YMMV / The Drowned Cities

  • Anticlimax Boss: Sayle, whom Ocho makes sure to stab before he can draw his knife.
  • Complete Monster: Lieutenant Sayle is Colonel Glenn Stern's right-hand man, and acts as The Heavy for most of the book. The oldest soldier in Stern's service, Sayle acts as a recruiter, press-ganging children into becoming soldier boys for the United Patriotic Front, burning their rank into their faces with acid, and convincing them that the outside world has nothing to offer them. A particularly cold-blooded sadist, Sayle started the UPF's practice of mutilating prisoners by cutting off their hands and feet and leaving them for their comrades to find, and put out of their misery. The practice eventually spread to other child armies, like Taylor's Wolves and the Army of God—which Sayle intended because it means that his own boys will be less likely to surrender. Sayle treats civilians with an even more deliberate brutality, endorsing, encouraging, and participating in his boys' practice of Rape, Pillage, and Burn; he's particularly vicious towards women, informing the heroine, Mahlia, (while neck lifting her) that "maybe I'll just stand here and watch you kick. I like it when a pretty girl kicks." During the climax, Sayle even manages to violate the soldier boys' tenuous moral code, when he has one of his own boys (Mahlia's former friend Mouse) mutilated in order to try and break Mahlia, a fact that shocks and disgusts his Number Two, Sergeant Ocho. What makes Sayle especially bad is that he doesn't buy into Colonel Stern's Well-Intentioned Extremist rhetoric, nor is he a drugged-up PTSDing child, like most of his boys. Ocho notes that Sayle is Straight Edge Evil because "what got him high wasn't any booze or drug or girl. It was the hurting. Sayle liked people hurt."
  • Jerkass Woobie: Ocho. Mahlia herself has some traits of this.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Stern crosses it when he has Mouse/Ghost mutilated in order to get to Mahlia. Sayle crosses it in his first appearance, with his treatment of Mahlia.
  • Tear Jerker: Mouse's death, and Mahlia and Ocho's reactions to it.