Song of Oestend

Title: Song of Oestend
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Total e-bound
Amazon: Amazon.com
Genre: Paranormal/Gay Romance
Length: Superplus novel (120K words)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: I really enjoyed the developments in this paranormal gay romance set in an AU reality between two complex, interesting characters, but wished for some of the world-building to be more detailed.

Blurb:

Symbols have power…

Aren Montrell has heard tales of the Oestend wraiths — mysterious creatures which come in the night and kill anyone who’s not indoors. Aren’s never had reason to believe the stories, but when he takes a job as a bookkeeper on the BarChi, a dusty cattle ranch on the remote Oestend prairie, he soon learns that the wraiths are real. Aren suddenly finds himself living in a supposedly haunted house and depending on wards and generators to protect him from unseen things in the night. As if that’s not enough, he has to deal with a crotchety old blind woman, face “cows” that look like nothing he’s ever seen before, and try to ignore the fact that he’s apparently the most eligible bachelor around.

Aren also finds himself the one and only confidante of Deacon, the BarChi’s burly foreman. Deacon runs the BarChi with an iron fist and is obviously relieved to finally have somebody he can talk to. As their relationship grows, Aren learns there’s more to Deacon and the BarChi than he’d anticipated. Deacon seems determined to deny both his Oestend heritage and any claim he may have to the BarChi ranch, but if Aren is to survive the perils of Oestend, he’ll have to convince Deacon to stop running from the past and finally claim everything that’s his.

Reader Advisory: This book is set in an alternate reality and contains scenes of violence, mild D/s and bondage, and a M/M/M ménage scene.

Review:

I was beyond excited to read a new book by this writer. When I realized that the genre of this book is very different from everything that I have read by her previously, I was even more excited, but also a bit nervous. I really liked this book for the most part, even though some things did not work for me.

The blurb gives us a pretty detailed summary of the plot, so I will not repeat it, and while I am glad it does not reveal ALL the plot points, even as is it reveals much more than I would have told you.

I thought that the writer managed to create a quite creepy atmosphere from the very beginning of the story. It is not a horror story per se, but to me the setting definitely has strong horror elements, something I usually do not like. Surprisingly, it was so very well-written that I enjoyed it a lot. I also found interesting that with the progression of the story it sort of stopped being horror-like to me and became part of the land where the story takes place. I find it hard to explain without the spoilers, but I guess what scared me in the beginning, scared me less at the end of the story. Maybe because I knew the solution is difficult, but possible.

What I enjoyed the most was our protagonists and the lovely build-up of the romance between them. We see both Aren and Deacon slowly change and grow throughout the story as well as how their connection as friends changes to lovers, and it was all very believable for me. Being on the ranch changes Aren for the better, and interacting with the land where storytales from old times are part of reality changes him, makes him stronger, however it is not a one-sided change. People around him — including Deacon — also change because Aren comes to work at the ranch. I thought there were very some very subtle and not very subtle dynamics drawn here. Deacon mostly changes because when he met Aren, he realizes what he wants and he finally accepts who he is as a person.

I thought these two had really great chemistry going and the sex scenes were really hot indeed. Not only I did I enjoy whatever sex was in the story, I would not have minded reading more of it, even though the sex is quite frequent.

Some of the side characters were fantastically drawn, too, and I loved that the author gave one other young man, Frances, a character arc to go through as well. I was rooting for him and wonder if in the future we will be able to read more about him.

I want to talk about couple of things which did not work for me. While I found that on one hand the world-building was fascinating, on the other I found it somewhat lacking. In fact, it kind of drove me a little crazy trying to place this story somewhere. I found that on the microlevel I was absolutely pulled into this world. I thought that life on the ranch was amazingly drawn, combined with those horror elements, which were all explained very well, and the legends and scary stories really came alive.

On the other hand, the blurb states that the story is set in an alternate reality and we are told that it is set in a specific country, which used to be the colony of the bigger country. That was fine, but I found that I could not stop wondering when this story is supposed to take place. If the timeframe is completely different from calculations in our world, I wanted to know what this timeframe was. Maybe I am strange that way, but I wanted to know the year, or at least the century, no matter how different it is from our world. There is also an indication that Old people in this universe (no I am not going to tell you who they are 🙂 ) speak a different language from what the majority of the population does, and we get to hear some sentences of that language. I could not stop wondering what the name of that language is and what language does the majority of the population speaks. I think I understand why this world does not have that many distinct features on the macrocosm level, because it supposed to invoke associations with our world, but if that is the case then why set the story in the AU reality in the first place? I felt that I was not completely immersed in this world because I found those ponderings to be distracting, when all I wanted to do was to follow Aren and Deacon’s journey towards each other. All of these things may not bother other readers.

Finally, the ménage scene that the blurb mentions is another thing which made me scratch my head. Do not worry, it is not going to become a forever threesome — the third party disappears from their lives pretty much right after they had sex — but it made very little sense for me as to why it happened in the first place. I think that the author was going for emotional closure because of what occurred between them previously, but it really did not make sense for me why Aren decided to do it in the first place.

Definitely recommended despite any problems I had.

