NOTE: This book was previously released as part of the Carved in Flesh anthology from Storm Moon Press.
Veld, tree elf and Forester, fell in love with mute baker Oren, also a tree elf, when he first set eyes on him two turns ago, but Healer Haram, Oren’s vowed, made it clear that he had no intention of sharing Oren with Veld. Now, with Oren in mourning after Haram is killed, Veld is torn between Haram’s unwillingness to share and his desire to make Oren his. But when Haram’s death turns out not to be quite the accident it seemed to be, Veld is drawn into the investigation. At the same time, others appear to claim Oren’s independence, and Veld is forced to face his insecurities or risk losing Oren… again.
This story starts out on a sad note with what appears to be an accidental death of an Elf. He leaves behind Oren his “vowed” which seems to mean spouse. Oren isn’t just this Elf’s lover, he is also his submissive. Oren is a service submissive. He needs someone to serve and who will care for him. He is lost without that. Veld has been in love with Oren since he first met him. (The relationships are open in this world but Haram, the dead Elf, wouldn’t share.) He is yearning to go to Oren and help him but is kept back by custom and bonds of friendship.
This story has a D/s element in it. Oren is a truly, deeply submissive man. Most of the other elves don’t understand what and how his submission works. Oren is a service submissive. Haram and Veld are both into scarification. Haram has put his “art” on Oren and some of the other elves believe this means he was abused. Veld longs to put his own marks on Oren.
I think the author did a very good job in showing how scarification appears to those who love it and those who don’t. It is easy to see and show the disapproval of the practice. I did think the author did a good job in showing how that kind of attention is wearing and impossible to take for a true submissive. The other side of this is a little harder and I think the author did well at showing some of it. The art, love, and possession that these marks are is mentioned many times in the story. Also I think the story is a good example of how those who are different are easily mistreated. Veld is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit but it is easy for people to believe because he is different. Those women wouldn’t leave poor Oren alone because he was different. For a short story the author does do a good job with all this.
The bad in the book was the lack of any real in depth knowledge of the characters. I would have liked to have known more about Oren and his background. Also the ending was wayyyy too abrupt. The characters are just getting together and it ends. The whole of the book seemed to slowly build up to the moment these two get together and we never see it. We get a to know it happened but that is about it. I would have liked to see a little more of that fire that seemed to be waiting there between these two. We actually get an epilogue of sorts that just down played the whole thing and almost ruined the whole book. This was very disappointing to me as a reader.