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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tatterdemalion by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox

Tatterdemalion by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (197 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 5 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Deep runs the world of magic—and desire.

Foundations of Magic, Book 1

Lindsay Carrington is a prisoner of his life—first in the mundane world, then in the military testing facility where his parents sent him to have his magic dissected, studied and “fixed”. When he finally escapes, freedom comes at great cost. The man who rescues him from near death in a dark alley is far from a savior. He’s a feral mage nearly as broken as Lindsay himself.

Dane knows better than to argue with the wind that summoned him to Lindsay’s rescue, but playing nursemaid isn’t the role he envisioned for himself in the battle to end the human campaign to control his people. In spite of his resistance, he is bound to the delicate, skittish mage who unwittingly harbors one of the greatest magical powers ever known.

Lindsay desperately hides his growing desire, sure that Dane could never reciprocate. Yet Dane lays his life on the line to protect him, restoring the one thing Lindsay thought was gone forever: hope.

But true freedom to live—and to love—will elude Lindsay until he can regain his magic and win Dane’s complete devotion. And survive long enough to do both.

Shattered hopes litter this story like discarded food wrappers along the highway. Pain, both old and new, runs under the surface in a constant, dendritic network. Yet this is a triumphant story of reclamation and renewal rather than despair.

In this intelligently written, edgy urban fantasy, we see what might be familiar themes at first glance. But be careful with first glances in this novel. You’ll trip on them. We do have the classic fantasy theme of a young mage hunted for his power. We have the familiar pairing in M/M fiction of the strong, primal, large male and the more delicate, submissive younger male. But from there we veer off nicely onto less trodden ground. Lindsay is the damaged, barely functional sub in this pair but while he’s still struggling with his gifts, he is by no means a passive, I-need-you-to-rescue-me twink. He’s dangerous. He knows it and fears his own powers. He struggles with the terrible trauma he’s suffered and the need to find some new reason to go on.

He finds that reason in Dane, the feral, physically powerful male who pulls his battered body from a dumpster. Again, Dane is not your typical Alpha. He’s badly damaged as well. Unlike Lindsay, though, we have hints and bits that tell us the damage done to him was at least partly his fault. His past has left him diminished, unsure of how to deal with human emotions, uncertain of his future. Vulnerability lies in subterranean veins just under his enormous strength and while he believes he’s there to protect Lindsay, the boy is really his last chance, his last hope.

Dark themes populate the story as well such as our inability to approach something wondrous without the need to exploit it, our inability to accept the unfamiliar without fear and violence. In crisp, concise sentences, the reader watches the horror of Lindsay’s early captivity. But the central theme is one of redemption, told in prose that is intelligent and often beautiful even in its stark moments. There are plenty of love scenes, once our two heroes connect, both tender and wild, with the surfeit of nuzzling and cuddling one would expect with a half-feral male. The workings of magic, the rules of this imagining, are all well thought out and there is the sense of a complete world rather than one cobbled together as is often the case in fantasy romance. Don’t expect all the answers, though. There are plenty of things left unsaid, plenty of mysteries left in their dark corners of memory, and plenty of things left unresolved. There may be more story to come, but I found a definite sense of satisfaction in where this one ended and, as a reader, prefer to have some things hinted at, things to chew on, rather than to have things over-explained and doled out like verbal pabulum. The sentences are often simple, but the story is challenging and demands that the reader pay attention.

This is not a book for those who crave romances that fit into nice, neat boxes. For those who prefer otherwise, it’s one heck of a ride.

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