Author: Zenobia Neil
Publisher: Self published
Type of book: Historical fantasy, Harem, Ottoman empire, wealth, treasure, cage, jinnis, wishes, desires, 1500s? eroticism, eunuchs
Year it was published: 2018
As a eunuch in the Ottoman Imperial Harem, Olin has already lost his home, his freedom, and his manhood. Olin’s only wish is for a painless death, until he meets Dark Star, a beautiful odalisque who promises to give him his deepest desire. He scoffs at her offer, not believing her claim to possess a jinni in a bottle. But when Dark Star is accused of witchcraft, Olin rubs the bottle in desperation and is astonished to find she’s told the truth.
Olin becomes the jinni’s master to save Dark Star, but it's not enough. In the complex world of the Topkapi Palace, where silk pillows conceal knives, sherbets contain poison, and jewels buy loyalty, no one is safe. As each wish brings unintended consequences, Olin must risk his life, his body, and his sanity to break the bonds that tie them all.
Main characters include Olin, a Roma eunuch who was raised on tales of the jinni but then was captured. Olin is best described as pure innocent, someone unblemished despite his difficult life and he wants to do the best he can. He is also discerning and observant. Dark Star is an odalisque who is wise with herbs and who has her own secrets that she will keep. She tends to crave power and protection and learns at a price what really matters. There is also Mustafa Agha, an African eunuch who cares more for power than anything else. The jinni is probably the best character in the book because he is unpredictable and one doesn't know what to expect from him. Despite those qualities, he is loyal to his masters to an extent and he is very jaded.
The will and the soul are more important than wealth and status
This is written in third person narrative from Olin's point of view. I found all elements of the story to be well done and enjoyable, from the setting to the characters to the plot to the erotic elements and so forth. The author paints a wonderful picture of life in the harem through imagination, but there is also fantasy and eroticism and wonderful characters populate this short novel. I wish the story would have been a lot longer and I would have gotten to know the characters a lot more.
Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Zenobia spends her free time imagining interesting people and putting them in terrible situations.
She lives with her husband, two children, and dog in an overpriced hipster neighborhood of Los Angeles. Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com.
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When I was reading this novel, I was constantly reminded of a movie I had seen ages ago about 1,001 Arabian Nights, which I loved. And this particular story really reminded me of the last story about a king who convinces everyone in his kingdom to believe that a peasant is the king for one night, then the next night he kicks him out and no one believes the peasant that he was a king. (Anyone know the name of that tale? Please let me know, I want to read it.) The tale definitely has magic, genies, and a lot of attention to detail which made me feel as if I was actually living there. What I found disappointing are some of the messages that the novel has sent about race and happiness, at least for me: I was actually picturing Olin as dark skinned due to his Roma heritage, and in order to gain power and whatnot, he changes bodies and becomes a pale skinned male, (I guess looking on it now, a reverse white savior role?) This tale could definitely be an equal to 1,001 Arabian Nights
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4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)