Friendship, intrigue, a harem and romance. A review for The Harem Master by Megan Derr

Title: Harem Master (Tales of Tavamara)
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less than Three Press
Genre: fantasy romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: a copy provided by NetGalley
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Release date: May 12, 2015

Blurb: 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

Review: I know what you are probably thinking with a title like Harem Master. No, get your mind out of the gutter. Despite the title suggesting lots and lots of hot man sex- 1001 Arabian Nights man on man style – this is not a porn without a plot. Hell, there isn’t even a lot of sex despite the length of the book.

No, Harem Master is a story full of political intrigue, friendship, mystery and even some action in a fantasy setting reminiscent of 1001 Arabian Nights with an in-depth setting and strong and well developed characters. Some of which you want to keep!

Harem Master is a story set in the Tales of Tavamara series that include Sandstorm, The King’s Harem and a short story on the website of the author called Heydar. You can read the Harem Master without having read the other books in the series, but it’s more fun with the others! According to the author, Harem Master is set several generations before the other stories.

Harem Master has several plot lines. Mainly it is the story of Harem Master Demir. The profession of Harem Master is a sacred and traditional profession that Demir holds with a lot of honor and duty. He cares for the harems, in a way he can be viewed as a manager, teacher and mentor. His life is not made easy by the crazy king Kagan – who likes to kill his concubines – and the sharks of the court – who want to abolish the tradition.

Parallel and intertwined to the story of Demir is that of Prince Ihsan and his harem: Kitt, Sabah and Haluk, who return from war and imprisonment to a court in a lot of chaos and a Harem Master in need of love and maybe a bit of rescue.

Third there is the story of Ihsan’s wife Euren. Now here’s a girl who can kick some butt. Hard. She also returns with her harem less than welcome and is soon drawn into the trouble.

Tying these plot lines together is the mystery of a murder and an intrigue in the court that can cause quite a lot of damage, especially to Demir.

The story is a lengthy one and after a slow built up the story goes fast with a lots of turns and twists. I found the story well crafted. There were some points, like the budding relationship between Ihsan and Demir, that could have used more depth or page time. Near the end of the story, I found it a bit rushed. There is a lot happening in the story, but it all comes together well.

There is a lot of world building in this story. It’s as much the atmosphere as the plot that sets the story. Stories containing harems often fall into some stereotype of lots of erotic fantasy, the sex being illicit or an overuse of different toys, shallow characters and dubious consent and what not, but not so in this world. Nothing is as it seems with this harem and Harem Master. It was cleverly done by the author to make the harems an almost sacred tradition with cultural aspects as well. Some of the eastern and western traditions regarding Harems are woven into this book. Of course, not all of them and some with a lot of twists!

There are a wealth of characters in this book, some with more page time than others, but primarily the story is about Demir, Ihsan & co and Euren & co. Their characters have their own voice in the story and you can’t help but love Demir, who is so dutiful and caring but just wants to understood and loved, and Kitt who is a dangerous as he is playful and beautiful. Oh and sometimes you just want to kick Ihsan’s butt in gear but luckily we have Euren to do that for us!

Why should you read this book: you should not read this book if you are looking for lots of sex and no plot, but if you love a good fantasy story with a beautiful setting and a good political intrigue and a twist on harem-style books, then this one is for you.

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