From the New York Times bestselling author of Temple and The Great Zoo of China comes a gripping historical thriller featuring a young Queen Elizabeth I thrust into a web of treachery, power, and lust at the height of the Ottoman Empire.
The year is 1546, and Suleiman the Magnificent, the powerful and feared Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, issues an invitation to every king in Europe: You are invited to send your finest player to compete in a chess tournament to determine the champion of the known world.
Thousands converge on Constantinople, including the English court's champion and his guide, the esteemed scholar Roger Ascham. Seeing a chance to enlighten the mind of a student, Ascham brings along Elizabeth Tudor, a brilliant young woman not yet thrust into royal duties.
Yet on the opening night of the tournament a powerful guest of the Sultan is murdered. Soon, barbaric deaths, diplomatic treachery, and unimaginable depravity-sexual and otherwise-unfold before Elizabeth and Ascham's eyes. The pair soon realizes that the real chess game is being played within the court itself…and its most treacherous element is that a stranger in a strange land is only as safe as her host is gracious.