I wouldn't use this gif all the time if it wasn't always SO APPROPRIATE.
So. It begins very SUDDENLY, which took a bit away from it because you don't even know where you ARE and then Things are happening and you are like, I think this is bad? And looking back later you are like, Oh yes, that was terrible. But at the time you are kind of like, Why is this dude calling Felix a whore, and Felix is just kind of like, That's right, everyone, I used to bone for dollars, and then everyone is like *shun* and suddenly some other dude is violently and unpleasantly sexxing him and I am like, Ok this part is clearly bad but I don't totally know how we got here.
So some guy calls Felix a whore and he is shunned from court and then violently sexxxxd by a past lover as part of a spell in which his magic is co-opted to break this Important Magical Object and I am like, Holy hell, book, why you so mean?
Meanwhile, way over here, Mildmay the Fox steals a bunch of jewels and meets a lovely girl and is cunning and theify and you know what? As far as I'm concerned, the entire first half of the book is backstory and could be dispensed with if it didn't seem to be such a necessary foundation for the second half.
BECAUSE THEN. Felix has been driven mad by the whole magic-rape thing and then he and Mildmay end up in the same company due to Reasons too complicated to get to, and THEN the two of them hie off to see if they can't get Felix un-madded. And the book is split between their POVs and being inside the head of someone who is mad is no picnic (unless it's a picnic attended by people with snake's heads and walking corpses and swirling colors and like such as), so the Felix parts are weird and dark but necessary because they throw the Mildmay parts into relief and then you have layers.
And Mildmay is this street rat who sounds like a mix between a 21st-century teen and a Victorian urchin and I know that sounds TERRIBLE but it's actually endearing and sharp and irreverent and his interactions with Felix are so WEIRDLY COMPASSIONATE and this, this is why The Left Hand of Darkness got me in the end, because I apparently have a Thing for two unlikely companions being forced on a Quest together and surmounting insurmountable odds, PARTICULARLY WHEN THEY DO NOT KISS AT THE END. I mean, there's one moment where Felix is kind of like *leery glance* and I am like, Did Monette forget that they're half-brothers? But maybe madness makes you slightly incesty, I don't know.
I'm doing a bad job of this. I think that at this stage of my life I'm a bit bored by Romantical Problems (Unless They Are 19th Century Ones Or On The BBC OR BOTH THOSE THINGS) and more interested in Friendships In The Face Of Tribulations.
Or mad hugs.
Don't let the Very Unpleasant Beginning put you off, because the latter half is...whatever a less Cleavery version of 'heartwarming' is. I sighed very deeply, I'm telling you.
Eight and a half caterpillars!
(Upon further research, it appears that this is a series. Are the rest any good? Also, can we talk about how bad that cover is? It is very bad. Those tattoos don't look Shopped so much as MS Painted.)