I don't know how to describe what this book did to me.
My feelings are divided into two odd camps, and I'll attempt to express them both with due care.
To begin with, this book felt like an indulgence read, in the best and oddest imaginable way. For the past nine years, my closest sister and I have squandered our free time by telling collaborative, entirely impromptu stories (I'm going somewhere with this, I promise). These stories, told aloud, on the fly, incorporated a fairly standard cast of characters, mostly male, who altered and developed little by little until they were so real that I had to write stories about them. There was lots of hilarious banter, brotherly love, loyalty, captures, rescues, variegated antagonists, and generally a bit of torture.
And that's what reading this felt like. Not like reading my own writing, which is entirely different from our talk sessions, but like the talk sessions themselves that gave rise to the stories I wrote. The storyline, the themes, and even the character banter/exchanges mirrored it so strongly that I kept reading lines aloud just to hear them spoken. And I don't mean it felt like plagiarism, because you can't plagiarize this stuff. It was weird. It was amazing. It gave me a guilty pleasure, because, "hey, I'm reading this book and it feels like eating cotton candy, this type of enjoyment can't be legit."
I debated bringing any of this up, but the psychological impact on my view of the book was too strong to justifiably bypass it. Now watch me attempt to give an actual coherent analysis.
You should read this book if:
You are tired of romance.
You are tired of books that feel like they "have" to focus on at least one female character.
You like adventure stories of the old school that have a focus on the bonds of friendship and blood and a satisfying level of injury and death without the accompanying gratuitous descriptions that seem so common nowadays. (I don't mean to make light of violence, and that's in fact what I believe gratuitous description does, by deadening the reader to more and more horrendous visuals, if they don't come away traumatized first)
I'll be honest, it took me a little bit to warm up to Rhys' threesome followers -- Bryn, Jes, and Rorie. It was hard to get to know them, and I daresay that was partially due to the outsider's POV we met them in and the fact that they don't get POV till later. I felt that "the author wants me to like these people and I don't have reason to like them yet so it ain't happening till you let me in their heads". Ironically, half the book is about trust vs. distrust...
While I'm on the things I didn't enjoy, I’m compelled to add that I did notice several typographical errors, and the interior formatting felt a little... off. As a rule, the writing itself was excellent and thoroughly readable, and though I struggled to get through the first few pages, I'd chalk that up to a lack of focus on my part.
I felt that, on occasion, the banter between characters got a little trite. It's something I'm hypersensitive to in my own writing, so it probably bothered me more than it would many people. On the other hand, I highly enjoyed the political talk scenes, all the allusions and double meanings and covert glances. I could've done with more of those. What can I say? Saruman from LOTR is my favorite villain.
My favorite scene in the entire book: WHERE BRYN TALKS TO SARAH. Gah. That gave me all the feels. It also sold me on Bryn forever and ever, no disclaimers, warranties or conditions.
Oh, another thing? I did not anticipate the plot twist. I feel like maybe a smarter reader would've caught it coming, but I was blissfully clueless and I only wish I could've caught my reactions on video to send to the author.
Perhaps, by this point, my analysis of Oath of the Outcast has left you feeling that it is a basic book. Entertaining, but basic. It is not. It is complex, and as usual, only after finishing the book and letting it simmer for a while in my brain do I begin to grasp its complexity. You will read it for the story. I think you will reread it for the stories within the story. Even on the first read, however, it is not just a story of blood and death and clans and adventure. It is a story of brothers and pain and love and sacrifice. Deeper still, it is a story of loyalties and injustice and faith and perseverance. And it is so much more.
I cannot do this story justice in a single review. Maybe I will never be able to do it justice. I think that is a hallmark of the best stories: that we can never fully interpret or explain them, because there will always be more beneath the surface. Despite its minor surface faults, this book deserves, and gets from me, an unreserved five stars.
… And NO! CLIFFHANGER! WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME? *cries and waits desperately for word of the sequel*