Title: Song of Oestend
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Total e-Bound
Characters: Aren Montrell, Deacon
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Paranormal, AU, M/M/M
Symbols have power…
Aren Montrell has heard tales of the Oestend wraiths – mysterious creatures which come in the night and kill anyone who’s not indoors. Aren’s never had reason to believe the stories, but when he takes a job as a bookkeeper on the BarChi, a dusty cattle ranch on the remote Oestend prairie, he soon learns that the wraiths are real. Aren suddenly finds himself living in a supposedly haunted house and depending on wards and generators to protect him from unseen things in the night. As if that’s not enough, he has to deal with a crotchety old blind woman, face “cows” that look like nothing he’s ever seen before, and try to ignore the fact that he’s apparently the most eligible bachelor around.
Aren also finds himself the one and only confidante of Deacon, the BarChi’s burly foreman. Deacon runs the BarChi with an iron fist and is obviously relieved to finally have somebody he can talk to. As their relationship grows, Aren learns there’s more to Deacon and the BarChi than he’d anticipated. Deacon seems determined to deny both his Oestend heritage and any claim he may have to the BarChi ranch, but if Aren is to survive the perils of Oestend, he’ll have to convince Deacon to stop running from the past and finally claim everything that’s his.
Two very different men are attempting to escape their pasts.
Aren Montrell, an artist and scholar, has accepted a position as bookkeeper at the BarChi Ranch in the desolate, wild, and supremely dangerous Oestend territory. Aren is a man whose desires have led him to make choices that, in the harsh light of day, have often left him feeling ashamed of those needs and the way in which he’s been forced to satisfy them—his body used as a playground by men who could not have cared less for Aren, but cared very much about slaking their own physical hungers.
Deacon is the foreman of the BarChi, a man who was pushed by prejudice, years before, into denying his attraction to men. Deacon is a man who wears the weight of his responsibility like a mantle, forced each day to earn the respect of the hands and to ensure that the ranch and everyone who lives and works there not only does his share but also remains safe from the natural and unnatural dangers that make the days and nights in Oestend a perilous existence to navigate. Deacon’s iron rule over the ranch does little to earn him friendship from the men he leads, but friendship doesn’t count for much of anything if the men don’t respect him. Deacon is a man with an uncertain past, and rather than aligning himself with one history or the other, he has chosen to deny both. In doing so, he has denied both his birthright and his heritage—a heritage that will ultimately prove to be incomparably vital to his future.
When Aren and Deacon meet, it seems unlikely the men might find enough in common to form any sort of bond, but they do, slowly and genuinely, as they each discover that friendships can spring from necessity and grow from little more than the need to connect with someone who understands that companionship is not about what you can take, but also about what you can give; that it’s not about what you say, but that you’re willing to listen.
Song of Oestend is set in a landscape that conjured a picture in my mind of distant times, when the American West was nothing but miles of barren land, a land where Native American lore was a religion in which the People honored those who had come before them.
The land of Oestend is haunted by the spirits of the Old People who left the realms of the living and passed into a spirit world to become revenants, an intangible and utterly deadly foe that will kill anyone who dares to trespass upon the dark of the night they claim as their own. The wards and songs, the prayers sung in the ancient language of the Old People, have been mostly forgotten and replaced by more modern technology, a dependence that turns tragic when technology fails those who depend upon it to survive.
Marie Sexton has written a tale that is woven together from several threads. It is a story of the paranormal that runs through an alternate universe of centuries past, where the unusual is the norm. It is a story of legend and of a race that has been all but decimated, of a lost language and customs that are part of the past, but find a very urgent purpose in the present. It is a story of a young love torn apart by religious intolerance, about one boy who moved on, while the other became mired in what might have been, and crippled by his inability to let go. That betrayal of self becomes integral to the story for Aren and Deacon when its poison threatens to harm them.
At its heart, however, this novel is the story of two men who find their way to each other from different paths in life. It is a story of a dominant man who, in the private times they share, is willing to give up control of himself—heart, soul, and body—to a man who, until that point, had only submitted to those who’d used and dismissed him. Their bond is formed within mutual need and a profound and undeniable trust that they mean more to each other than merely a way to satisfy their own individual desires. They are connected by the certainty that they have each found in the other, the one who will give him the strength to fight for a future not haunted by the past.
Symbols have power, which Aren and Deacon prove when death threatens to separate them, but those symbols are made even more powerful when constructed in love. Though the journey isn’t always easy, though it takes some time for Aren and Deacon to find the crossroads that will alter the paths their lives have been on, it was so well worth the trip.
Reviewed By: Lisa