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Odalisque: Book One of The Percheron Saga Paperback – Bargain Price, March 13, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Percheron Series

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Paperback, Bargain Price, March 13, 2007
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A magnificent setting distinguishes this first of a new fantasy trilogy from McIntosh (The Quickening), who imbues the city-state of Percheron with many attributes of Constantinople under the Ottoman Turks. Joreb, the zar (or ruler) of Percheron, is well served by his military leader, the handsome Lazar, who fought his way to freedom from slavery. When Joreb dies an untimely death, Boaz—Joreb's 15-year-old son by his beautiful, intelligent and ambitious first wife—becomes zar. But not even Lazar or Pez, a dwarf jester whom nearly everyone thinks is mad, can shield young Boaz from the cruel necessities of ruling Percheron. (McIntosh, who doesn't stint on depicting the brutality of slaughter, includes a disturbing castration scene.) Meanwhile, gods and goddesses feud, a new odalisque joins the harem, and a neighboring kingdom threatens invasion. While the author leaves the culture's religious aspects undeveloped, strong characters and an enticing plot bode well for future installments. (Mar.)
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“A sweeping, majestic tale of love and bravery, evil and goodness...A truly grand vision brought to life.” (Good Reading (Australia) )

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Product Details

  • Series: Percheron Saga (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060899050
  • ASIN: B004A14UAG
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,304,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Odalisque is a tease that starts strong but fizzles into a formulaic, predictable novel. The only redeemable feature is the unique, Ottoman-inspired setting, with its emphasis on the harem. Unfortunately, the setting barely influences the story. Any setting could have been used without altering the storyline.

This novel has a lot of faults, in my opinion. First, the characters are bland and absolute, without any ambiguity: The good characters are wholly good and distinguishable by their simplicity, whereas the bad characters are wholly bad and distinguishable by their extravagance and ambition. Why is ambition a bad trait? Lazar would have been a more interesting and complex character if he had ambition. He is the best warrior and has the support of the army. Why doesn't he take steps to remove the bad guys or secure his position? And what is his position? Although he commands the army, Percheron does not seem to be at war with anyone. If there is no one to fight, why is he so important? Second, we know events before the characters do, thereby ruining any suspense and mystery. For example, we know about Tariq while none of the characters knows. Wouldn't the novel be more fun if we had to guess who Maliz would corrupt? Third, there is a lack of action and conflict. If this novel were made into a film, it would be a "talkie" because very little happens besides talking. Fourth, everyone notices that Pez and later Tariq are more than what they seem, but no one does anything about it. How stupid are these people? Fifth, the harem has all of these rules that are routinely broken for the sake of the story. For example, no men are allowed in the harem, except for Pez. How convenient considering his role in the novel is to take messages to everyone.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback

That about sums up my description of Odalisque. The first volume of McIntosh's The Percheron Saga, this book brings together well-developed characters, logic and consistency with then setting, an interesting storyline, and true wordsmithing. The book is a joy to read.

This book is only nominally your typical sword-and-sorcery. Yes, the setting is where swords may be the weapon of choice, and magic is a part of the landscape, but this novel goes far beyond the typical fare. McIntosh's Percheron is not the typical pseudo-European medieval environment. Percheron is more of an Ottoman-inspired setting, which opens up intriguing political and social situations to explore, such as that of harems, eunuchs, palace guards, justice, and the like which are not available in standard sword-and-sorcery tales. (Although not in Odalisque but rather in the second volume of the saga, Emmissary, the conflict between the Percherons and a more Arab-influence group of the same overall religious beliefs who feel the Percherons have drifted off the true path can be taken as a deep commentary on current Persian/Arab differences.)

The story centers on some main characters as they deal with a religious conflict. The Goddess Lyana is resurrected every thousand years or so, and she is fought by Zarab, a male god. Over the last few millennium, Zarab has triumphed, and the worship of Lyana has faded throughout Percheron in favor of the worship of Zarab. The story begins as events unfold to start this cycle once more.

The cast of characters include Lazar, a former slave who has risen to be the head of Percheron's military, Ana, a young girl brought into the harem for the new 15-year-old Zar, Boaz.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don't generally like to give out bad reviews of books but I might have to make an exception for _Odalisque_ by Fiona McIntosh. I respect authors and the hard work it takes to write a novel and get it published, particularly for writers who are not well established. I read _Odalisque_ to the very end, hoping it might become better, that it might have some interesting cliffhanger perhaps that would somehow redeem the book, maybe even convince me to read the book's sequel. Alas it was not to be and the book was something of a chore to finish.

I thought the book's premise was promising. The setting is Percheron, a city with a culture clearly inspired by the Ottoman Empire at its height; a very old city, powerful politically and economically, seen by both its inhabitants and outsiders as being highly cultured and very influential, a city built with an excellent harbor and at a great crossroads of trade. The culture has many of the trappings associated with the Ottoman Empire; huge palaces, a powerful ruler (in Perchereon the ruler is referred to as a Zar), served by among others a vizier as well as eunuchs, the latter of which guard a harem of women, who like many of the woman of the setting wear a veil except in private.
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