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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put it Down
I never thought I would say this but John Speed now rivals Philippa Gregory as one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. Set in India in the year 1657, "The Temple Dancer" is a riveting tale of two women: Lucinda Desana, a beautiful Goan heiress; and Maya, a devadasi (temple dancer) who is bought by Lucinda's family and sold as a concubine. They meet in Goa and...
Published on February 9, 2007 by SweetHappyLife-com

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good First Novel
The Temple Dancer / 0-312-32548-7

"The Temple Dancer" is a fine first novel for a promising new author, although I am surprised by the description's reference to a "proposed trilogy", given the rather 'final' nature of the epilogue. Though not without its faults, the novel is an engaging read and is worth a look, particularly for fans of the genre...
Published on April 27, 2009 by Amazon Customer


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put it Down, February 9, 2007
I never thought I would say this but John Speed now rivals Philippa Gregory as one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. Set in India in the year 1657, "The Temple Dancer" is a riveting tale of two women: Lucinda Desana, a beautiful Goan heiress; and Maya, a devadasi (temple dancer) who is bought by Lucinda's family and sold as a concubine. They meet in Goa and travel through the Western Ghats by elephant, each heading towards a fate that has changed by the time their journey has ended. Escorted by a dangerous man with a reputation for violence, a conniving eunuch, a cold-hearted businessman and a mysterious prince, their story is filled with intrigue, adventure, sensuality and forbidden love. Indeed, I lost many hours of sleep because I simply had to find out what Speed's exotic collection of characters were going to do next. His immense knowledge of Indian history and culture transforms them into vibrant people who inhabit an unforgettable world. The back cover of this book says that Speed has studied Indian history, art and religion for over thirty-years and I believe it. I can hardly wait for the next two books in this planned trilogy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exotic, exciting, enticing pageturner, August 23, 2006
By 
Marybeth Robb (Beijing,. China) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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What a story! The beach melted away as I was transported to 17th century India on the carpet of this extravagant story. Speed is quite a story teller--the section about the fall of the elephant still has my head spinning--and is the perfect antidote for the end of summer doldrums. One warning, Speed takes a few dozen pages to get warmed up, set the stage, introduce the characters, but then his tale takes off like a rocket. Interlaced with this intricate story is a lot of historical and cultural detail, which Speed feeds you like a sweet ice between courses--tastes great, complements the next dish, and makes you feel virtuous because it doesn't have any fat.

A truly enjoyable read!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius!, September 30, 2006
By 
rblum "rblum" (myrtle beach, sc) - See all my reviews
Genius! Pure Genius.

John Speed's The Temple Dancer is not only a modern-day page turner, but it is also a literary work in the classical sense.

Speed's novel is vivid and cinematic in scope. His vibrant descriptions of India during the 1600s bring this historical time and place to life. He transports the reader to a far off past civilization, and we fly there naturally, as though we have just stepped off a jumbo jet and landed in an exotic culture.

Although Speed is a historian, his real brilliance lies in magically creating characters that pop off the page. He does his magic through clever, witty dialog, and through an amazing ability to capture and express subtle nonverbal communication. This is Speed's genius. Like Tolstoy, Speed reveals to us his characters' hidden subconscious thoughts and feelings. Speed's vivid descriptions of the nonverbal - facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures- reveal his characters' inner life, illuminating the reader with elevated awareness. The result is the infusion of life into ink, the birth of complex characters in the reader's mind. The effect is psychedelic.

