Tracy's Reviews > Song of Oestend

Song of Oestend by Marie Sexton
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's review
Jan 17, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: f-sf, m-m
Read in January, 2012

Oh, where to start?

Aren is such a contradiction; he describes himself as having allowed others to use his body for sex, having subsumed his pride in service to his desire. He's been disinherited by his family for his proclivities, he's been turned into a pariah and, ultimately, shipped off to an entirely new country when his lover got bored with him. And yet, he's strong, in his own way, and has the courage of his convictions, such as they are. He's determined to make a new life for himself, however strange and scary and dangerous the situation might be. And on this particular frontier, it is very much all three.

Deacon is the de facto foreman on the ranch where Aren has been hired as bookkeeper. He has plenty of secrets of his own (as do, apparently, plenty of others on the ranch, including owner Jeremiah's oldest son Dante, Dante's wife Daisy, neighbor's daughter Alissa...) Deacon's also worn down with the weight of being the strongest personality on the ranch, the one soul capable of providing the direction the other farm hands need and keeping everyone safe.

Deacon and Aren do a delicate sort of courtship dance, neither completely willing initially to acknowledge their attraction for each other and hampered by Deacon's need to keep Aren as the one friend he's got, since he can't really be friendly with the men he needs to have respond to orders without question. They're jogged along the way by Olsa, a native woman who's employed as cook for the ranch. Olsa's relationship with Deacon is much that of a grandmother; she ultimately raised him as his mother died when he was very very young and she was a native woman bought as a slave to provide Jeremiah's brother with an heir. Olsa has taught Deacon all the old traditions, but he's also been raised and acknowledged by Jeremiah as a member of the family, and he feels torn between the two roles, unable to fully believe either. The balance of power and the roles taken on by Aren and Deacon in their relationship with each other were absolutely NOT what I was expecting, but also felt right and made sense when I thought about them. Aren had plenty of experience and opportunity to learn exactly what he wanted and needed from a relationship, and was able to be exactly what Deacon needed to help him reconcile the contradictions of his life.

Tragedy strikes a nearby ranch when the generators that keep the wraiths at bay fail, killing everyone, including Jeremiah's second son Brighton and his wife and sons, who were visiting Brighton's in-laws. Deacon has to go find out why they're so late returning from their visit and then has to cope with the mass deaths and fix the generator and and and...sometimes, it seems that the book is one long death scene interspersed with interludes of almost-hopefulness -- ranch hands and others die to injury from the giant, viciously ill bull, wraiths, sheer bloody-mindedness. And there's nothing much anyone can do about any of it.

And of the supporting characters? Some of them were little more than backdrops, but a few really stood out -- Dante, Daisy, Tama, Frances, Alissa, Simon, Garrett and especially Olsa.
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