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review 2015-04-07 00:00
Brethren
Brethren - W.A. Hoffman This review was originally posted on Hot Stuff for Cool People.

I can’t for the life of me remember why it was I wanted to read this book to begin with. Something about it must have struck me, though, because I had it on a list of things to read, and, when I had enough money, decided to buy it. I got it home and still couldn’t remember why I’d wanted it- I usually read fantasy, so this was not really up my alley. And, frankly, after reading the back of the book, I thought it sounded dull. But I had it, so I started in.

Oh. My. God. I am so, so thrilled that I bought and read this. This is definitely one of the finer things I’ve ever read. The writing is so beautiful and thrilling that I was immediately sucked in. The characters are so wonderfully developed, through their actions and the eyes of other characters, that I saw each one as interesting and unique. All of them, including the many supporting characters, are troubled and flawed and so lively and gorgeous. Even the most minor of characters had a distinct, complex personality.

The story of strong yet damaged men, roaming about on the sea, caring for each other, fighting battles, and living as they want to live, is quite captivating and entertaining. What I really loved, though, was the writing. I’m not sure exactly what it was about it except that it was so amazingly good. Each scene was wonderfully touching, or dramatic, or exciting, and exactly the right length. Satisfying, never dragging- this is how the entire book worked. The interactions between the characters were so heartfelt that I would find myself reading a page, then immediately reading it over again. For pages and pages. I raced toward the end of the book, it was so exciting, but I didn’t want to finish it, either.

After I did finish it, I was kind of in a slump. I didn’t want to be anywhere except in that book. I picked up several other books and tried reading them, but nothing (even books that have been highly praised) would measure up to the spectacularness of this story. This is a very unusual state for me, as I read all the time, from one book to the next. I thought I might be ruined, it was so good. And maybe I am. I always hold other books up to this one, and I’ve found very few that measure up.
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review 2014-08-24 00:00
Matelots
Matelots - W.A. Hoffman P-E-R-F-E-C-T.

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If you want to know more about the plot, this is my review of the first book: Brethren

I think I'm ruined for future readings. Yes, I have amazing series in my read shelf but just finishing this book I have doubts about finding something that measures up to it.

Raised by Wolves provides everything I need in a book: romance, passion, history, adventure, friendship, laughs, angst, philosophy... It's a complicate mixture that could explode in your face if not taken care for delicately but the author manages to give everything and not bore with anything.

These books are food for thought, they leave me thinking about the characters and the conversations and the metaphors. There is pain and suffering, there is madness and danger, and all of that pass on me. But there is also snark and spice and all the fun, which made me laugh at the most unexpected moments. There are secondary characters I love but without them stealing the show. There are surprises, good and bad ones, and there are deaths and reencounters. Nothing is taken for granted because nothing is guaranteed. This series is as misbegotten as the characters are, and as the facts are, and as the mind is. And I love it for all of that.

Gaston and Will are... the same but not the same. That paradox of a man being himself but different after some time. I have been with them for more than 1000 pages now and they are still interesting to me. In fact, they are still an enigma for me and I want to know more about them because I feel what I had is not enough. Not yet. Their relationship is settled but nothing is stable. It grows and changes and I recognize the same electricity but it's not the same energy now. It's much better and stronger and it makes me wonder for the future they will face and the problems they still have to sort out.

There is tenderness, and violence and obsession in them and someone could say that is not healthy for neither of them but there is no desire to live long, just to live together. They are trying to find a way to not to destroy each other and I crave to see how they achieve that.

I'll finish my review in some days, for now I only have the updates. I have never had updated that many times before.

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review 2014-06-26 00:00
Brethren
Brethren - W.A. Hoffman ***This is not a series. This is a single novel divided in 4 volumes.***

I’ve been 6 days reading this book.

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I’m not a fast reader, but I’m an avid one. In my defense I must say it is quite long (540 pages) and the density of each one of them was surprisingly heavy.

Furthermore, the MC don’t meet till page 134.

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If you are scared at this, please, quit reading and forget about this book.

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But if you have curiosity as for why I loved Brethren so much, please, go on.

