A Guest Review by Shy
Review Summary: Consistent world-building, young yet mature characters, and hilarious dialogue. A breath of fresh air.
In Ollas, anything that stirs the emotions is forbidden by the governors—especially music. So when Tallie Tarmelin, a farm boy from a lower-tier guild, is offered a scholarship for his talent in design, he keeps his head down and follows the rules. He’s terrified of breaking one of his society’s many laws and ruining his future. But feeling lost and alone in an unfamiliar city takes its toll, and Tallie accepts sympathy from a guildless social outcast even though he knows it could destroy his reputation.
Despite the rules against casual touching and fraternizing in public, Jonis Sinter offers Tallie comfort instead of denouncing him for an excessive emotional display, and they fast become friends. Secret friends, though, because Worran, the respectable son of a governor, has asked Tallie to be his partner.
When Worran’s mother learns of Tallie’s association with an outcast, she dispatches the militia. Worran sends Tallie a warning, and Tallie flees the city and civilization with Jonis. Surviving the wilds will take every ounce of perseverance they can muster, and the rediscovery of music might be their only solace— unless they recognize the love that’s growing between them.
I’ve been eager for a fantasy novel with a little world-building, and Tapestry fits the bill quite nicely. Tallie lives in Ollas, where, due to a great civil war, emotions – and anything that can stir them, such as music, storytelling, dance, and physical contact – are outlawed. Burton did an excellent job of creating a world that is utterly abominable, but still believable and unique.
Tallie, who was raised in a lower guild but taken into a higher one because of his obvious natural talent with design, is terrified of breaking these laws. If he does, he may be thrown out of his new guild, his future ruined and his dreams made impossible.
Like the blurb says, Tallie is being courted by Worran, a close friend from a high-ranking guild. Worran chafes at being unable to touch others, and breaks this rule whenever possible. He often tries to convince Tallie to break it with him. Tallie, who is attracted to Worran on a physical level but fears the repercussions of being caught, refuses. Despite his young age, Tallie is consistently the most mature character in the book. His feet are solidly on the ground. He refuses to be swept into foolish decisions. He is able to recognize the difference between being attracted to someone, enjoying their presence and their friendship, and being in love with them.
Despite his fear of being thrown out of his guild, Tallie is still drawn to Jonis, an outcast who has no guild.
Love triangles are a little over-done in YA. This one manages to avoid all the usual tropes and cliches. From the very beginning, there is an incredible difference between Tallie’s feelings for Worran and his feelings for Jonis – not in the strength of those feelings, but in their nature. Tallie and Worran are further along in their relationship, and their feelings for each other are, in a way, more powerful, but their relationship still feels like friendship. Whereas Tallie’s friendship with Jonis feels very natural, as if it is part of a larger expression of who he is and who he wants to be.
When Worran asks Tallie to break a rule, Tallie refuses, fearing for his future. But when Jonis is in trouble, Tallie abandons that future entirely.
The larger story arc (beyond the romance) is beautiful. Tallie and Jonis both have an interest in the arts – though, of course, because most of the arts are banned in their world, they generally have no idea what they are doing when they explore these interests. They discover music. They discover dancing. They develop deep relationships with other people. They learn to question society’s rules and make their own rules.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. While it didn’t sweep me away, it was a lovely read. Recommended.