“The Harem Master” by Megan Derr
Synopsis: Lord Demir has spent his life trying to appease a brutal, selfish king, and keep the concubines under his care alive—and now he is on the verge of losing everything. The council wants to abolish the harems, there are no heirs to the throne, and the foreigners control the Steward. One wrong move will tip tensions into civil war.
Crown Prince Ihsan returns to find his home in turmoil, and the royal court so full of vipers it’s impossible to say which of them will strike first. Removing his father from the throne, one way or another, should be a simple matter. Staying alive and proving himself a worthy king will be far more difficult.
Crown Princess Euren has spent the last five years in hiding so that she could not be used against her father or Ihsan. But she is the daughter of a soldier, never meant to wear a crown, never trained to fight battles where words are the weapon of choice. If she hopes to keep herself and her loved ones alive, she’ll have to learn fast.
Note: This story contains polyamory (M/M/M/M/M, F/F/F/F)
5 out 5 stars
This is an epic, sweeping fantasy that reminded me a great deal of Jacqueline Carey’s books. I love them and absolutely loved this book too.
The story: Set in a far away desert land, The Harem Master has almost every element of story telling you could imagine – court intrigue, murder, a tyrant of a king and at its heart a passionate love story. Demir is the harem master, a role passed down through the generations of his family and one he takes great pride and joy in. The ruling King is a tyrant and it is Demir’s unfortunate position to try to protect the harem from the whims of the King.
In this land, the ruling class has harems made up of people who are meant to be truly loved and a treasured inner circle. The King has made a mockery of this and used his harem to take out his frustrations and anger. The King’s harem is made up solely of men, the Prince’s harem is also men, and the Princess’s harem is made up of women. It is an abomination for a married man or woman to sleep with someone other than their husband or wife, but bisexuality is the norm.
The characters: Demir is the crown jewel in a harem full of beautiful, talented men. He is desired by many, but his position keeps him safe for the most part. It also keeps him lonely. He is privy to the innermost secrets of the kingdom and guards those secrets well. He is tormented by the fact that is beloved harem is not a place filled with devotion and love, but a place for a petulant King to play.
Crown Prince Ihsan is the ruling King’s son and heir to the throne. He and his harem return to the kingdom after being away for years in an attempt to right the wrongs of his father. He brings with him his own harem of three unlikely men; a soldier, an aristocrat, and an assassin who are all devoted to each other.
Crown Princess Euren is Ihsan’s wife. No pampered princess, she is a soldier’s daughter and a soldier in her own right. She returns to the kingdom with her harem of three women.
What I liked: The polyamory and sex in this story is such an integral part of the story that it flows naturally. There is no feeling of a gratuitous sex scene for the sake of sex. It’s a part of all the relationships in the story, and colors everything that each character does. Beautifully done.
The story unfolds slowly but I feel we need that to build to the conclusion of the story. I didn’t find it tedious even when Derr goes into lineage when we are reading about lesser court nobles in the kingdom. This reads like historical fiction even though it is a fantasy. This is such a well done epic fantasy, it was hard to put down.
What I didn’t like: Princess Euren and her harem almost seemed like an afterthought. While the sex scenes between the women were very done, they lacked some of the passion and detail that the scenes between the men did.
This is an amazing book. I’ve never seen polyamory written so well. I gave it 5 stars, which I do only for the books that I loved and can reread again and again.
ARC Provided by NetGalley