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Odalisque review

Romantic fantasy for sadists

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Publisher: Orbit

496 pages • £7.99

ISBN: 978-1-84149-460-9

Rating:

Romance and darkness are the two main aspects blended smoothly into Fiona McIntosh’s new fantasy series. Odalisque joins the growing subgenre that exploits the full range of human emotion, from rose-tinted love scenes to harsh acts of cruelty and torture.

Supplying the negative emotions in Odalisque is Herezah, whose husband, the Zar of Percheron, has died (of natural causes), allowing Herezah’s 15-year-old son, Boaz, to ascend the throne. With the help of the vicious Salmeo, head of the harem, and greedy Vizier Tariq, she can finally wield the power she has always craved.

Opposing Herezah is the kind-hearted but naive Boaz, the enigmatic head of security Lazar, and the strange court jester Pez. While gathering women to become odalisques (female slaves in the new harem), Lazar discovers Ana, a beautiful country girl, whom he falls in love with but is duty-bound to deliver to the harem. Devastated, Lazar resigns himself to life without Ana, but supernatural forces are gathering and no-one is quite what they seem…

Spiced with exotic Eastern flavours, McIntosh’s third trilogy features a rhythmic disclosure of plot, developed through intriguing scenes and clear dialogue. There’s an efficient use of prose and an exquisite location entwined around a story revealed in glimpses like the Dance of the Seven Veils.

Our only niggle? The scene showing the mutilation of a teenage boy. Similar scenes, designed to demonstrate a character’s malevolence, can be found in McIntosh’s previous stories and lose their impact with overuse. Overall, it’s gruesome, magical and sweet in equal measures.

Sandy Auden

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