Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh, by Robert Irwin

prayer-cushions-of-the-flesh-by-robert-irwinGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Dedalus Limited
Published: 1997
Reviewer Rating: threestars
Book Review by Paul S. Jenkins

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Seeing the title, Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh, the reader might get the idea that Robert Irwin’s novella contained an above-average amount of sex. The reader would be correct.

Set in a harem, the story is an Arabian fantasy concerning the days immediately following the protagonist’s release from the ‘Cage’ — a place where the sons of concubines are kept until they are sent for. In a reversal of the conventional notion of a Sultan keeping a harem full of voluptuous young wives, this harem contains women who use each man who leaves the Cage as their sexual plaything.

Our hero, Orkhan, newly released from the Cage, believes that he is now Sultan, and that the harem is there for his pleasure. The women, however, have other ideas.

Irwin spares no detail in his relation of Orkhan’s fortunes, his pleasures and his pains, so this is definitely not a book for children, despite the fairy-tale setting and the straight-forward narrative style.

The best part is when Orkhan is taken to meet Emerald — a voluntary eunuch — who tells a story of such fantastical imagination, the strange goings-on throughout the rest of the book seem normal by comparison.

Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh is a quick read — which is appropriate, as the events of the story unfold, and conclude, with similar rapidity.

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