Book Review: The Adorned by John Tristan

My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered—and Roberd and myself along with it…

Wow.

I am left speechless and breathless at the end of this book, and find myself mourning that there is not more of this world for me to dive into. A five star rating system is not enough, and I feel that this book deserves its own category.

Normally I would wait to write a review until some time had passed, but at 1:30 in the morning I just can’t wait. I need to share how wonderful this book is. For the last twenty-four hours I have lived in Kered with Etan and Tallisk, and now that the book is over and I have left it, I feel like I have lost dear friends.

The book is long, but it is a carefully crafted journey that takes readers from the initial plight of Etan being turned out of his former home, his flight to the city, and how he ends up becoming one of the Adorned – a beautiful, living piece of art. His body becomes the canvas of Roberd Tallisk, a master tattooist whose art comes to life with the blood of the Blooded. Readers will follow Etan’s rise in fame as one of the popular Adorned, and see how he is used by the elite members of society for beauty, entertainment, pleasure, and more.

His growing love for Roberd is carefully nuanced throughout the novel, as are the feelings of Roberd for Etan. Told through Etan’s perspective, we see glimpses of it in his actions, but it can only be suspected. And though the protagonists are both men, their love is beautiful. Those who normally shy away from gay romances (or m/m, whichever you prefer) would be missing out on a superbly crafted tale. That said, if you prefer a…spicier gay romance, you won’t find that here. The scenes are subdued and fitting with the rest of the book.

There are moments of discord for the protagonists, though. The city is swept up with chaos, riots break out, and your heart will break. I felt like this story built me up into a wonderful cocoon of beauty and then sharply cut me out and cut me open. I admit I cried.

The ending is bittersweet, but a perfect ending is not always possible, even in fiction, even if we want it. And I think if the ending had been perfect, then all the trials Etan and Roberd went through would have cheapened the story.

This is a well-crafted novel. I am not only deeply saddened that it is over, but I regret that – since it is an e-book with a company that does not offer print – I will not be able to add this fine piece to my collection on my shelves. I will be revisiting this world often, and I look forward to more from John Tristan.

You can purchase this book on its release August 12, 2013 from Amazon.

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