The plot keeps one on the edge of one's seat, with many twists and turns that propel one to turn the pages. But these twists of fate are not arbitrary or forced. Rather, Speed invokes the Indian law of karma - fate is determined by character - to eventually dole out justice, making for a most natural and satisfying conclusion.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lush and Exotic, September 25, 2006
A sensational debut, an incredibly well told story by a master story teller. For a first novel, this is simply outstanding and deserves high acclaim. I read this book in 24 hours. The lush and exotic scenery is very evocative of India in the 1600s and I truly felt I was there in the scene and not watching from the sidelines. The authors ability to create an atmosphere so real that the reader is literally able to hear the sounds of trumpeting elephants, the jingling bells worn on the feet of veiled women, to feel the wet spray of waterfalls and raging rapids, shows pure talent and promise of an author to be watched and remembered as one of the great historical novelists to come. The story is engaging, riveting, and the reader gets a firsthand account education of the place and time. Everything that one needs in a good book is here. Romance, action, adventure, culture and history, murder, good dialogue, beautiful scenery, what a great epic movie it would make. In fact, recently I had just watched the DVD of Fritz Lang's India epic that was filmed in the 50's and this book was a good match for the setting and time. Lots of plots and twists and turns, believable characters, and the future of two more books to come in the trilogy turned this book into a hit for me. I love historical fiction and am very selective about authors and good writing styles, I hope to see this novel hit the best seller list. I eagerly await the next installment.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crowd-pleasing beauty...with serious muscle., August 29, 2006
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Usually, when faced with a work of fiction, there's a certain point, somewhere in the middle, that you can point to and say, "Now THIS is where the plot really starts to thicken." Even a great page-turner like the Da Vinci Code will have a storyline that becomes quite elaborate and developed within the first 150 pages and fizzles out at the end.

In the case of The Temple Dancer, the plot thickens on page 5, doubles in on itself by page 50, and develops into a superlatively loopy conundrum by the middle of the book. If the plot were any thicker, the book would certainly implode, which would be a shame because nobody would get to read it then.

Mr. Speed keeps the whole thing chugging along by killing off characters unexpectedly, thus creating opportunities to insert yet more action. This is exactly the sort of kinetic artistry that defines blockbuster adventure stories, and the author is clearly a master at his craft. With a little effort spent on keeping the interlocking story lines straight (the map and list of characters help), the reader can remain engaged until the very last page. Which, as it happens, contains an astonishing plot twist.

I am eagerly awaiting the second volume of this trilogy, to find out what happens next.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars insightful journey into mid seventeenth century India, September 10, 2006
In 1657 Goa, India after the Dutch win the Pepper Wars, Carlos Dasana worries about his Portuguese family so he courts widowed sultana of Muslin Bijapur. However, Carlos also understands who the current power is as the sultan is a preadolescent; he insures he stays on the friendly side of the Grand Vizier Wali Khan by sending him a former Hindu temple dancer sold into prostitution Maya to do whatever he wants.

Carlos dispatches his dissolute nephew Geraldo and his niece Lucinda to oversee the caravan delivering the human gift to the vizier. Along the treacherous trek in which bandits attack and assault the two females, Lucinda and Maya forge a friendship as they share their recent history especially when their elephants have accidents. At a stop in Belgaum, Lucinda realizes she loves traveling companion Da Gama while Maya and Geraldo seem to want one another though they must show caution as the Vizier has sent Captain Pathan to protect his present from other males.

Though in some ways a historical romance, THE TEMPLE DANCER is much more as three ways of lives clash on the journey serving as a microcosmic metaphor of the larger battles between Portuguese, Hindu and Muslim cultures during the final age of the Mogul empire. Each key player and several support characters (for instance the Vizier's former concubine who runs Belgaum) are distinctive, which adds to the reader understanding the differences between the three people. Though the ensemble cast leads to complicated subplots that compete for supremacy (paralleling the underlying theme of a clash of civilizations) making for at times a difficult read, fans of historical tales will want to join the caravan riding the elephant on this insightful journey into mid seventeenth century India.

Harriet Klausner
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good First Novel, April 27, 2009
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The Temple Dancer / 0-312-32548-7

"The Temple Dancer" is a fine first novel for a promising new author, although I am surprised by the description's reference to a "proposed trilogy", given the rather 'final' nature of the epilogue. Though not without its faults, the novel is an engaging read and is worth a look, particularly for fans of the genre.

To give credit to the author, the story is engaging and moves along nicely, with the exposition as fascinating and well written as the action. Speed has also finely captured his female characters, which can be a difficult feat for a male author writing about such easily stereotyped characters as the Exotic Temple Dancer and Spoiled Heiress. Yet Speed's women resist stereotyping and show great resilience and strength of character in the turmoil that faces them. The male characters are, mostly, also very well done, with the 'tired old soldier' stereotype fleshed out nicely here as the men grapple with their own lives and whether they are brave enough to risk or even discard their futures for the women they have come to love and admire.

