After having quite the hard time with this book as an ARC and marking it as unfinished, I felt as though I ought to at least try it in an audiobook format once it had been published. This is my re-read review, with some new sentiments, though I still struggled quite a bit.
Definitely a great fan of alternate history and keen when I see Raymond Khoury’s work pop up on the various book sites I use, I hoped to find great interest in this novel. That being said, things began to fall short from the beginning of this piece and remained troublesome for me. The premise, that the Ottoman Empire continued to gather strength and overtook much of Europe into the present day, sounded good on paper, but as Khoury wove his story, things never seemed to connect for me. A mysteriously tattooed man lurks in the shadows, only to be loosely revealed as a time traveller from ‘our history’, who sees the rise of America and the destruction of the Ottomans. He seeks to tweak history to further strengthen the Islamic influence in the world and to create a worldwide Islamic Empire—one that present-day ISIS would envy. However, when the secret to his abilities is revealed to two characters who have only ever known a Europe under Ottoman rule, they try to change their own history to ensure Vienna was truly the weakening of the Ottomans. Travels through time create much strain for them and the reorganisation of time comes with its own perils, but if it saves the world, why not?! Even this second time around, I found it hard to grasp onto themes that kept me intrigued, save for the promise to myself and fellow readers to write a review of the entire novel.
I am by no means the greatest reviewer or most lax Goodreads wordsmith. I hoped for some injected excitement, but even the information Khoury revealed left me wanting more and unable to find something upon which I could hang my proverbial cloak. While I hated to leave a book unfinished—particularly an ARC—and now return to offer little insight into the full novel recited to me by an audiobook narrator, I owe it to myself and others not to spruce up something that made me somewhat miserable. While some will surely love it, I cannot offer frilly comments. I did enjoy a little more about the premise of WHAT IF surrounding the Ottoman Empire and how a world under Islamic control might differ greatly from what we know today. That being said, there are a few dictators in countries that espouse democracy, that we might not be that far off from leaders drunk off their own power and Tweet abilities. I can only hope this was but a blip on the Khoury radar, not the new norm after a fairly lengthy time away from full novels.
Kudos, Mr. Khoury, for dreaming up an interesting premise. Delivery was off for me, so I hope others can see the empire for the castle walls, to poorly mangle a cliché!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons