The Harem Master

The Harem Master

25376770 “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

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Huntress

Huntress

9415946 “Huntress” by Malinda Lo
Publisher’s Synopsis: Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.
To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo’s highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.

*****

3 out of 5 stars

Huntress is another YA novel, loosely written as a prequel to Ash in that it’s set in the same world and has a similar feel. This book is also a fairy tale and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Huntress stands on it’s own as a story – you don’t need to have read Ash beforehand.

It’s so nice to read young adult fantasy novels and more so LGBT novels. I really enjoyed the story told in Huntress but I had a few issues with the actual writing. The story is a questing fantasy. Kaede and Taisin are students at the Academy; a school to teach magic and the students to become sages. The Fairy Queen, who has not been heard from for hundreds of years sends an invitation to visit her city and Taisin and Kaede are chosen to go, along with the Prince of the realm.

The journey is filled with danger as they travel through the Woods (the same woods we encountered in Ash, filled with creatures that mean them harm). There are battles along the way and they lose several members of the questing party. The journey also allows for the time to build the love story between Kaede and Taisin. It’s done slowly and sweetly and what I would expect from a YA book.

What I do love about this book is that the fact that our two main characters are both women is of no consequence. It doesn’t matter in this world who you love and who loves you.

My issues with the book don’t stem from the story itself – I really like this sort of fantasy and thought this was an original take on a fantasy quest. I feel like there are things missing, or rather that could have been added to make this a more well rounded book.

We are told at the beginning that sages are celibate, and Taisin’s end goal is to become a sage regardless of her love for Kaede. Along the journey she struggles with this choice and meets a former sage that has refuted all that the sages stood for. It’s hinted at that Taisin was never told the complete truth at the Academy and that she should question the “why” behind some things she took at truths. We never find out more about this though, and I wish I could have learned more about Taisin’s final decision.

Also, I thought the book actually finished when there was still a chapter or two left. I felt tlike this additional quest was just an add-on and the book could have stood on it’s own without it.

Huntress was a quick and easy read and I liked it, I just felt it was a bit rushed in spots.

Valentine’s Day Imminent

Valentine’s Day Imminent

I just finished reading “Beautiful You” and my one thought is …

What the hell did I just read?

World Domination through vibrators? Women become sex zombies and leave men sex starved animals. Orgasms on just about every page that leave you cold, a rape scene written as humor. Apparently this is standard Palahniuk satirical fare. Definitely unsettling.

Onto the next …

18296159    “The Good Nurse – A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder” by Charles Graeber

Publisher’s Synopsis: After his December 2003 arrest, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was quickly dubbed “The Angel of Death” by the media. But Cullen was no mercy killer, nor was he a simple monster. He was a favorite son, husband, beloved father, best friend, and celebrated caregiver. Implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients, he was also perhaps the most prolific serial killer in American history.

I’m a huge fan of true crime! I love Ann Rule and the way she writes, but haven’t read anything by Charles Graeber so am looking forward to this.

*********************

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s day. All day today I’ve been asked what my plans are for tomorrow and people seem surprised when I tell them I have no plans. My partner, K, has to work a 14+hour shift tomorrow and I volunteered to work and staff a bake sale. Not terribly romantic for either of us.                                                        Romance and love shouldn’t be singled out for one specific day, but should be expressed every single day.

Love is when K gets up at the crack of dawn to shovel and salt the driveway before work so I don’t have to worry about slipping or snow drifts.

Love is when she cleans the house on her day off so I don’t have to clean on mine.

Love is when I do the laundry on my day off so she doesn’t have to, and add the extra softener she likes.

Love is catching her eye across the room and having an entire conversation with one look.

Love is babying her when she is sick, making sure she has tissues and Vicks, and rubbing her feet while we watch TV.

Love is when she kisses me in the elevator at work; one kiss for each floor.

Love is our little nighttime ritual that neither one of us could sleep without.

Love is what I have every day, not just Valentine’s Day.