The Adorned - John Tristan This is not my normal type of book… yet I found it compelling reading, this is an excellent piece of fiction, the writing sublime and the prose just... So. Damn. Beautiful. I found the whole experience enchanting, I was transported into a fantasy world that is brought to life by the amazing words and characterisation of John Tristan.


The narrator is Etan and this is his story and when we first meet him I felt all of his hopelessness and despair, his narration was perfunctory… void of emotion and feeling, formal and respectful, resigned to his fate as a penniless orphan after the creditors stripped his house bare and threw him out on the streets after the death of his father.

Etan is a country boy, an illness in childhood leaving him small and frail, he is gentle in nature, a true innocent, and certainly not used to the oppression, filth and stench of the city… neither is he street wise, and before long he is beaten, robbed and left bleeding. Saved by Gren, the rickshaw driver of Maxen Udred a bond broker… he at last has a sliver of hope with which to cling to, that is If selling yourself as an indentured servant for five years is hope! Etan is educated and can read and write, a rare talent but not one that is needed in servitude, neither does he have the build for an apprenticeship… he is however beautiful and when Maxen takes him to Roberd Tallisk a tattoo-master he see’s the allure immediately and so Etan becomes a bondservant to Tallisk, an Adorned, a tattooed courtier and a canvas for the living piece of art displaying the intricate designs and talents of his master.

My nerves had carried me for too long. I had lived on an edge, these past few weeks. I had stepped off that edge, now, landing on one side or the other, and marked my choice in a hasty scrawl of ink. That choice, I knew, would be recorded on me forever. Whatever happened here in Tallisk’s household would be indelibly inscribed upon my skin

The cordial acceptance and polite manner of Etan’s narration and his lack of emotion, rather than distance him from me made me yearn to hug him… I just wanted to see his face light up with a smile. Initially we see him silently allow those around him to take advantage, however I wanted him to get mad and wanted him to stand up for himself but he remains acquiescent… as time moves on and the story unfolds we do start to see some of that fire in his belly, that part of him that no longer wants to live in the shadows, but it is Etan's gentle soul and disposition that sets him apart as a character, he is a beautiful person inside and out and that touches the lives of those around him, as well as carving out a huge slice of my own heart!

Suddenly, I found that my face was wet with tears. They dripped down my chin and into the water. I lifted my hand to my face, touching my wet cheek wonderingly. The tears had refused to come when my father had died, when I’d been turned out of the house I was born in. Now they rolled down my cheeks in slow torrents, and I could not quite tell what I was crying for.

The introduction of Tallick had my heart starting to race in anticipation of more… he is a man of very few words and barely acknowledges Etan, there is an underlying current of sexual tension between them, very subtle as this book is not a sex fest and the what sex there is, is short and quickly described and I wasn’t feeling a whole lot of passion from it, but this is more about the romance which is a slow build and actually a small part of this book. Even though Etan is blind to the fact that Tallick likes him, I blame it on his innocence, we can clearly see Tallick’s inner turmoil, his battle with his stubborn pride and the hurt he feels at Etan’s displays and other services. Etan has no idea the affect he has on others, to him it is the art that adorns him that people are drawn to, he also see’s himself as worthless and doesn’t allow himself to touch on what is really in his heart. I get the impression as his mother died when he was young and growing up with his father, their love was based more on respect rather than affection.

We only have Etan’s view of this world we are visiting and having lived his life in the country his knowledge of the wars that have ravaged the land and those fractions involved is limited and sketchy at best, the politics and battles are all fairy tales… So as he is thrown into this world of the blooded, sword nobles, counts, princesses, where beauty is a thing to behold and adored... and as he becomes enlightened, so are we. I was captivated watching this world unfold through the eyes of a nineteen year old boy and I liked that we are not bombarded with facts and lists of information but rather snippets to build a big enough picture to see it as Etan does and in my minds eye I saw it all, the decadence, opulence and grandeur of the Palaces and Manors, the jewels, colour and splendour of it all laid out beautifully by the descriptive prose of John Tristan and his writing is pure gold… but there is also another other side to this tale, and that world is filled with chaos, poverty, filth and the stench of the city inhabited by those fallen victim to the indulgences and disregard of the rich and powerful.

The Adornment, which is really the heart of the book and what it revolves around, the story behind it, the fact it sustains Tallick and breaths life into his very soul and how it becomes a living piece of art... a spectacle and beauty created to be gazed upon and adored by those privileged was all just fascinating… I loved it! But beauty is only skin deep and that part of this book was where the emotion really came into play and what we see is raw, heart-breaking and ugly, yet still so very beautiful.

For the most part this book is outstanding! and I really want to give it 5 stars but the one thing that let it down for me was I wanted more time between Etan and Tallick, more time to see their relationship develop, to really see, feel and hear the emotion between them, I was yearning and desperate for it… pftt, even the lack of sex didn’t bother me, I just wanted an extra couple of chapters where they explore what is in their hearts. Despite that I still loved this book and will definitely be reading more from Mr John Tristan, who’s writing alone should be worshiped!

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