ride and desire send prosperous merchant Eryn on a personal quest to find the perfect man to share his life. Eryn has heard of a mythical land beyond the mountains, where it is rumored that a benevolent, magical prince rules a kingdom of equality and harmony, and so he sets out, alone and determined… but even the most focused of determination will only take Eryn so far.
A destined true love does wait for Eryn, but the path to his future is rife with risk, and he will face not only his deepest fears, but also pain, torture, and bone-deep desolation as he struggles to reach Wyn, a sweet, beautiful, and fragile man trapped in an enchantment. If Eryn is to have any chance at a happily ever after, he will have to conquer the illusions that have always consumed him, even if it means sacrificing life and limb for love.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sweet Son is one of the Dreamspinner fantasy books that reinterpret classic fairytales as m/m romance stories. This offering is a retelling of Snow White, complete with happy ever after ending and a good dose of magic. Cullinan knows how to weave a good fantasy and this is no different. While the actual characters may not be the focus, the story is all about the moral. Here, the retelling is both faithful and a good departure that conveys the theme while offering a life lesson.
Some themes stand out while reading Sweet Son, and that is how graphic and violent fairytales are. The hero Eryn is a merchant living a pampered and moderately happy life. He’s comfortable with wealth and privilege and although lonely for true love, he’s not quite ready to give up his life comforts to find it. Since the world is not a safe place for men who love other men, Eryn lets his fears overwhelm his desire for love. Until the time that he’s so lonely he goes in search of the true love he’s dreamed about. Of course life is never that simple and Eryn goes through hell – literally – to find his true love.
Eryn is the unquestionable star as he learns how to master himself and his emotions through a variety of humiliating, painful, and torturous episodes. You know the story is going to be dark when the witch promises Eryn will pay for his foolish fear. Oh and Eryn pays, repeatedly. Thankfully the writing is kept deft with that touch for fantasy where the torture and pain are never expanded upon, instead mentioned and forgotten. This helps take away the horror factor when you consider just how truly horrible the things Eryn goes through are. Yet the story isn’t trying to shock readers so like all fairy tales the horrifying is lost under the banner of true love and happy ending.
The characters are less important than the symbols they represent. There is the witch, the magician, the sweet son prince that is Eryn’s true love. Each of these people is important but they feel more like vague concepts than complex personalities. I can’t say this is bad really, although the prince Wyn feels the most flat. The BDSM twist between Eryn and Wyn is unfinished and feels somewhat forced. It makes sense and I like where the story goes with both of them but it feels too fast, too convenient in some ways. Of course that explains all fairy tales so yet another example of how the story stays true to the original intent.
The theme of the fairy tale is timeless and the process Eryn endures to become a better man is supposed to be awe inspiring. It is consider the horrifying acts that happen to Eryn but I’m not sure how he’s changed. He learned how to master Wyn but that feels too much like an act, not a true revelation of his person. He masters Wyn because Wyn wants it more than Eryn wants to be a harsh dominant. I also couldn’t help but feel bad for Eryn because I got the impression he couldn’t express the tenderness and love in his heart that he longed to. Again I just felt the premise very good but execution a bit rushed while wrapping up the happy ending. Overall one of the better and more faithful reinventions that is still fresh and interesting.