossa.
Pivoting between bedroom and battlefield, splendour and savagery, it reanimates with stunning immediacy the fears and stratagems of the various brokers, diplomats and concubines who were brought from all over the world to Suleyman’s court and into orbit around his immense power. Through their lives and perspectives, it shows how fully Christians and Muslims inhabited one another’s worlds even while their rulers waged war, and takes us deep into the cloistered realm where those rulers could decide the fate of millions.
The Lion House is not just the story of rival European super-powers in an existential duel, nor of the rise to stratospheric power of a single man who ruled both West and East, but a timeless and shockingly intimate story of power itself.