Benign, yet devastating. Utterly, amazingly, complexly multi-faceted.
There are sections where it gets bleak and it's amazing, where it explores the deepest, darkest abyss of the soul in a way that is profoundly unsettling and unwittingly thought-provoking. There were times when I though, "There is no beauty in this, and yet, it's such a fundamental truth in part of what it means to be 'human.'"
There's a part that tells of, for want of a better term, new wave of recruits coming to join the Brethren, and that was devastating in its own way, and I finally understood the Somalites in Katie Waitman's [b:The Merro Tree|638157|The Merro Tree|Katie Waitman|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1387701470s/638157.jpg|624403]. I could see how some people could argue for abandoning old customs for the sake of new progress, but it just felt like observing the death of an ancient and noble empire as they transcend into - to borrow Waitman's term - celestial status. I sat there thinking, "I'd rather the Brethren be completely abolished than reduced to the Pirates of the Caribbean flavored nonsense; wonderful in its own way, I suppose, but paling completely compared to the nobility of true matelotage and the art of boucaniering."
And of course, I loved mad-Gaston. In fact, I think I like mad-Gaston more than mad-Felix.
As usual, the analogies are wonderfully complex and extremely applicable. Again and again, it has amazing insights and observations interspersed with the plot and characters. I wouldn't necessarily say it's a heart-racing thriller. Its impact is more subtle; it seems rather benign, but has facets, hidden depths, revealed depths, plumbed depths, and is, in a way, effortlessly spell-binding, even if you don't feel like it's ensnaring you.
It's also weird because there are parts that seem like they're conveying/perpetuating common M/M romance tropes, and yet, it's somehow subtly not.
And yes, I hated Sarah, just a little bi- Oh, find. A whole fucking lot. Still, I thought the way it was handled was complex and morally ambiguous and stuff.
I got rather uncomfortable when it started delving into the realm of rather BDSM-y stuff because they saw it as part of their respective madnesses, and I suppose in some way it can be construed that way, as with any and all things people do, but still. It was rather...like it was something dirty, something to be conquered, something that despite it, they still loved each other (or maybe because it, as they could endure even that). It was just the way it was perceived and conveyed.
Blah, blah, blah, something I noticed earlier and am just now pointing out -- each chapter ends with an invocation of the Gods. I believe it was so in bk 1, too. It's interesting, as MC professes to be an atheist. They actually lampshade it a bit in this book, although I don't remember exactly what they say. Something something Greco-Roman something atheist.
This sort of odd reversal of roles towards the end was really fucking weird. Really fucking weird. I basically didn't understand it at all.