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Charged with protecting his adopted city from enemies on both sides of its walls, he has led a charmed life as confidant to and protector of Zar Joreb for many years. But now Joreb is dead. Though Joreb's well-intentioned fifteen-year-old heir, Boaz, will take the title of Zar, the balance of power lies in the hands of his beautiful and cruelly ambitious mother, a former harem slave who rose to power by the Zar's favor. Aside from Lazar, whom Boaz trusts and respects, the young Zar's only friend is Pez, the court jester, a misshapen dwarf whose tricks and diversions are accepted only because he is known to be mad.

When a stunning young girl is brought to the palace to fill a space in Boaz's harem, both Boaz and Lazar are surprised by their unexpectedly strong reactions to her. But Ana, the odalisque, finds the closeted world of the harem stifling and unbearable. And unbeknownst to all, the gods themselves are beginning to rise in a cyclical battle that is just beginning, and will enmesh everyone in the palace in a struggle for the very soul of Percheron. This book starts off slightly oddly, with the arrival of a "great warrior" as a slave in a rather decadent seeming city-state modeled on Istanbul under the Sultans it says so in the introduction, and the elements are quite clear, but deftly handled.

It then almost without warning jumps ahead 10 years and becomes almost day by day. For a little while it appears to be taking a rather different route to the expected one if you've read any of Fiona McIntosh's books before; then you suddenly meet the priestess of the almost forgotten Goddess, find out about the sorcerer who became a demon to keep her repressed and so much more and you feel right at home. There are still twists and turns, and she is growing more confident as an author, and is portraying both interesting characters and an interesting and not really standard culture with confidence.

Whilst the themes in broad terms initially sound familiar, there is enough new in the details, and in some of the side elements that I found myself regretting book 2 wasn't instantly to hand. Entertaining enough though it didn't grab me. But easy to read and I have moved on to the 2nd book. But I love the middle eastern setting, despite the amalgamation of a made up polytheistic religion and monotheistic Islam.

Customer Reviews

Does McIntosh know what she's talking about? In anycase it rivaled and in some ways beat Twilight for terribly written, but in the end, when I finally discovered I had no idea who the main character was despite focusing on one major character and then naming the title for another major character, who I believe will later manifest in a very obvious way it wasn't so bad. In fact, once I knew the ends goal, the last couple of chapters were semi-enjoyable. The abuse of the Muslim influenced middle east to fit a twisted but interesting fantasy world, was very uncomfortable for me.

I like my harems and reinventions of Byzantium with a heaping dose of 'May Allah bless you and keep you in his wonderful kingdom, with all the wonders he has given us, and may he rule us forever in his auspiciousness. She likes to deviate from the main point though, and there are a lot of extraneous words and scenes Just to up the page count, I wonder?

Odalisque : Book One of the Percheron Saga

I read this because I enjoyed middle eastern fairy tales as a child, and fantasy set in arab settings are few and far between, and obviously not always well written. I don't think I'll be looking for the rest of these books, the genre hasn't been killed for me yet, however.

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Fiona McIntosh: Author and travel writer

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