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The Eunuch's Heir by Elaine Isaak
Review by Mel Jacob
Eos Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0060782552
Date: 01 October, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

When his mistress, a whore, tells him his hair plays him false, he confronts his mother, Queen Brianna, for the truth about the dark hair she treasures in a locket and his own coarse blond hair. Drawing conclusions from her reactions, he flees in anger. Then, he tries to destroy the newly sculpted head of his father whom he can only dishonor by his acts. The sculptress, Lyssa, priestess, mentor, and close friend, stares at him in shocked horror.

On top of all else, his mistress reveals she carries his child, and she is the former Usurper's daughter, Asenith, his mother's bitter enemy. Determined to flee the damage he has created, Wolfram dashes to the city gates only to face an attempted assassination. Fighting for his life, he guts his own servant and injures his attacker. Horrified, he realizes he may face execution for the murder. In wild desperation, he continues his heedless flight and ends unconscious in the forest beyond the city.

After a sojourn of months with the primitive Woodmen and by a circuitous route, he reaches the city kingdom of Bernholt. His royal cousin, Princess Melody, Alyn's twin, reveals the man Wolfram identifies as the former king is an eunuch and could not be her father. If so, then he also cannot be Wolfram's father. Wolfram learns his life has been a tissue of lies.

Melody prevails upon him to accompany her to the foreign nation of Hemijrani. Some regard it as similar to the Middle East, while others may see more of India and the Mughals. Trying to locate his cousin, he invades the forbidden Women's Garden and frightens the acolyte Deishima and seventeenth daughter of the Hemijrani ruler. Condemned to death, he must fight eight leopards.

The priestess Lyssa, his friend and mentor, arrives at the last moment to help him fight the leopards. He suffers a number of injuries, so Lyssa insists on nursing him in her quarters. During his recovery, most of the major female characters attempt to seduce him, including Lyssa, despite her professed vow of chastity.

Wolfram, in his efforts to learn his true father's name, tame his demons, and avert a war against his homeland, stumbles from escapade to escapade at the risk of his life and position. When he tries to change, no one accepts his word, especially after learning he killed his servant.

Readers who have not read Isaak's earlier novel know no more than Wolfram and puzzle along with him to answer his questions. Readers of both books will understand far more than the hero and may feel either more or less sympathy for him and more for those affected by his misdeeds. At times, he appears inconsistent and wavers in his course of action. However, despite a few improbabilities, Isaak delivers an ending that pulls the reader along to the satisfying end. She leaves plenty of opportunities to develop more stories for this rich and complex cast of characters.

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