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Odalisque by Fiona Mcintosh
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Odalisque

by Fiona Mcintosh

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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

When I picked up this novel, it looked very promising. Fiona McIntosh creates an interesting harem setting and some lively characters. Unfortunately, Odalisque doesn't live up to its potential.

The characters are almost totally one-dimensional. All of the good guys are nice and humble while all of the bad guys are cruel and ambitious. Lazar, the main (and most likable) character, is an amazing warrior, yet throughout the story he sits back, clenches his jaw, and watches all of the bad guys do bad things. He really feels bad about this, but he never stands up for justice. Even the young Zar, a good guy who's theoretically in charge, lets his cruel mother (a concubine) and a couple of servants run the show, brutally killing people who have gotten in their way. Why won't the Zar and Lazar stop them? Because it's the rules. Why don't they change the rules? Because they can't. Why can't they change the rules? They're not allowed to. Why not? Because it's the rules.

Most of the action is in the form of dialogue-driven political intrigue. I found this boring and had no urge to stay up late to keep reading, so it took me a long time to get through the book. Much of the plot was easily foreseen and too much of it was explained in advance, leaving the reader completely unimpressed by plot twists.

The writing was fine, but not exceptional. Again, too much was explained. I don't need to be explicitly told that what someone just said was a "cleverly couched yet nonetheless direct insult."

This novel didn't live up to my expectations. Ms. Fiona didn't make much use of her exotic setting; It could have been so fascinating. In fact, the entire novel felt like it was just a set-up for the sequel. Perhaps Emissary will be better. Certainly the setting and the characters have potential.
Read more Fiona McIntosh book reviews at Fantasy literature. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
A brilliant book by a brilliant author. 5 stars. Odalisque is the best book ever! I couldn't stop reading. A story about a young girl sold into slavery. The whole saga is about the girl's connection to the goddess, Lyana. Aided by a dwarf, a slave boy and a mysterious man. Ana(the girl) must find Lyana before the forces of evil destroy them all. ( )
  TLHelen | Oct 29, 2012 |
PERCHERON
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
First up, a disclaimer: I only made it through all of the first book and a bit of the second book of this trilogy. Which I guess give you a clue about what I thought of it.

Ah Fiona McIntosh, what do I do with you? Our relationship started out so well. I always love reading fantasy by Australian writers, partly because I’m as patriotic as the next gal, but also because it seems to a genre that Australian writers are good at. And certainty the first trilogy I read by McIntosh, The Quickening trio, was true to that. Those books put a nicely original spin on a reliable old fantasy story line, and the characters were complex and the plot well paced. The ending was a little to convenient for my liking, but not enough that it spoiled the books for me.

This was the second trilogy McIntosh had published, so of course I went out and got a hold of her first effort, The Trinity trilogy. It was… not so good. The characters were walking cliché’s and the plot treated logic like an untrustworthy stranger. But I was forgiving, there was such a difference in quality between The Quickening and these books that I simply assumed McIntosh was improving as a writer with every effort.

Having struggled though half the Percheron trilogy before giving up, I’m starting to think maybe The Quickening was a fluke. The Percheron trilogy, or at least the half I read, was terrible. The only positive thing I can think to say about them is that the cover art is truly spectacular. But then I just get all resentful that such poor books get to have such beautiful covers.

Let’s start with the most important element in a book: the characters. We have the Odalisque Ana, the beautiful girl with mysterious ancestry. Did I mention she was beautiful? Little chance of forgetting, as we are reminded almost every time she appears on stage, and other characters are forever stopping to marvel at just how gosh darn beautiful and captivating she is. She is also kind to small children and animals, and when she sees an old lady being ripped off in the street she immediately jumps in and helps her. (The old lady, natch, turns out to be a Goddess in disguise and gives Anna a magical trinket in exchange for her kindness).

We also have the head of the Zar’s security, Lazar (It's not a coincidence and not very clever that his name sounds so much Lazarus...). Lazar and Ana fall in love instantly, even though she’s barely a teenager and he’s well into his thirties when they first meet. Lazar is moody and mysterious and handsome, women want to be with him, men want to be him, etc. He’s also prone to self pity and petulance, but I think this angst is supposed to make us like him more. Spoiler: it does not.

The only character who is not two shades away from being a Mary Sue is Boaz, the young Zar. Unfortunately McIntosh devotes little time to Boez, and while I obviously don’t know how the book progresses it seems to me that we are supposed to dislike him because, gasp, he wants to have sex with Ana! How dare the Zar want to get it on with a member of his own harem, am I right?

And the plot? You could make an excellent drinking game out of it. Every time destiny gets mentioned, drink. I promise you’ll be seeing double before you’re half way through the first book. Characters who are meeting for the first time decide to trust each other because they sense it's destiny. They make huge leaps of understanding not because they uncover information but because they just know, somehow. It’s appallingly lazy writing. Oh, I can’t think of a reason why character A. would reveal his big secret to character B. I’ll just make it destiny!

In the end I announced to my boyfriend that if I read the word destiny one more time I was putting the book down for good. I barely made it another page.

Maybe the final book fully redeemed all of these flaws, but I doubt even Neil Gaiman could salvage something out of it. (I mean, I haven't even touched upon the the rampant Orientalism or Boaz's mother...) ( )
1 vote meganDB | Dec 1, 2010 |
I simply could not get into this one - I enjoyed her two earlier series and went well past my customary benchmark of 100 pages but had to stop as the story line didn't get off the ground. ( )
  jokester | Sep 5, 2009 |
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For Ian...
who gave me an old book one evening to browse through, knowing the Topkapi Palace and its famous harem would prove irresistible to this writer
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The prisoners, chained together, shuffled awkwardly into the main square of the slave market of Percheron; six men, all strangers and all captives of a trader called Varanz, who had a reputation for securing the most intriguing product for sale.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060899115, Mass Market Paperback)

Once a captive of merciless desert slave traders, Lazar fought his way to freedom—and to an exalted role as Spur of Percheron, guardian of his adopted city, and confidant and protector of the Zar, Joreb. But now the Zar is dead and his fifteen-year-old heir, Boaz, must assume the mantle of leadership—guided by trusted advisor Lazar, the "mad" dwarf jester Pez . . . and Boaz's cruel, ambitious mother, who truly holds the reins of power.

In the midst of roiling court intrigue, a young girl arrives to fill a space in Boaz's harem—and inflames unexpectedly strong feelings in both Boaz and Lazar. But the odalisque, Ana, will not be satisfied by the closeted, stifling world of the harem. And, unbeknownst to all, the gods themselves are rising up in cyclical battle—as the struggle begins within and beyond the palace walls for the imperiled soul of Percheron.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:21 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Captured by slave traders in the inhospitable desert, Lazar fought his way to freedom, earning the coveted position of Spur of Percheron. 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 know 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 the beginning, and will enmesh everyone in the palace in a struggle for the very soul of Percheron."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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