Title: Song of Oestend
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Total e-bound
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.
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.
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.