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This book is ambitious in more than one sense. Yeah, it’s a long book. Yeah, the setting is unusual and requires lots of research. Yeah, the MC are not bidimensional, instead a layer and a layer and a layer have been painted, so in the end they are alive and spirited and problematic, because it’s an understatement that it’s not easy to solve conflicts with that level of intelligence and conscience in such characters. It’s marvelous the way the author achieved to build minds and souls like those. Because, you see, Will is not the typical hero. And calling Gaston an anti-hero is a way too simple.

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In a certain fashion, this series reminds me of Diana Gabaldon’s one. It could be a coincidence Gaston is red haired, or ¿virgin?, or too scarred to be considered the result of a normal punishment for some mild crime. But he is not the only reason about this reminiscence, I also point to the growth of the characters. They are good bred by the author, they are cared for, they are ALIVE. I said this with awe, because I’m used to well defined characters in m/m, and even well developed, but once or twice I bump into a book like this one and I remember why I didn’t give 5 stars to those. It seems… unfair to do so. It doesn’t make justice to books like this one.

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“I do not wish to live without you.”
“Nor do I.”
“We will not allow that to happen to us. If we die, we die together.”
“If you feel yourself mortally wounded, you will take me with you?”
“Oui, with my dying breath I will kill you. Will you do the same?”
“I do not know if I could.”
“Neither do I, and if I knew I would die I would want you yo live.”
“And I cannot imagine it without you. So we are back at the beginning.”
“Let us not die.”

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“You give me hope.”
“How so?”
“If you can… do anything with a man then there is a chance I can learn how not to… slip into madness at any reminder of it.”

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It’s not that the events in the beginning are useless, it’s just that it seems the length of them is excessive. In any case, these chapters serve a purpose: to get to know our hero, Will, because we will definitely not know Gaston at his entire being. So I least we have a person to be intimate with.

Gaston leaned to me during the confusion and hissed, “Damn you, Will, we have not even made it through the soup and already you have threatened a priest and drive them from the house! Are you in such a hurry to return to our room?”

Will is an open-minded man who lives against the flow. He doesn't believe in God. He doesn't think women don't have a whole soul. He is raised like a wolf who feels the need to look for his sheep. He is a romantic at heart but it has cost him his soul. His pain is deep and he is still bleeding, but he manages to go on and enjoy the day. But nobody knows him, not really.

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Will is nonchalant and carefree, and his inner thoughts are the same: well constructed yet humorous, with the time-honored manner of speaking.

“They are like beasts,” he said with a tired sigh.
“Oui, two beasts. I think they are quite beautiful. In my eye, men appear at their most powerful when they strain to reach that momentary perfection. Every muscle and sinew is taut, and for them there is nothing else except their bodies and the sensations. Fighting in concert, side by side, it is as if they storm the gates of Heaven demanding entry.”


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I was gripped with a red-hot fury like I had experienced few times in my life. I could not see him for the blood haze in my eyes. I sat very still, thinking that if I moved, I would spring upon him and strangle him. When I could trust myself to look at him, I found him glaring at me. His eyes glittered dangerously in the lamplight.

Sometimes it amused me, that way of explaining and being honest and using bigger words than we human in the twenty first century do. But sometimes it makes sense, not only because otherwise it would be anachronistic, but also because his romantic nature and breeding makes sense with the story he is going to start with Gaston. I think their love timeless and atemporal, but also I feel their tale wouldn’t be that heart wrenching and tender, in the naivete this period of time shows in some issues. I believe the epoch makes this story purer, cleaner and fresher, because no pollution comes from outside forces.

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“So what do centaurs do with their lives?”
“Hide in caves.”
“Oui, but when that grows dull.”
“Become shepherds and physicians and train great heroes.”
“Are we hiding in a cave?”
“Oui, and in truth, Will, now that you are here I feel no need to leave it.”

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I don’t mean to sound metaphysical, sorry if I did.

