Unveiling the Sorceress
Saskia Walker
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East meets West across time and tradition as three young American women and their Indian immigrant mothers take first steps toward true sisterhood, shattering secrets and sharing joy and tears in Saskia Walker's
Unveiling the Sorceress

Buy *Unveiling the Sorceress * by Saskia Walker online

Unveiling the Sorceress
Saskia Walker
Juno Books
224 pages
August 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Unveiling the Sorceress is set in a land that feels like ancient Persia with slaves, empresses and concubines (as well as names and places that sound rather Persian). Elishiba is the daughter of the Emperor of Aleem, a country that has often been threatened by its neighbor Karseedia. Elishiba understands that to safeguard her country, she needs to make some kind of an alliance with Karseedia and has agreed to a betrothal with the Emperor, Hanrah. The story follows Elishiba as she welcomes the delegation from Karseedia, who are to prepare her in the courtly manners and behavior of Karseedia before returning her to that country for her wedding to Hanrah.

Things aren't all as they seem, however. Hanrah is an ineffectual emperor. His mother, Mehmet, is really in charge of the country, assisted by her evil sidekick mage, Sibias. Hanrah has no desire for the wedding with Elishiba as he has another love, one who is under threat of death, and Elishiba finds that a member of the Karseedian delegation has attracted her attention. Amshazar is also known as 'the Nomad'; he arrived in Karseedia some time ago and worked his way up to advisor to Hanrah, and he is clearly an unusual man.

As the story moves from Elishiba's palace in Aleem to the journey and finally to the palace in Karseedia, we learn more about sorcery, the skills that both Amshazar and Sibias have and that Elishiba is beginning to discover in herself. There is intrigue among the slaves, the evil Mehmet has a trump card in which to have her way, and Hanrah's weakness seems likely to mean that he will have to submit to his mother's choices for him and his kingdom. Yet there are more powers involved in the struggle between Aleem and Karseedia than the individuals on the ground know. Amshazar's very presence there is part of a plan by the gods, and his and Elishiba's relationship may be a pivotal part of that plan.

The setting of this book is quite engaging with the different lives of the emperors and empresses and their servants, guards, warriors and concubines. The magical element isn't overpowering. Much of the plot instead revolves around political machinations and Elishiba's own learning and understanding. Elishiba is a great heroine with pluck and sympathy for others, as well as the ability to learn, grow and trust when trust must be difficult. The relationship with Amshazar sometimes feels rushed with their connection being based on a few scorching looks rather than actually knowing each other, but this was a relatively short novel and perhaps doesn't have the time to delve more deeply into their feelings.

Some rather pantomime-level villains in Mehmet and Sibias fulfill all the traditional roles of evil characters without any different characteristics to make them seem more believable. However, the overall story is enjoyable, and the setting adds considerably to that. The political elements are never boring, and Elishiba and the other main characters usually very interesting. Amshazar's tendency not to speak directly but to offer Elishiba riddles is a bit annoying, but she doesn't seem to mind; perhaps that adds to his allure and mystical nature. This is a good read in the fantasy genre with sensual overtones but a decent, solid plot underpinning it.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Helen Hancox, 2007

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