Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Steel Seraglio

Every now and then, a book comes along with a quiet power and dignity.  The Steel Seraglio is one of those books that will have gone under the radar for a majority of worldwide readers, but it shouldn't.  The book is fairly complex in its themes, characters, and even plot due to reasons soon to be expounded.  What is also striking is its ability to not acknowledge any genre boundaries.  It is written much like an ancient document, detailing the lost city of Bessa in the Middle East, but it draws from historical fiction/alternate history, as well as magical realism, all lending to an unnerving, gripping, thrilling, and unexpected page turner.  Though it's given these qualities of historical fiction and magical realism, it also brings forth the epic fantasy vibe, though not so much as journey of a fellowship of different races trying to save a world.  Rather, this is the story of the concubines a seraglio, or harem, of the fictional city of Bessa's sultan Bokhari Al-Bokhari.

Al-Bokhari and his wives and legitimate children with said wives are killed by a religious extremist Hakkim, who is also a trained assassin.  He believes it his destiny to eradicate all debauchery and sin from Bessa.  The seraglio managed to persuade Hakkim to send them as a gift to a neighboring sultan through the techniques they'd always used on political figures and men to do their bidding in subtle arts.  But the women of the seraglio have a different idea: take back Bessa.  Read on for a complete review, spoiler-free but very in-depth.