22 comments

  • Cotilla, I am not sure if I understood you correctly from your comment, but I am hoping that means that you found this particular advisory useful? The reason I am asking is because you said you do not like BDSM, but then said that when you are in the right mood you will read this book. I do not think it is a spoiler since it is in the advisory, but there is very definite dominance/submission play in their lovemaking. For the most part I would indeed call it quite mild, but once or twice it gets a bit more than mild. So just want you to be aware of it. They do not call it BDSM, and I was grateful for that, because in the AU reality it may be called something different, but they definitely play dominant and submissive, even if there is for the most part nothing hardcore happening at all.

    Reply
  • @ sirius – your expectations make total sense! i guess i could let that things go to enjoy the trip! **sigh** still sooo in love with this long awaited story…
    :0)
    -kkm

    Reply
    • Definitely, good things in this story owerweight what I consider weak stuff by far and I think my rating reflects that. I really loved the guys and their relationship and scary atmosphere.

      Reply
  • Hi Kaetrin, if you like her writing, I think you should give this one a try. Unless you hate paranormal/horror themes of course, then I would recommend giving this one a pass.

    Reply
  • Sounds like I need to dip my toe in the Alternative Universe. I loved Ms. Sexton’s Coda series and I read Between Sinners and Saints earlier this month (there’s a review over at my blog if anyone has a spare few minutes and cares to visit :D) and loved it.
    Normally I don’t go for the AU type of story but I do love the way her characters connect (and no I didn’t mean “connect” like that!! …although that too!)

    Reply
  • what i love about the book is that it is clearly set in an alternative west – and that it’s references to colonial (and colonialist) stories is part of the alternative universe setting. sirius were you going for more sci fi?
    -kkm

    Reply
    • Hi kkm, thanks for commenting. I was not going for more scifi or more anything before I started reading the book, I just hoped to read a good story and I felt I did for the most part :). How to put it? I know that the action is happening in the alternative west, in other words I found the life on the ranch to be very vivid and combined with the wraiths and wraiths’ origins it all came alive in the unusual way.

      But to me to see the life on the ranch just was not enough, if that makes sense. I wanted to know where this ranch was on the bigger scale of things, so to speak. I was feeling dizzy, I felt that author did not orient me well in time and place. The ranch is in the country, right? Is it 19 century? Do they speak English or other language? Do they travel by any other means besides horses? Hope my confusion makes sense.

      Reply
  • Thank you very much for your review! Marie Sexton is my favorite m/m writer so I was waiting impatiently for her new book to be released.

    But right now I’m in the middle of reading the book and I’m feeling very frustrated. The world building is really confusing and I have a hard time connecting to the characters. Your review made me not give up on the book even though I’m still having some doubts. If this was written by any other author, I wouldn’t give the book another chance.

    Reply
    • Hi Enny, I am sorry the book does not seem to be working for you. I am hoping you will be happier with it after you are finished, but of course it may just not be your cup of tea. I liked that this writer wrote something different, I enjoy when writer stretches her writing muscles even when the result is not perfect. Of course I suspect I feel good about the book mostly because I did not have any problems connecting with the characters. I really enjoyed both Aren and Deacon. I definitely hear you about the worldbuilding, I did not find it confusing as much as I found some aspects of it lacking. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  • Hi Sirius
    I’m so glad that you enjoyed Song of Oestend. I haven’t finished it but I understand some of your concerns about the AU setting.

    Reply
    • Thanks Wave and thanks for adding word count. Let me know what you thought when you are done? Am curious what you will think about the setting at the end.

      Reply
  • Thanks for the review, Sirius, and I’m glad you enjoyed it for the most part. For the record, if I had my way, there would be no “reader advisory” on the blurb at all. Oh well. 🙂

    Thanks again!

    Oh. Also, for the record, the word count is roughly 120k. 🙂

    Reply
        • Not reading the review, just the comments. Have to wait until Friday (payday) to get my hands on this bad boy, but I am so looking forward to it.

          But about the advisories. Is that really necessary in 2011? Seriously, it seems to me the publishers need to grow a pair. :wallbash:

          Reply
          • Yes, it is necessary. I don’t like BDSM, and I’ve been ambushed by it before. So, with the advisories I can make an informed decision. When I’m in the right mood I can read it, so when the mood strikes I’ll be reading Song of Oestend ^^

            Reply
      • Speaking as a reader, not a reviewer, I love reader advisories. In extreme cases of violence, rape and incest, I want to know that is coming. It doesn’t mean I won’t buy the book, it just means I need to be forearmed for content like that. YMMV.

        Reply
        • For me, it really depends. I certainly like some reader advisories, warnings for rape, extreme violence, and cannot stand others. I know I mentioned it before, but Loose ID (I think) warning for male/male sexual practices annoys the crap out of me for example. But in this case way too detailed blurb (IMO) together with reader advisory give out way way too many plot spoilers. The reader advisory alone I can take in this case, but with blurb, I think it is way too much information. IMO of course.

          Reply
    • Thanks for writing it Marie. If it were up to me, I would have shortened and made the blurb more vague. Personally I think wraiths are much scarier if you are reading about them without any warning.

      Reply

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