Not all of the characters are so thoroughly fleshed out, though. Speed's "unlikely villain" seems to be almost impossibly evil and conniving - carefully disposing of every member of his family over the course of many years in order to place himself closer to his family's fortune. In addition to these carefully manipulated murders, he seems to take sadistic delight in the torments the women suffer on their journey, and while it may be said that evil does not need a reason to be evil, it would be a nice inclusion to understand what motivates this man to be so cruel. Speed also relies heavily on misunderstandings, poor communication, and just plain stupidity of characters to advance the plot, which I hope he will trim to a minimum for his next novel.

(Example: When an old, frail man who is openly taking arsenic as 'medicine' dies of arsenic overdose, it seems unreasonable for *everyone* in the camp to immediately assume it was murder. It is just as likely that he took to much medicine or that his age and frailty couldn't handle the strain, and at least a few people should have voiced doubts as to the certainty of murder.)

This book is labeled historical fiction and Speed certainly takes care with the details and much of the overlay here seems genuine. A secret, powerful cabal of eunuchs seems to stretch the imagination slightly, and it also seems a powerful coincidence that the dancer - Maya - is carrying the long-lost treasure that they lost so many years ago, and an even further coincidence that the eunuch chosen to escort her to her new life is the very same one who lost the treasure so long ago! Nor is this incredible string of coincidences ever adequately explained, but rather it is just left as one of those mystical convergences that just happen. Although it did not detract much from my enjoyment of this story, I hope that the next novel from this author relies a little less on coincidence to drive the plot. In fact, I think a little less coincidence and more of the mostly superb character development could result in a fine novel indeed.

~ Ana Mardoll
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Fairytale with Unsavory Characters, October 1, 2008
Not bad...Interesting cast of characters, the men being extrememly grotesque and cruel and the women beautiful and weak at times. You have Maya, a brainwashed temple dancer that honestly believes that opening her body to men is serving her god. Lucinda is a pampered Portuguese girl that is all about dresses and corsets and the woman she is in the end is amazing and I enjoyed reading her change. Geraldo, Victorio, and Slipper (and about 20 other fellows) are the most disgusting, vile men I have ever read about. There is an immense amount of cruelty, greed, and hate and a hint of homosexuality here and there. The women alone, and the way they grew and blossomed and grew stronger on this amazing journey amongst the perversion made the book worthwhile. To sum it up, the book is about men and how their greed controls them and the deeds and bad deals they make to advance themselves. The women are simply caught in the middle of it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not quite there, October 27, 2009
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I did not like this book. While the historical content is fascinating, the characters are fairly contrived and the plot is, well, very bollywood masala. (predictable and disappointing). I did not like the writing either. The writing lacks subtlety and is parts is way to graphic, bordering on the vulgar. the writing is stilted in places and lacked a certain sophistication that I'm used to seeing in other historical fiction (examples: Indu sundaresan, Amitav ghosh). I could not relate to ANY of the characters: they remain flat and rather unbelievable and highly unsavoury.
The writer is ostensibly a historian and a "student of india". yet, there are jarring inaccuracies, such as the use of the phrase "ishvar-allah" for God willing. What he means is "inshah-allah". I was also irritated by the use of "hindi" (the language) instead of "hindu" to refer to the local non-muslim Indians.
Overall I would not recommend it- at all.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I expected, February 12, 2009
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I was not expecting the story I read when I purchased this book. If you are looking for a sensual story to lose yourself in a cloud of romanticism, you have found the wrong book. There really is no sensuality or a romantic plot line. The story is complex, brutal, and it's about more than just the temple dancer, but other people in the story too. It wasn't what I was looking for, but I will give it 4 stars because it was well written.
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The Temple Dancer: A Novel of India
The Temple Dancer: A Novel of India by John Speed (Paperback - July 24, 2007)
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