Without Lazar's guiding hand and presence, the Stone Palace of Percheron has become a different place. Young Zar Boaz, mistrusting of his mother, Herezah, but too inexperienced to stand on his own, seeks counsel from the suddenly changed and secretive Vizier, who has a sinister agenda of his own.
As Herezah privately grieves for Lazar, she hatches an audacious plot to destroy the odalisque Ana, who flouts the rules of the harem but has found a measure of protection in having caught the eye of Zar Boaz. And Ana shoulders a tremendous burden of guilt as she matures from a beautiful girl into a stunning young woman . . . and fears what her future in the harem might hold.
Yet Lazar, unbeknownst to nearly everyone in the palace, is slowly recovering on a secret island. As he struggles to return to health, war from a distant realm threatens Percheron, and, as the cyclical battle of the gods continues to build, the first of the Goddess's disciples falls into the grip of the demon Maliz. Success or failure--for both Percheron and Lyana--hinges on Lazar, whose illness has left him with a new gift he fears is a curse, and if he cannot take action soon, all may well be lost.
Though the world-building remains top-notch, this slow-moving second installment of McIntosh's epic fantasy (after Odalisque) appears mainly designed to set up more interesting action in later volumes. Ana, a virginal odalisque, is trapped in the idle harem of Boaz, the chaste, adolescent Zar of Percheron. Nearly every man who sees Ana desires and adores her, not only the Zar but also exiled warrior Lazar and the goddess-touched, shape-shifting dwarf, Pez. However, Herezah, the Zar's mother, sees Ana as a dangerous threat to her supremacy in the harem, and she concocts a plan with chief eunuch Salmeo to bring about Ana's humiliation and demise. A new setting eventually blows a fresh desert breeze through the stifling atmosphere, but the hundreds of pages spent building up to Ana's escape attempt, including a disturbing scene of sexual torture at Salmeo's hands, will have the reader sharing Ana's longing to be anywhere other than the Zar's palace. (Oct.)
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October 08, 2007
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