Fighting the Ottoman invaders in Constantinople in 1453, Emperor Constantine XI was killed, his body never found. Legend has it that he escaped in a Genoese ship, cheating certain death at the hands of the Turks and earning himself the title of Immortal Emperor. Five centuries after his disappearance, three mysterious men contact a young professor living in Istanbul. Members of a secret sect, they have guarded the Immortal Emperor's will for generations. They tell him that he is the next Byzantine emperor and that in order to take possession of his fortune he must carry out his ancestor's last wishes. The professor embarks on a dangerous journey, taking him to the heart of a mystery of epic historical significance. The Sultan of Byzantium is a symbiosis of story and history and a homage to Byzantine civilisation.
Readers tired of the endless Da Vinci Code knockoffs will find Altun's variation on the theme a refreshing one. Turkish economics professor Halas Araboglu's quiet life is upended when he receives a letter from Nikos Askaris promising "excellent news", and requesting that the academic bring a 15th-century map drawn by a Florentine priest to their meeting. Naturally curious, Araboglu attends, to be greeted with the mind-blowing news that he is actually a descendant of the last Byzantine emperor, and thus the emperor-in-exile the Byzantine has been awaiting for over 500 years. He accedes to carry out the tasks Askaris assigns him as necessary to fulfilling his new role-two months of study, followed by a testing process requiring him to solve a riddle in his ancestor's will. Altun (Songs My Mother Never Taught Me) beautifully incorporates details about the Byzantine Empire less familiar to Western audiences, as well as healthy injections of wry humor, into this riveting escapade.