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Now, the plot. But first, I have to say something about this era. The Golden Age of piracy comes between 1680-1720. We are in 1666, before the piracy rush but also in an important age. In this year London was burnt (although not for the first time). In this year the Spanish Empire held most of the colonies in the American continent (well, not Brazil because the union with Portugal ended some decades before), but Jamaica is new in the hands of Englishmen, which is destiny and home for buccaneers, filibusters and raiders.

“What do you feel centaurs should do?”
“Be with other centaurs.”
“And when that grows dull?” He grinned.
“I do not foresee that.”

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In Europe, the Christendom is set in most of the territory. Will sells his sword to nobility and rich people in intrigues and conspiracies. He also is involved in more than one a woman trouble. Due to that, he had had to run from several countries and cities, and this is no exception.

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Tired of eluding risks and death menaces, he decides to come back home. His family there is… pleasant.

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Well, really, I felt more like this.

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So his… lovely father makes him take on the responsibility to lead a plantation in Jamaica. Will has no lost love between his relatives, so he gets on board to the West Indies. During the trip he meets interesting people, some of them with important roles afterwards, a few become friends, and others are enemies he must evade for the time being.

Dickey regarded the horizon thoughtfully. “I wish to find or grow love.”
I swallowed a lump of meat I was not finished chewing, so that my mouth would be free to say nothing.
“It will cost in ways you never consider, and it will be worth any price,” Gaston said.


Once on land, he discovers a thing or two about buccaneers and he is surprised to find more in common with them than with his peers. As a result, he considers embracing roving.

“I know now that I am not as scared of the possibility of you hating me for what we might do – as I am of me hating you for what we will not do.” description


“Non, truly,” he said, “I see us as the dark and the light. Two sides of the same thing. You are bright and shining and I am a thing of shadows.”
“I will be your white horse and you can be my black.”

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And that’s when he meets Gaston the Ghoul. Be prepared because the trip will be rough.

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Gaston has issues.

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“I have given the matter great thought and I fear it is more a matter of lancing and draining and possibly even bleeding. There is one other time when it functions, though thankfully I have never acted upon it; and that is when the madness grips me.”
“It is all tied together in some Gordian knot in your mind, is it not?”


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He has won a reputation as madness in person. His inner demons are spoken of, but not known about deeply. In a one word:

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“I lived because I could not die,” he breathed. “I gave no thought to the future. I was not careless with my life, but not careful either. I was mad before and I am mad now; it merely takes a different form. I was always alone. I think I hoped that eventually I would be unlucky and it would end.”

He is lonely and isolated. He has never thought about the future because there is no future worth living for. In his words, he is alive because he hasn’t died, but not because he is careful to be living. Until he catches Will in the street, and something within him stirs and recognizes him.

“Do I frighten you?” he asked.
I found myself studying my hand, watching you see if it would succumb to the tremors again.
“It is not you precisely,” I murmured. “The demon that possesses you manifest in rage and sorrow. My demon shows itself in fear and shame and sometimes melancholy. Yours just calls to mine, that is all.”

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One day they meet.

“I will fight it with you as best I am able,” he whispered. “But Will, I foresee a very long war.”
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The second day they set fire to a boat.

“I wish you to understand that I don’t find you… revolting.”
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The third day they are married matelots not that forcefully.

“It is no matter. I am Gaston the Ghoul, and a centaur and matelot to Lord Will the Fool.”
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Sorry… what is a matelot?

A matelot, my dear, is the gay paradise in the 17th century!

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He shook his head. “I cannot imagine a woman adoring me as Pete does, or caring for me the way he can, or fighting at my side, or watching my back, or any of the things he does for me. Pete is an extension of myself now. I think of us as two parts of a whole. I can rely on him as I do on myself. I do not have time to care for another who is not my equal. A man needs a matelot and not a wife to survive. Women are luxuries, like fine clothes and sweetmeats.”

Matelotage is like marriage… between two guys in a boat. They are a couple with whom they share profits, supplies… and carnal benefits. It’s not frowned on, in fact, it’s respected and even worshipped. I fell in love with the concept as well as with the MC. The thing is, it’s so obvious there is something between Will and Gaston that the crew itself assume they are matelots, so they reluctantly agree.

