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review 2014-04-10 16:21
[REVIEW] Out of the Woods (Tarin's World # 1) by Syd McGinley
Out of the Woods - Syd McGinley

Out of the Woods by Syd McGinley My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recommended for: Open minded fans of M/M & and Dystopia/Apocalypse fiction
Read from March 26 to 31, 2014 — I own a copy, read count: 1


A Captivating Story of the Taming of a Free-spirited Wild Boy in a Post-Apocalypse Totalitarian Society

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Out of the Woods. It is a pleasure to watch the unique and original storyline unfolds as I tried my best to solve the mysteries surrounding the woodland boys and the men from the Before Times buildings. I pondered on why the men would hunt the boys each Fall? Why would new younger boys kept appearing in the woods skipping and singing. Are these new boys replacements for all those older ones which the men took with them? Where on earth did they come from when there's not a woman in sight? And lastly, why the men honour the Mothers greatly whereas the wood boys idolizes the Lady? These are only part of the mysteries found within the book and I am going to leave a theory of mine towards the end of this review on a major mystery everyone is dying to know. I am going to take my own shot at uncovering the layers of veils for that much speculated mystery.

These mysteries made Out of the Woods a highly compelling story. Apart from this there are other positive areas such as the well crafted characters that are engaging and relatable, amazing world-building with intriguing societal setup and exciting plots that super-glued me to the book.

Each of the characters have their own distinctive personality. And they are all memorable in their own way. This is especially true with Tarin our much adored protagonist. Tarin is a contented wild child of the woodland. His free-spirited ways with his valiant heart and plucky nature won me over. There is an endearing sweet innocent that surrounds him. He is also the character that made this story a whole lot of fun! His guileless approach to his new surroundings in the men's settlement resulted in many hilarious situations. Tarins says the darndest things! He tickles my funny bone countless times with his silly antics. He might appear to be clueless most of the times, yet there are times where he is wise beyond his years. I love him to bits.

The atmospheres at the men's settlement is always buzzing and alive with activities. Their daily lives are fascinating to me. Watching the men trying to reconstruct a civilized society based on what was left behind after what I think was an apocalypse destruction was thought-provoking.

Although there is only one antagonist in this story, I would say he wasn't the biggest threat to our protagonist or to his friends. It was men's greed for power and over ambitiousness of maintaining absolute control over others that made many suffered unfairly. This was nothing but outright tyranny and enslavement in the guise of protection and safety. Hence I reckon this issue as the predominant threat to Tarin and the boys.

The men adopted to a totalitarian societal setup that bears strong resemblance to a militarian organization. They are segregated by ranking and entitled to certain benefits according to their ranks. While the boys will always be boys; they do not have any authority or any actual autonomy. (I am unsure if this is a spoiler, but I decided to hide it to be on the safe side. So explore at your own risk)

The most, they are viewed as men's possession. A status symbol and a privilege all of the men are vying for; the boys are the ultimate price that bespoke a men's achievements.

(spoiler show)

This hierarchical system promotes powerplay that encourages oppression of the weakest. While I am fascinated by this societal structure, I am also repulsed by the harsh treatments of the boys because of it. As the judicial system was only made up by several of the top guns, the men are inevitably favored.


I believe I have a different perspective as to how this extraordinary world came about in comparison with other readers views. Scientific experimentation and gender imbalanced was amongst those theories pointed out by some readers.


As for me, I would like to think of this as a results of an intentional gender segregation designed by the females in order to control over the male population as an effort to contain the male's destructive nature that might have caused the apocalypse. I am guessing the apocalypse gave the females a chance to built a matriarch society with the aim of protecting mankind from further self destruction and extinction. It is some form of a preservation movement.


What supported this idea was because the Mothers only leave males in the woods even when said male has females siblings. For example, Tarin's sister Nalini gets to stay with the Mothers while he and his brother and male cousin was sent off to the woods. There was no mention of men amongst these woman who seems to have higher knowledge and technological advancement. Therefore I suspect they are deliberately keeping the men in the dark, only allowing low technology assistance and under their constant monitoring and commands because of the preservation movement I've just mentioned above. Another point from this angle is that they are also controlling the male population with intent since there was no females made available to these men. Yet this matriarch society manages to produce offspring by themselves and even gets to decide who goes where in the men's society. The Mothers has supreme pick of genes from the obedient pool of man who worships them like goddesses. The men's fanatical idolization of the Mothers felt somewhat like a cult religion.

