Forest of Glass by John Tristan
This review originally appeared at BDSM Book Reviews.
In a medieval fantasy world, Leith is the bastard son of the lord of the castle. He is nearing his twentieth year, when he knows he must leave his father’s home and find his own place in the world. Then one day the Fair pays a visit to the castle. The Fair are a superhuman race that makes their home in the Blackwood Forest. They once terrorized the human population, stealing and taking slaves, but a treaty between the humans and the Fair have put an end to that. The Fair visits each of the castles from time to time to collect a tithe, but otherwise they leave the humans alone.
The visit from the Fair comes at a bad time for Leith’s father. The harvest has not been good and he feels he cannot afford the tithe, so he offers up his bastard son instead. However, the Fair don’t take slaves anymore, but the Fair leader Orias seems taken with Leith, so he makes him a bargain: spend a year in Orias’ service and he will be rewarded with his own title and land.
Leith seems to have an inkling of what Orias wants of him, but agrees quite willingly. He is taken to the Fair’s citadel in the middle of the forest. The citadel is a fantastical living castle formed by giant trees that create a labyrinth of rooms and walkways within their branches.
Orias draws Leith into a world of pleasure, which includes bondage and pain as well, but he makes it clear that Leith is not bound to accept anything, he has a safeword and can stop at any time. Leith submits willingly to all Orias gives him, but while his body reacts and thrills to what the Fair lord does to him, at the moment of climax it’s another person on his mind, Ash. Ash is human, like Leith, and he is one of the last slaves taken by the Fair, the property of Orias’ sister Beleth ‘the Bloodless’.
While Ash serves the Fair, he stands apart from them, as well as the other humans like Leith who stay in the citadel. His emotions are unreadable, and while Leith desires Ash, he seems to be the one person the young man cannot have.
Among the other humans in the citadel is Andrey, who is treated like one of the inner circle of the Fair. Andrey is handsome and fair, and he desires Leith, but he turns the lad’s heart cold every time he comes near, and each time Andrey seems about to take Leith, willingly or not, Ash comes to the rescue. In the last of these encounters, Ash takes Leith to his room for the night, but resists all attempts by the young man to show his gratitude. Ash seems to desire Leith, but pushes him away. In the morning, when Ash returns Leith to his own quarters, Orias brings news that changes everything.
Forest of Glass does an excellent job of pulling you into the magical world of Leith and the Fair. The world-building is just right, avoiding the information dump that can bore you as well as the opposite problem of giving you so little that you get frustrated with questions. The story leaves just enough out to keep you reading on to find out more. As with any good fantasy or science fiction, you’re easily able to suspend belief because the characters and situations are made to seem real, even if some of the characters aren’t human.
The sex is spicy and almost always kinky in one way or another, although it’s never very extreme. There’s bondage and spanking as well as public sex and menage. But Forest of Glass is not really a work of erotica. There’s a lot more going on between the sex scenes. This story is more about desire than sex, or perhaps even about the difference between sex and love.
While this isn’t really a mystery, the story does a very good job of keeping you guessing about how things will turn out in the end. You won’t know until the last few chapters whether Leith will choose Orias or Ash, or how he will even manage to get Ash away from Beleth.