Thanks to Harmony Ink Press for the review copy!
Reasons for Inclusion: M/M romance, society where same-sex couples are totally accepted
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.
In Ollas, while nobody blinks an eye at two boys pairing up, music, dancing, and shows of affection are absolutely forbidden, because emotions are a danger to the stability of society.
Tallie is a rising star in the Designers’ guild. He’s even caught the eye of Worran, a respected governor’s son. But then his outsider friend Jonis creates a musical instrument, breaking the Fundamental Laws, and the two go on the run, along with Tallie’s friend Tommin’s pregnant girlfriend.
They first take refuge with a camp of outsider Vagabonds, and then a friendly shepherd, before making a home in an isolated cave.
The two boys experience new ways of living: the freer Bonder lifestyle, lived under the constant threat of a raid by the authorities, is sharply contrasted with their old strictly-regulated life in the city.
Living alone is even harder: they must survive illness and injury, find food for the winter, and make every item they use. But they have music to get them through it, music that even seems to be able to cure the pervasive Gray Sickness. If music can do so much good, Tallie and Jonis wonder, can it really be as evil as the Governors say?
I loved the worldbuilding and descriptions, especially the descriptions of daily life in their cave home. Tallie is an artist and Jonis is an inventor, so together they manage to make a good home out of plants, river clay, and the few things they brought with them when they ran away.
But some of the conversations were very awkward. A lot of things were spelled out in dialogue when they didn’t really need to be, or the wording felt really clumsy. The descriptions of music also sometimes got carried away in overblown metaphors. Some of that is clearly down to the fact that the characters are stumbling to explain concepts they have no words for, but some exchanges still felt odd.
I also found it a little strange that the Founders would ban music and touching, but not other forms of art or romantic place names like “Cascadia”
But asides from that, the storytelling was very good. Everybody that Tallie and Jonis met was important in some way to their journey, and the skills they learned helped them later on. Learning to leave behind the rules their society ingrained in them was difficult at times, making their rebellion all the more powerful.
While sometimes over-the-top, Tapestry is a beautiful story about the power of music to change the world.