(spoiler show)


Out of the Woods is certainly a character and plot driven story. There are many intriguing aspects in the lives of these men and boys to keep the wheels in my brain spinning endlessly churning out one speculation after another. I always appreciate books that made me think, helps keep my brain from rusting away. Heh.

Sex was sparse and low key. I was quite surprised it wasn't heavy on the sex as the men and the boys are all pretty hedonistic in nature. Don't fret though, because gifts (that's what they called jism/cum) are flying everywhere 'all the time' despite the lack of penetration.

I had SO much fun trying to try to figure out all those new words used to describe Before Times stuff, for example the 'silver duck', 'divid' and 'go-sloshes'. It's quite funny once you get what they actually meant.

I didn't spend time to talk about Tarin's relationship with his man because I wish to focus on the uniqueness of the setting and also to share my impression of the story as a whole. If you must know, the romance aspect wasn't the core of this story. It is more like a sub-plot. Tarin and Garrick did have a rocky beginning and they both have to work out their priorities before their relationship could take the next step. Yes, Garrick is a good man at heart and his patient and caring ways made him suitable for Tarin.

The focus of the story is really on Tarin's struggles on fitting in with the men's civilized community and his effort to find himself again in a strange world he was thrown into. It wasn't an easy feat and he was fighting them every steps. Everything felt wrong to him, his beliefs was scorned, his will and freedom was forcefully taken away from him. His only hope for survival is his submission. In the men's eyes Tarin is just a savage that needed to be tamed and to learn his place amongst the men.

I know some readers might find the woodland boys to be too childlike and dislike the story because the boys' peculiar behaviour would make the men appears like perverted geezers pawing on the kids. Nevertheless I am excusing this odd behavior of the boys because they have essentially lived in seclusion ever since young and devoid of adult attentions or exposure to the civilized world. Therefore it is highly plausible for them to retain their innocence and to displays such level of naivety akin to a young child just on the onset of puberty despite being in their late teens years. Hell! the boys can't even speak properly, they lack vocabulary and grammatical knowledge to make their dialog mature.

All this makes sense to me and I am glad the author has the wisdom to depict these special boys with such strange situations realistically. In fact, I would commend the author for her superb skill at bringing to life such a difficult character to portray, as the main character. Making him an engaging character who not only charmed the readers but carried the storyline effortlessly was an amazing feat.

I wish I could tell you more but I do not want to spoil the story for you. Do read this with an open mind if you wish to gain more than just a capture-captive story. I loved it so much that I picked up the sequel right after putting this book down and finished the second book in record breaking time.

If you wish to explore more of Tarin's world, you might want to check out the author's page dedicated to this wonderful book: TARIN'S WORLD (it is very informative and I really appreciate the author's effort on putting it up. How I wish other books I've ever read has such a page for the readers)

Title: Out of the Woods
Author: Syd McGinley
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2011
Publisher: Torquere
Type: Novel, 80,349 words (approximate)
Genre: Post-apocalypse and Dystopian M/M Fiction, Science Fiction-Futuristic
Main Characters:

Tarin (a young woodland boy), Garrick/Beak-face (a hunter cum Captain and also Tarin's man), Mart (Tarin's former protector in the woods), Cale (a Lieutenant and also Mart's man), Titus (Head of the religious group and a co-commander of the community), Sten (he is a General and a co-commander with Titus), Ofer (an abused community boy), Cory (a woodland boy under Tarin's protection), Edon (Sergeant), Gideon (Healer cum Colonel), Helem (Armorer cum Colonel), Jadon (a Major), Micah (Cadet), Kenan (Cadet)

(spoiler show)


Post-apocalypse, Dystopian, Patriarchal society, Matriarch, Totalitarian, Oppression, Abuse, Same Sex Relationships, Gay, Enslavement, Capture, Captivity, Confinement, Corporal Punishments, Pleasure Slaves, Sex pets, Slavery, Slave training, Military, Military ranking, Hierarchy, Caste System

(spoiler show)

Wild boy Tarin is determined not to be captured by the men who live in the decaying Before Times buildings on the other side of Tarin's woodland home, but he's just as determined to protect the younger boys in the woods. No one remembers being a child or knows where all the women have gone or how society crumbled, but for as long as they can remember, boys have lived in the woods and are hunted by the men each Fall. Some boys believe in a mysterious Lady who protects them, while others think the men are magic. Tarin knows better - he's met a man, and escaped by stabbing him. Hunted through the woods as he tries to protect the weaker Cory, Tarin is trapped and claimed by the very man he knifed. All Tarin wants is to stay in the woods and not have to get 'civilized,' but he's carried off into a different world of rules and discipline. Will he be able to survive now that he is Out of the Woods?

