... highly readable ... This book is impressively well-structured ... Baer’s fine book gives a panoramic and thought-provoking account of over half a millennium of Ottoman and—it now goes without saying—European history.
Inevitably in books like this, the narrative shoals for long, wonderful stretches on personal stories. Ottoman history provides no shortage of larger-than-life homicidal maniacs whose stories make for very colorful reading ... The prominence of all these personalities, so busy bustling about killing their fathers, their uncles, their younger brothers, and all their young brothers’ male children, represents a canny narrative choice; it keeps Baer’s book running along in an entirely enjoyable reading experience and gives readers a series of faces to put on all the social and economic eras that unfurl in the course of the story.
... oversimplification or airy generalisation is never advisable. Unfortunately Baer is not always free from oversimplifications himself. The book is marred by a predictable anti-western slant, with the enlightened Ottomans often compared favourably to the backward or intolerant European Christians ... Despite these lapses, Baer’s is a winning portrait of seven centuries of empire, teeming with life and colour, human interest and oddity, cruelty and oppression mixed with pleasure, benevolence and great artistic beauty.