“There is no harm in it,” I said. “If anything, we are the wives.”
“I make no comment on that,” Theodore said. “I believe I meant that you two are the more business-minded of your pairings.”
“I would not say that,” I said. “Gaston is far wealthier than I.”
“Theodore threw his hands wide in exasperation. “More socially acceptable perhaps? More likely to have the proper attire? Less likely to kill another guest?”

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Gaston doesn’t favor men. But he doesn’t seduce women either. He doesn’t touch, he doesn’t kiss, and of course, he doesn’t sleep with anyone. Will doesn’t like it, not at all.

“Will, I am sorry.”
“For what?”
“That I do not favor men.”
I cursed silently under the weight of those words. “You do not know how many times I am sorry that I do. It has been the bane of my damn existence.”
“And now the irony of your existence,” he said. “Here you are amongst the Brethren where it is acceptable, and yet you are with me.”
I did not find his comment amusing, and I looked at him sharply. He was studying the surf quite somberly.
“It is not fair,” he added. His eyes met mine. “I will do what I can.”

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He shrugged. “It is usually not a pleasant emotion I find myself filled with.”
“And now? Do you feel it know?”
“Oui. It is pleasant. I have no name for it. Can you name yours?”
“Oui.” I bit my lip. I was hesitant to speak it, as I had always been soundly rebuked for it before. “Love.”

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“Do not leave me,” he whispered.
“I will not.”
“I will try to make you.”
I frowned and held him tighter. “You will not succeed.”

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This book left me breathless. Caput. They make sense together. Caput. I. Want. More. Caput.

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Without any kind doubt, one of the best "series" I've ever read in my life.
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review 2014-03-17 10:44
Finally! My first 5 Star read this year....

I could probably sell this book to you with two words: Gay and Pirates. Ha! I know you all just imagined a whole lot of Captain Jack slash because that was my first thought too :)

But this is better! So, so much better than better, this is outstanding!

 

Brethren is everything you could ever want from a seafaring historical novel with admittedly not quite pirates, but buccaneers because duh, pirates came a bit later in history than 1666 ya know. But let’s not split hairs shall we…

 

Let’s explore the New World of the West Indies and the infamous pirate havens of Tortuga, Port Royal and Chocolota Hole –  towns swarming with ‘purported deserters, dissidents, escaped bondsmen and white slaves, former convicts and all other manner of rabble’ all of whom are armed and wild and most of whom, are sodomites. Whoop! *fist pump*

 

Now let me tell you about the man you will journey with: Lord John Williams (aka: Will), Viscount of Marsdale, heir to the Earl of Dorshire, he is your narrator and your very awesome companion. Will is an ex assassin, a rogue, a philanthropist, a holder of romantic notions and idealistic folly, an occasional philosopher and a champion of humanity who – with much satisfaction – disregards social boundaries to embrace his fellow man regardless of social rank or standing. And so, it is through him, no – with him – that you will embark on this most epic of voyages.

 

Together you’ll raid Spanish galleons with cutlass & muskets and share the spoils with the wild men, your Brethren. You’ll lie on the deck and look up at the stars and scratch at the fleas crawling in your hair while listening to the sounds of sodomy. You’ll share the poop deck and contribute to the feeding of the sharks.  You’ll suffer sickness and rail against the treatment of your fellow man. You will plot, you will fight, you’ll get drunk and you’ll philosophise; defining the characters you meet as wolves or sheep, leaders or followers, and those in between.  You will grow and learn and fall down and be the anchor for the madman you will fall in love with. Hell! You might even fall in love a few times.  I did :)

 

If this is not enough, know that there is more here because, for me, every single element of this story is remarkable.  The setting and mood of the era is simply faultless as the author incorporates (with only slight fabrication) history and hearsay of the time to create a world that is exciting, harrowing and bursting with vitality. It’s not all action and adventure though; there are many moments of quiet reflection, journey time and not inconsequential detail about the small things. The author is in no rush to tell this story and I wasn’t in a rush to finish it.