Excerpt found on Publisher's website:

Tarin curled his toes a bit tighter against the bark as he scooted his butt back, and leaned against the tree trunk. He wanted to be securely lodged to munch on his blackberries and nuts. He’d gotten more scratched than usual gathering the berries and he wasn’t inclined to share them with Cory who had done no work. He was a good ten arms off the ground and there were still plenty of leaves on the oak to hide him from grounders. He felt bad for the kids who couldn’t climb well -- one less escape route and hiding spot -- but Tarin relished the solitude and view. He sighed as he popped the first squishy purple fruit into his mouth. The woods were both lonely and crowded. The boys always knew where everyone was and what they were doing -- it was good sense -- but it was also smart to stay scattered in the run up to hunting season. Tarin hated the combination of no privacy and no real settled spot to call safe.


Tarin rolled the fruit around his mouth and mashed his tongue up to make it burst. Lady! It was good. Still warm from the sun and the sweetest thing he’d tasted all year.


He loosened his waist strings so his cock could poke free from his simple leather pouch of deer hide. He didn’t like wearing even that much but he’d learned to protect his cock and balls as he berry hunted. He missed Mart. Cory would pet him with his hands until Tarin gifted him with his come, but Mart had used his mouth to coax and lick his load from him. Mart would swallow straight from him, but Cory always primly lapped from his cupped hands. Tarin felt his gift was being politely accepted instead of relished. He tried to set an example by eagerly claiming his share from Cory’s cock, but it made no difference. Cory would shoot, but as soon as he was done he’d pull his prick away from Tarin’s still hungry mouth.


Tarin pulled at his foreskin a little and felt his cock push forward. He spat into his palm -- still purple with blackberry juice -- and rubbed his dick. He wrapped one leg tight around the oak limb and moaned as the bark chafed his inner thigh. It was rough, but felt so good. No one had caressed him since Mart. He rode the branch a little as he slid his foreskin back and forth. He leaned back to relieve the pressure on his balls and yelped as a twig prodded against his butt. Lady, how would that feel if it had poked in?


He bit his lip -- his cock had jerked at the idea even as his brain said ouch. Some of the boys said cocks could go there, but that was crazy talk. No one had ever actually done that! Mart said Aran, the boy who was his older protector, claimed his protector had got his cock in, but it had made Aran yell too loud, and even spit didn’t make it slide like a wet palm would. Tarin had grunted, and said it’s always someone who knows someone -- never any boy who’s actually here. Mart had sighed and moved his finger from Tarin’s tight, dry, little hole and agreed it didn’t seem likely.


Tarin pumped his hand faster. Lady! Yes! He tightened his hand and his come squirted between his fingers. Scat! He tried to cup his hand, but his precious fluid was already pattering onto leaves below him. Damn. That was bad luck -- and wasteful. He licked his fingers clean. Mm, berry juice and salt.


He leaned back against the tree trunk. Safe, private, fed, and satisfied. The sun and the breeze worked to dry his sticky cock and balls. He squinted across the treetops and tried to spot movements in the men’s camp.

(spoiler show)



This review has also been cross-posted on my blogs:


* Reviewed on April 10th, 2014


View all my reviews

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/477447511
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review 2012-01-08 00:00
Amaranth & Ash by Jessica Freely
Amaranth and Ash - Jessica Freely

This book sat in my wishlist for months because 1) it's kind of expensive and 2) I had some feelings of trepidation over how the author would handle the intersexed characters. In the end, I'm glad I bought and read it.

I was surprised at how often Amaranth & Ash made me think of Ariel Tachna's The Inventor's Companion. I wouldn't have guessed that the two books had very many similarities, but both star a character who is basically viewed as a high class whore by others (Lucio is a courtesan, Amaranth heals through sex, dealing primarily with patients who he feels aren't in need of healing and just want the sex) and both feature a caste system and a cross-caste romance. As far as how the romance was handled, I found I enjoyed Amaranth & Ash more.

The romance between Amaranth and Ash was very sweet. This book was published by Loose Id, so of course the sex scenes were explicit, but Amaranth and Ash didn't fall into bed right away. Ash was still recovering from a brutal gang rape (which was fade-to-black – no worries about reading an explicitly described rape scene), so, initially, all Amaranth worried about was healing him and convincing Ash to trust him. Even after he started to feel attracted to him, he was hesitant about acting on his attraction. Amaranth and Ash's relationship began more as one of mutual comfort rather than sex – Ash allowed Amaranth to sleep with him and learned to trust that Amaranth wouldn't do anything that made him uncomfortable, while Amaranth finally had someone around to help relieve his loneliness. The one thing I can think of that might make some people uncomfortable about Amaranth and Ash's developing relationship is that it occurs while Amaranth is acting as Ash's healer – even though I thought their relationship was sweet, I couldn't help but think of the Florence Nightingale effect.

