Mahperi the Moon Queen survived in a competitive court ruled by both love and hate in an era of builders and destroyers. Armed with intelligence and determination, she courageously weathered power struggles with male and female rivals, wars with the Mongols, intrigue at the court, and ultimate betrayal to become one of the most influential figures in the empire.
Inspired by true events and people, Moon Queen weaves a bright carpet of inspiration, by turns inspiring and heartbreaking, providing a new perspective on one of the most glorious periods of Turkish history.
Branning, an expert in Islamic arts, imagines the life of Mahperi Hatun, the 13th century Sultana of the Seljuk Empire, located in present-day Turkey, in this overwrought debut novel. After her city is taken by the Seljuk army, the Armenian princess Mahperi is married to the Sultan himself, Alaeddin Keykubad. Despite their lack of a shared language or religion, the couple falls instantly in love, with Mahperi becoming Alaeddin's most trusted advisor. Alaeddin's reign is renowned for its architecture, and Branning lavishes attention on every detail of the sultan's building projects, bringing the urban landscape of medieval Turkey to life. Unfortunately, the people who live within that landscape are not as richly drawn. Everyone speaks in language that is simultaneously grandiose and dry the sultan, for example, describes his latest construction to his advisors thus: "Our buildings will communicate to our citizens a clear religious, commercial and philosophical statement about where we stand as a culture." Mahperi faces challenges her husband's decision to take a second wife, her son's exile, her best friend's gruesome death but the Sultana is so flawless, so over-imbued with qualities, that she ultimately falls perfectly flat. The resulting narrative is something that feels more like an architecture lesson than a work of fiction.