 

But the stand out element for me is the romance. It’s different, it’s shadowed by haunting pasts on both sides, it’s chaste, it’s consuming and it is a constant two steps forward and three steps back, its angst and it’s crazy but it makes sense, they match. It feels right and perfect, despite the challenges and the scars.  For once this is a relationship that sates the corners of my dark heart while simultaneously feeding my soul. Gaston’s madness pushes the limits of my acceptance and yet I am helplessly in love with him, just like Will.

 

Okay, it’s not perfect and I’ll tell you straight off that this took me a while to get into, but oh boy, once I hit the 10% mark I was flying…  So be patient. This is a long book and only the first in a series and sometimes it feels like you need for it to move faster but the pace, for me, is all part of the journey. I’m not taking points away for that. In fact I’ll take nothing away. I LOVE these wild men who are now my Brethren, especially Pete and Striker. I loved the humour, the language (especially Pete’s) and  the feeling of belonging … It’s like I have a relationship with these characters, I feel for them, would kill for them. I kept thinking about them, worrying about them and couldn’t wait to get back to them.  So guys and girls, I can’t give you a better recommendation for a historical novel, and I’m sorry I’m going to echo the sentiments of another reader after discovering this series …

 

WE HAVE A GAY PIRATE SERIES PEOPLE!!!! GAY PIRAAAATES!

 

  Favourite Quotes, without spoilers:

He was beautiful and brought to mind a fine rapier or even my grandfather’s wheellock musket: a finely crafted thing of grace and tempered strength inlaid with jewels and designed for killing

“I wish my heart could come,” I blurted. He frowned with consternation and so I explained about how I was uncomfortably swollen with emotion. “I know that feeling,” he said soberly. “I feel it.” “Then what do you do?” “Kill something,”

In my eye, men appear at their most powerful when they strain to reach that momentary perfection. Every muscle and sinew is taut, and for them there is nothing else except their bodies and the sensations. Fighting in concert, side by side, it is as if they storm the gates of Heaven demanding entry.”

This was the stuff of poetry, play, and myth. It was equally transcendent and harrowing. There was no condition that could be placed upon it. It was enduring and conquering. And I had never felt its like before.

Source: boysinourbooks.com/2014/03/16/review-brethren-raised-by-wolves-by-w-a-hoffman
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review 2014-03-16 18:31
Raised by Wolves.....Or Gay Pirates!
Brethren - W.A. Hoffman

Someone described this as "basically every gay pirate AU ever". So of course, I've been dying to read this series forever x) But it took awhile for my paperback copy to come. Now I have to wait some more for the second and third books. Sigh.  

 

I love pirates. One of my favorite series through middle school, high school, and still continuing now, is the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer. About a girl who disguises herself as a ship boy and eventually roams the seas as the infamous pirate queen. 

 

So I was really super excited to stumble upon this series, and even more that it was listed under MM romance. It's like someone heard my prayers lol. 

 

This book was addicting. I was sneak-reading it between my study breaks. Some will probably find the beginning set up slow, but I never ever found myself bored throughout the entire book. The writing isn't even particularly astounding or anything, there are some editing errors. But I still loved it, flaws and all, and it was just everything together that held me captivated. I loved the world-building, which yeah, just maybeeee stretches beliefs a little, I mean, pirates who mate together for life? And it did get slightly over the top at the end. But well, that's what made it even more fun for me x) 

 

I liked how the issue of mental illness was developed and handled with some care in the main characters. I loved their very intricate and complex relationship with each other, the runaway nobleman Will and the literally mad Gaston. I liked their philosophical discussions together and their one step forward, two step backs relationship dynamic. And I loved that I loved all of the side characters (well, except for Bradley) who all had their own colorful and unique personalities, especially Pete and Striker. 

 

I think objectively speaking, this book deserves at best 3.5 stars. Because of the slow set-up, the small editing errors, and the sometimes over-the-topness you just have to embrace (which I very happily did) when you have a story about openly gay pirates gallivanting around this time period and occasionally declaring their love for one another. 

 

But for me, it all just worked! I was thoroughly immersed, entertained, addicted. x) So, 4 stars for pure enjoyment and guilty pleasure factor. I don't know if I can wait another few weeks for the next book to arrive.

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