The Case of Cem by Vera Mutafchieva

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It’s 1481, and as seen from the centers of power in Rome and Venice, the cultures of Europe are under threat from the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. When the exalted Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror dies his eldest son, Bayezid, takes the throne. However, discontented factions within the Ottoman army urge Mehmed’s second son, Cem, a well-educated and experienced warrior, to oppose his brother’s ascension, setting off a ruthless power struggle and forcing Cem into long years of exile, a pawn for European powers that are struggling to maintain the order they have imposed on the continent over the course of centuries.

The Case of Cem, Vera Mutafchieva’s sprawling novel of court intrigue, maintains lasting resonance for being a personal exploration of emigration and loss as told through the historical era during which the politics of the East and West were sketched out with utter clarity. These early lines of demarcation, as voiced through Christian and Muslim emissaries, power hungry rulers, unflinching warriors, and poets, have indelibly influenced the word as we know it today.