I don't like books that are totally predictable. They're boring. I want to be surprised. Surprise is a good thing. This book is surprising. But I am really unsure whether that is a good thing in this case. I have no idea how to rate this book. Is it good? Maybe. Probably. Unfortunately it pissed me off so many times, I am not in any way able to judge. So I'll give it three stars for good measure and head into the spoiler zone to tell you why it pissed me off.
This is a sequel. Meaning we have already invested an entire book in David and Callan, the people in their town and the problems they face. I loved the first book. It was plotty and original, David's internal struggles are superbly related and the supporting cast is awesome. Brock, Zach, Healer Findlay, the sheriff, too many people to mention. I even teared up when his little sister dies.
Twenty five percent into this book, most of the people that populated book one are dead and/or gone. By 80% we have just David, Callan and one sister left of an entire town. The first death has quite an impact, still, but when supporting characters start dropping like flies it gets to be 'WTF" much more than 'OMG'. We have, of course, acquired a new set of supporting characters but really, where are all these people I invested so much in? The town, with all its people, was almost the main character in book one. I am sorry, but that town just can not be simply replaced by a group of traveling players and a barrack full of sodomites. You can't just erase the slate and start over in book two. Well, you can, obviously, but it pisses me off.
Seventeen year old David falls in love with a 63 year old actor? Seriously? Is he going to fall in love with every gay guy he spends any amount of time with then? Because I'm not convinced here. Comfort I can see. Lust, sure. Loneliness sucks. But Love with a capital L? And if I accept the premise that he falls in love with Sterling, then I want to see it played out how David is going to deal with Sterling and Callan both and not have Sterling get conveniently killed off before David gets to Callan (and leave David a lot of money in the process too, tadaaa, financial crisis solved). And I want to see some effing reaction from Callan when he finds out, besides the lame 'oh well, as long as you prefer me'. If you're going to put me through the wringer, put me through the wringer, and don't cop out in the end.
Most of the sex in these books is non-explicit. Fine. I have no problem with that. As long as the emotional impact of it is clear. When David is forced to become Dupree's slave one night a week for months and gets to be the unwilling passive part in a BDSM relationship I don't necessarily need to read about everything that is done to him, that is not one of my kinks anyway. But I seriously dislike the way the effects of that relationship are glossed over. If we don't get to experience that through David's eyes, there is no impact, and I wonder about the function of it in the story. Is it just so David can have sympathy for what happens to Callan at the hands of brother Joe (also glossed over)? Is it to expose Sterling's flaws? But David Loves Sterling anyway and since that doesn't change when said flaws are exposed, what is the point? To prove that David Loves him? Well, then see that story line through to the end and don't kill Sterling off! Oops, I am starting to repeat myself. And what happened to the David that runs out on Callan when he tries to save his life, while he doesn't even get angry with Sterling, who sells him out to satisfy his own kinks?
And I have to mention the ridiculously improbable conspiracy by the Brethren. Maybe it's because I studied a whole lot of climate change theory in my previous life as a geologist, but Ice Age Machines???? For realz? How does that even work? How can that possibly work? Chapters later my brain is still complaining: Ice Age machines??? Srsly?
So, in the last few pages David lets himself fairly easily be talked out of going after Mr Crazy False Prophet with the Ice Age machines. OK, fine, I accept that, the book is getting long. But then I want to see how that decision plays out in the rest of his life. Did Mr Crazy False Prophet's scheme work? How powerful does he get? Is he going to use that power to build more death camps for gays? Is David ever going to regret the decision that he could have killed the guy? Although, I guess, given the way this book went, Mr Crazy False Prophet probably got killed tripping down the stairs two weeks later anyway.