Oren’s vowed has died, and during the funeral procession he bares his body to show off the brands and scars, because he’s proud of Haram’s marks. The tribe thinks that it means Oren is weak and can’t take care of himself. But Veld knows better. Veld has been friends with Oren and Haram since he came to the village two years ago. He knows the depth that was Oren and Haram’s relationship, and he treasures it. He wants it for himself, in fact. With Oren. But he will not make a move while Oren is in mourning.
Veld is a forester and tends the trees, creating homes for the members of the tribe, though he’s an outsider who hasn’t been in the village for long. When someone tries to kill Healer Rames, Veld is accused and arrested, though the truth seeker knows that Veld didn’t do it and that he’s being framed. Veld helps to find who actually did it, and he is eventually released. But the well-meaning elders of the tribe are constantly badgering Oren, wanting to take care of him because they think he can’t. It’s then that Veld learns that Haram made provisions for Veld to take over Oren’s contract should anything happen to him. Veld now has everything he’s ever wanted, because he’s longed for Oren since then moment they met, but in order to have it he has to reconcile is own feelings and what is best for Oren.
You guys know by now that I’m a sucker for a well-crafted world, and what Arden has here is magic, both figuratively and literally. I felt immersed into this alternate reality, with everything explained at the right time and in the right way. I loved this world she’s created, and I never felt confused or lost. It’s vastly different from our own, and different enough from other fantasy settings to give it a fresh feeling. I enjoyed spending time here and I know I’d be happy to go back again.
Now, this is a relatively short novella and it’s a quick read. For the most part, this worked really well. I absolutely adored Veld and Oren, and I wanted nothing more for them to find their HEA. I liked that there weren’t long and drawn out moments of angst and second guessing. Veld had reservations that made a lot of sense, and I didn’t think they were overdone. Wanting and loving someone who has just lost his spouse is tricking business, and I appreciated the care Veld tried to show. In the end, I really liked how the author got them together and I thought it fit well with the story.
This is the point where I was regretting the shortness of the tale though. I wanted more. I wanted to see them learning to interact with each other and falling in love. I think my desire to see more of them is directly related to how much I cared for them, and that speaks to the author’s talent in making me want more. The tale was well crafted and well written, but I did feel like it ended just as things were getting started. Despite the bonus scene at the end, where we got to see the depth of Veld and Oren’s commitment, I felt like we could have benefitted from a bit more time with the characters.
I do want to make a quick note here that there is some Master/slave play and also scarification in this book. I thought it worked perfectly and fit in wonderfully. And it’s not too intense or over the top. But if either thing is on your hard limit list, then this story might not be for you.
Even though I had a few small quibbles, I can definitely recommend this story. Especially to anyone who is a lover of well-crafted fantasy worlds.