Rating: 3.5 stars
This is the first time I've read an AU fanfiction of an author's original work, written by said author. Walk A Lonesome Road is an alternative universe-remix of Ann Somerville's Cold Front, featuring Dek and Ren (plus other familiar casts of characters). There are also a mix of original characters and exploration into the parts of the world that was left uncharted or briefly mentioned in Cold Front.
The story is told in third-person POV from Dek's perspective. Dek is a thirty-five year old veteran/war hero who was discharged after an unfortunate accident left him crippled both physically (a bum leg) and mentally (with PTSD). This, on top of the horrific death of his wife, has left him to become a hermit in the far and isolated northern regions of Pindone. And it's on one of his hunting trips that Dek makes a decision upon meeting Ren that will be the start of one of the coldest winters Dek will have to trek through.
The world of Peritor is one similar to our very own – a modern, perhaps slightly futuristic twist in which certain people are born with paranormal talents. The world building, while not as immersible as Cold Front, is still better than average. Peritor has its own breed of animals, drinks, religion, and customs that's reminiscent of fantasy. Yet there's also technology, like solar panels, advance medical treatments, airships and such that makes one think of science fiction. Ann Somerville doesn't go much into explaining what each individual element unique to Peritor is, but lets readers know or form his/her own opinion through Dek's interaction with said items (e.g. she never explains exactly what the drink khevai is, but one gets the impression that it's similar to coffee).
Dek and Ren as characters were a treat for me to revisit. For readers unfamiliar with Cold Front, be ready to hurt. Ann Somerville's writing is poignant and fitting for the cold that settles in the northern regions of Pindone. Such a fitting setting for the person that Dek has become.
Walk A Lonesome Road isn't a romantic book in the conventional sense. The relationship between Dek and Ren is a slow progression that is paced well, but takes the whole length of the book to conclude.
I don't know if it's due to the fact that the story is told from Dek's perspective, but I didn't feel like I connected with Ren very much. There's a lot of mentioning of Ren's own psychological and physical problems, but they didn't feel real enough to elicit very strong emotions from me. At the same time, I felt myself connecting more with Dek and feeling the visceral pain (or in this case, the tingling numb) from a life that has dealt very little happiness in his thirty-five years. While Cold Front dealt a lot with the paranormal aspect of Peritor (and Ren), Walk A Lonesome Road seemed to gloss over this portion very quickly. I was hoping that Ren's paranormal talents would play a bigger part in the story, and was left unsatisfied. The religious aspect of Peritor (such as the different sects, which were heavily emphasized in Cold Front) were very briefly mentioned as well, even though it kind of important towards the end.
Despite all this, I really enjoyed the adventure aspect of this story, including the relationship between Dek and Ren. Such a fantastic world to experience!
I should also mention that there is male pregnancy involved. But I can't say much into the specifics without spoiling, so I will
say this: this isn't an mpreg story in the conventional sense of M/M fiction. Don't read this if you want to read a sexy mpreg story or love kid-fics related to mpreg.
Walk A Lonesome Road is a derelict path layered with the cold of northern Pindone. Where you feel the chill of an unrelenting winter settle in the tired and numb bodies of two men who met under strange circumstances. And perhaps at the end of this journey, they may find something in each other that will end the eternal winter of their own hearts.