The caste system was another area where I thought this book was well done. I particularly liked finding out more about how things worked in Chelon (the area where chel live), and I found the idea of soul sellers fascinating. The vasai, too, were interesting. They weren't all perfect little angels – although they were healers, there were still jerks among them. Also, although some characters put them on a pedestal, not everyone did. I had wondered what would happen after the lower castes found out there was a vasai among them. Some people reacted almost worshipfully, but in some cases things did turn darker.

Speaking of the vasai, I liked how Freely handled them as well. The vasai weren't just an opportunity for Freely to write sex involving different combinations of male and female genitalia without having to incorporate menages. I liked finding out more details about vasai life, and I was fascinated by the idea of hidden vasai. In an author's note, Freely writes about the thought that went into pronouns and, now that I've finished the book, I have to say that I'm relieved that Freely chose to use gender neutral pronouns for only one of the vasai – otherwise, the book would have been a slog to get through, since my brain couldn't see to adjust to seeing “sie” and “hir.”

Those of you who hate the soulmate trope may dislike one of the minor romantic relationships that pops up later in the book.

Grail, Amaranth's friend, ends up in a soulmate-style relationship with one of those hidden vasai I mentioned. It was definitely an insta-love situation, and it made me wonder if Amaranth and Ash would be explicitly identified as soulmates as well (I don't think they were).

(spoiler show)

Although I did really like this book overall, that's not to say that it didn't have its weak points. The first one I noticed was that characters voices weren't as clearly defined as I would have liked. At first, I thought Amaranth spoke in a more refined way than Ash, which, considering their castes, made sense. Then Amaranth had a scene in which he started cussing, and he once berated himself by calling himself a “perv.” It didn't seem to fit in with his usual speech patterns. I would have preferred for characters' voices to be more consistent.

Some of the things I disliked about this book were tied in with things I liked about it. For instance, while I was happy that Freely did not write about rape in detail, her vagueness when it came to darker moments in the story sometimes made it difficult to figure out what, exactly, happened. There is a scene later in the book where Amaranth is being forced to heal others. Although it's stated that most of the people just touch Amaranth, I had a difficult time figuring out whether one of the characters had gone further and actually raped him.

Also, while I appreciated that the dream scenes allowed for Amaranth and Ash to continue to have scenes together even after they were separated, I'm one of those readers who tends to prefer fewer sex scenes in my romance novels, and those dream scenes were nothing but sex. It's a personal preference, but those scenes got to be a bit much for me.

I mentioned earlier that some aspects of the world-building could have used some work. It wasn't always clear to me what people did or did not know about vasai. Amaranth had to explain to Ash that vasai are technically neither male nor female and that some choose preferred gendered pronouns while others wish to be referred to using gender neutral pronouns. You'd think this would mean that other chel would be as clueless about vasai as Ash, and yet, later in the book, not one chel stumbled over the gender neutral pronouns and everyone seemed to know which were the proper pronouns to use. The pel that Amaranth encountered were as clueless as Ash had been, sometimes referring to him as “it.”

Then there was the feeling I had, that this book was similar to a video game where the environment seems to be rich and well-defined, until you bump up against the invisible edges of the map and see that there's nothing out there. I found myself wondering about things like whether Amaranth and Ash's entire world was just one big city and whether there was some kind of purpose to character names (chel seemed to have earthy names, like Ash and Soot, pel had task names, like Push and Pull, Elai got more familiar names, like Darien and Elissa, and vasai got...I'm not sure - “Amaranth” and “Grail” both have meanings, but I don't think “Evanscar” does). One of the reasons why I hated that the book ended with a “four years” later epilogue was because I felt a sequel could have opened up the world a little more.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, although I'm not sure it's one I'll ever reread. Amaranth and Ash's relationship was sweet, but there was some quality missing from the book that kept me from really connecting with it. That said, I plan on reading more of Freely's works and would jump on a sequel to Amaranth & Ash if she ever wrote one.

Other Comments:

For as much as Loose Id charges for their e-books, they should edit them more carefully. I caught one verb tense error and one misplaced comma. There may have been other editing errors I didn't catch.


(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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