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 known 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 beginning, and will enmesh everyone in the palace in a struggle for the very soul of Percheron.
A magnificent setting distinguishes this first of a new fantasy\t\t trilogy from McIntosh (The Quickening), who\t\t imbues the city-state of Percheron with many attributes of Constantinople under\t\t the Ottoman Turks. Joreb, the zar (or ruler) of Percheron, is well served by\t\t his military leader, the handsome Lazar, who fought his way to freedom from\t\t slavery. When Joreb dies an untimely death, Boaz "Joreb's 15-year-old son by\t\t his beautiful, intelligent and ambitious first wife "becomes zar. But not even\t\t Lazar or Pez, a dwarf jester whom nearly everyone thinks is mad, can shield\t\t young Boaz from the cruel necessities of ruling Percheron. (McIntosh, who\t\t doesn't stint on depicting the brutality of slaughter, includes a disturbing\t\t castration scene.) Meanwhile, gods and goddesses feud, a new odalisque joins\t\t the harem, and a neighboring kingdom threatens invasion. While the author\t\t leaves the culture's religious aspects undeveloped, strong characters and an\t\t enticing plot bode well for future installments.