The Mapmaker's Daughter

“[An] absorbing historical novel… compellingly interlaces public history and intimate conjecture.” The New Yorker

“Voice — the great, elusive necessity in all historical fiction — is rapturous and irresistible in The Mapmaker's Daughter. Katherine Hughes's novel just seems to talk to us, and in so doing makes these titanic events seem human and natural, and thus all-the-more preoccupying. A very impressive book, indeed.” ― Richard Ford

“In The Mapmaker’s Daughter, Katherine Hughes introduces us to Cecilia-Nurbanu, an astonishing girl who becomes a woman of immense power in the Ottoman Empire. Lost to history, Hughes retrieves her and through a stunning act of imagination takes us into her consciousness as she finally reckons with a decision that in the light of the present seems unspeakable. Hughes’s brilliantly conceived novel is thus a startling reminder of what even today a woman may encounter when she becomes, as Nurbanu becomes, an accessory to power.” ― Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice

“When the fiction is good, the history is usually distorted, and on the rare occasions when the history is good, the fiction is usually less interesting than the straight historical narrative. This novel is a remarkable exception... part history, part fiction, it is enthralling.” ― Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, Princeton University

The Mapmaker's Daughter, an historical novel set in the 16th century, is the confession of Nurbanu, born Cecilia Baffo Veniero - the mesmerizing, illegitimate Venetian who became the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

Narrating the story of her rise – improbable and inevitable – to the pinnacle of imperial power, Queen Mother Nurbanu, on her sickbed, is determined to understand how her bond with Suleiman, the greatest of all Ottoman sultans, shaped her destiny – not only as the wife of his successor but as the appointed enforcer of one of the Empire’s most crucial and shocking laws. Nurbanu spares nothing as she dissects the desires and motives that have propelled and harmed her. As she considers her role as devoted and manipulative mother. As she reckons her relations with the women of the Harem. And as she details the fate of the most sophisticated observatory in the world. Nurbanu sets out to “see” the causes and effects of her loves and choices, and she succeeds by means of unflinching candor - right up to the last shattering revelation.

Praise for The Mapmakers's Daughter

“[An] absorbing historical novel… compellingly interlaces public history and intimate conjecture.” The New Yorker

“Hughes has richly imagined the life of a remarkable historical figure... readers who enjoy in-depth historical detail and court intrigue will be riveted.” Library Journal

“A fascinating evocation of the major players of the Ottoman renaissance.” Kirkus Reviews

“A heartbreaking read that marries a strong story arc with a dedication to historical details.” Booklist (*starred review)

“Voice — the great, elusive necessity in all historical fiction — is rapturous and irresistible in The Mapmaker's Daughter. Katherine Hughes's novel just seems to talk to us, and in so doing makes these titanic events seem human and natural, and thus all-the-more preoccupying. A very impressive book, indeed.” ― Richard Ford

“When the fiction is good, the history is usually distorted, and on the rare occasions when the history is good, the fiction is usually less interesting than the straight historical narrative. This novel is a remarkable exception... part history, part fiction, it is enthralling.” ― Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, Princeton University

“Based on a historical event of rare improbability—the rise in the sixteenth century of a daughter of Venice to the rank of Queen Mother in the mighty Ottoman Empire—this novel is a gorgeous feat of imagination, a stellar work by a gifted writer.” ― Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University, author of Ralph Ellison

The Mapmaker's Daughter is an immersive, beautifully-woven narrative that dissects the paradoxes of female power and the particularities of the 16th century Ottoman Empire.” ― Dr. Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War.

“I read The Mapmaker's Daughter slowly, savoring every page - the clear voice and sure perceptions. One is comfortable in these characters’ company. Hughes is an adroit and skillful novelist. She carries you with her, as though she has already lived this exotic life and were showing you around. The Mapmaker’s Daughter is brilliant.” ― Samuel Hynes, Author of The Soldiers’ Tale and A War Imagined

“In The Mapmaker’s Daughter, Katherine Hughes introduces us to Cecilia-Nurbanu, an astonishing girl who becomes a woman of immense power in the Ottoman Empire. Lost to history, Hughes retrieves her and through a stunning act of imagination takes us into her consciousness as she finally reckons with a decision that in the light of the present seems unspeakable. Hughes’s brilliantly conceived novel is thus a startling reminder of what even today a woman may encounter when she becomes, as Nurbanu becomes, an accessory to power.” ― Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice

“Of all the appetites the lust for power is the strongest—and most dangerous. This is a lively, absorbing and utterly convincing self-portrait of a woman who came under the influence of the greatest of all Ottoman sultans—with tragic consequences.” ― Edmund White, author of Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris

“It was the time of Suleiman the Magnificent – full of turbulence and splendor. It was a time of arranged marriages, harems and political intrigue. Into this maelstrom is thrust a lady of Venice – Cecelia – destined to help rule the world from its center. Full of intrigue, harem politics, the science of navigation, and, above all, love, it is a story worth savoring, so set aside plenty of time to enjoy this latest homage to the unsung power of women. Man or woman, you’ll enjoy the history, the story and the insight it brings.” ― Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA