The world ended, but humanity didn’t. Somehow, it kept trudging along, through wars, countless deaths, and a loss of knowledge and supplies. Humanity, at least the part of it Siril is a part of, doesn’t even have the ability to make bullets, anymore, resorting to bows and arrows to hunt the wildlife — giant wolves and vicious boars (and the occasional squirrel) that stalk the village Siril is bound to. Siril was originally born to the Sara clan, but was gifted to this tribe to serve its eldest son, Haul, when he was eighteen. For the past two years, Siril has been Haul’s servant. He dresses him, undresses him, waits on him hand and foot, and now that the two years are over, he should be freed.
Haul, however, has other ideas. He claims to be displeased with Siril’s service and has demanded one more year of him. For Siril, who would rather eat a bug or learn to sing than serve Haul a second more, it’s almost a death sentence. How can he survive another year of this torture? Because, for as much as Siril wants his freedom, he, too, wants to stay close. He has been lusting after Haul for two long years … and one more may well be the end of him.
This short story is the first entry in the Serving Haul series and takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where … bad things happened? People, at least the people of Siril’s geographic area, have splintered into tribes and clans who are constantly at war. One tribe (all tribes, other than the Sara Clan, are nameless in this book) found Haul’s tribe’s women and children helpless and undefended and slaughtered them, leaving Haul’s people without a single female of any kind. It’s intimated that Siril’s clan has women and children, but he’s been gone from them for two years and any relationships between his tribe and Haul’s is never mentioned.
Siril, himself, is an angry young man. He has always known he was gay and uninterested in the girls of his clan, and feels neither shame nor guilt in being gay. What he does feel guilty about is having a giant crush on Haul. He wants to touch him, to stroke him, to fuck him. But he can’t. For … reasons?
The story is told through Siril’s eyes, and in them Haul is beautiful, untouchable, pure, and perfect. He’s also weak, vulnerable, and exquisite. Other than being the object of Siril’s lust and being young, it’s hard to get a read on Haul’s personality. He’s shy until he isn’t, he’s brave but a coward, he’s useless but a young hero. And he’s beautiful.
The world building in this book is nowhere to be found. I have lots of questions and there’s no answer to any one of them. For all that Siril is a servant (or is he a slave?), I have no idea what his status in the tribe is. There are silks and furs aplenty, as well as wild and vicious predators within an hour’s walk (or less) of the village and it’s tents, but humanity lost the ability to make bullets in less than twenty years? At this moment in the story, are Haul and Siril in a hunting or traveling party, hence the tents, or is this just how humans live, now? But they’re able to make beer, so there are either farmlands or trade, but it’s never mentioned. In fact, not much of anything is explained. And then there’s the sex scene. To be honest, I found it to be poorly written. Throughout the book, there are are also some minor tense issues and incorrect word usage, along with very adverb heavy sentences. Personally, I can’t recommend this story.