A novel of the Venetian girl who became the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Magnificent Century.
The Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power during the sixteenth century when Cecilia Baffo Veniero was kidnapped from her Venetian birthplace and chosen to be the wife of Selim II, successor to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She would be known as Nurbanu.
The Mapmaker’s Daughter vividly imagines the confession of Nurbanu as she lies on her sickbed narrating the spectacular story of her rise to the pinnacle of imperial power, determined to understand how her extraordinary destiny was shaped. With unflinching candor, Nurbanu reviews the desires and motives that have both propelled and harmed her, as she considers her role as a devoted yet manipulative mother, helping to orchestrate her son’s succession to the throne. Serving as the appointed enforcer of one of the empire’s most crucial and shocking laws, Nurbanu confronts the consequences of her loves and her choices—right up to one last shattering revelation.
In her debut novel, Hughes fleshes out the historical record of Cecilia Baflo Veniero, who would later be known as Nurbanu, Queen Mother of the Ottoman Sultans. Nurbanu recalls her dramatic life from her deathbed: born illegitimate in Venice and orphaned at a young age, she benefits from her father's nobility and the education she received from her mother during her early years after she is enslaved by Turkish corsairs. Singled out by Suleiman the Magnificent and given to first one and then a second of his sons, Nurbanu receives opportunities for education as well as access to power. She uses her position to affect the nation's political direction, protect her family, and, most notably, oppose a barbaric law designed to maintain authoritarian control of the Ottoman Empire. Hughes adeptly mixes fictionalized elements with historical details. However, the narrative told in the form of a deathbed memoir often reads more like a history textbook than a novel. Depictions are sometimes gritty and graphic and may be disturbing to some readers.