In Ollas, anything that stirs the emotions is forbidden by the governors—especially music. So when Tallie Tarmelin, a farm boy from a lower-tier guild, is offered a scholarship for his talent in design, he keeps his head down and follows the rules. He’s terrified of breaking one of his society’s many laws and ruining his future. But feeling lost and alone in an unfamiliar city takes its toll, and Tallie accepts sympathy from a guildless social outcast even though he knows it could destroy his reputation.
Despite the rules against casual touching and fraternizing in public, Jonis Sinter offers Tallie comfort instead of denouncing him for an excessive emotional display, and they fast become friends. Secret friends, though, because Worran, the respectable son of a governor, has asked Tallie to be his partner.
When Worran’s mother learns of Tallie’s association with an outcast, she dispatches the militia. Worran sends Tallie a warning, and Tallie flees the city and civilization with Jonis. Surviving the wilds will take every ounce of perseverance they can muster, and the rediscovery of music might be their only solace— unless they recognize the love that’s growing between them.
First of all, I adore the cover. But aside from that, here is my real review:
Wow. Where do I even begin with a book like this? I’m not even sure what genre it would be categorized under. It has some elements of fantasy, but not like in major fantasy novels, as the magic is not real, just assumed. It’s epic in scope, and features a utopian society. Parts of me feel like it takes place in our future where a section of our country is partitioned off by some method and then they seem to regress in some ways. So… historical at the same time? I even felt a bit of steampunk in there at times. Overall it’s a wonderfully disorienting experience when you read something so refreshingly new.
Tallie and Jonis are wonderful characters that I loved throughout the novel. At many parts they tugged at my heart and I needed a few moments to compose myself before reading on. I wanted to rush through the story to get at the end, and yet at the same time I forced myself to slow down and enjoy it. I didn’t want it to end. I want more from Tallie and Jonis, yet it feels like their adventure is over at the end of the book, especially given the last line. Another story in that world would be great, and yet I don’t think it would be as enjoyable without Tallie and Jonis present.
What a wonderful experience this book was, and that’s just what it is. An experience. Hallie Burton fully immerses readers in the world she created where loving someone of the same gender is so completely normal that it’s not questioned in the slightest. No one objects to it. The things that are objected to, the things that are forbidden, are elements we take for granted, such as music and dancing. And affection. Can you imagine living in a world without those things? I can’t.