Review: The Republic of Thieves

Title: The Republic of Thieves

Author: Scott Lynch

Series: The Gentleman Bastard (#3)

Publisher: Gollancz

Genre: Brutal, Thieving Fantasy

Pages: 598

Rating: 7.5/10

“I don’t expect life to make sense,” he said after a few moments, “but it could certainly be pleasant if it would stop kicking us in the balls.”

Summary: Locke and Jean are in Karthain, working for the Bondsmagi. Their task is to win the election for the party they have been assigned to. This is the Five Year Game. It’s different from their normal work, for sure, but the Bondsmagi have another trick up their sleeves. Their rival, fighting to win for the other side, is none other than Locke’s one true love – Sabetha.

Review: Firstly, this one has a map! Yay!

The Republic of Thieves is really split into two stories, two strands of narrative. The first strand is the Five Year Game, set in the present. The second strand is mainly the summer when the Gentleman Bastards were in training as players in Espara, and the summer where Locke is determined to win Sabetha’s heart. (Though it goes back further than that, and shows us the full story of Locke and Sabetha’s past, from Shade’s Hill to the end of their time in Espara).

This works well, in some ways. It’s nice to have the backstory about their summer as players at last, as it’s been mentioned in previous books, and it’s also nice to see Locke’s backstory with Sabetha. I enjoyed seeing Locke in Shade’s Hill, as all previous knowledge we had of that time was second hand and not through Locke’s eyes at all. I enjoyed seeing the slow growth of Locke’s affections towards Sabetha, from the moment he first lays eyes on her, to meeting her again at Father Chains’s, and beyond.

To be honest, unlike the first two books, this was more about the characters than the plot. It felt like it was building up to something, and it kind of did, but I think this one was setting the scene for how the rest of the series will play out. It felt like a prologue to something much bigger, in a sense.

I did appreciate the character building, though, and it has certainly piqued my interest and anticipation for the next book.

Sabetha has been an elusive character throughout the first two books. We didn’t even get to see her in reminiscences of the past. She was always mentioned in passing. This has built a certain mystique and anticipation around her character, and therefore she had a lot to live up to.

Does she live up to this anticipation?

Yes and no. She’s certainly a clever character, and certainly gives Locke and Jean a run for their money. But I didn’t exactly like her. She has insecurities, sure, and reasons for it, but she gives Locke the brush off so many times, and he just kind of follows her around like a lovesick puppy. I just wanted to shake Locke (both young and older versions) and tell him that she’s not good for him. I don’t think it’s a healthy relationship at all.

Were we meant to like her? I’m not sure. I think I understood why she is the way she is, but I really disliked how she played with Locke’s feelings.

Locke is the hero of these stories. We’re close to him. We root for him. Seeing someone shoot him down again and again does not really endear them to us.

I’m interested to see how Sabetha and her relationship with Locke develops, though.

Once again, we see the strength of Locke and Jean’s partnership. I love both of them so much, and their rapidly turning into one of my favourite fantasy duos. Perhaps I also resent Sabetha a little bit for getting in the way of that, but then I didn’t resent when Jean got a love interest in the last book.

I love Jean so much. Locke is very lucky to have him.

One minor niggling thing – every time Scott Lynch was supposed to write ‘stories’, he wrote ‘storeys’ instead. Once I could forgive as a typo, but this happened repeatedly. And no, I don’t mean building storeys. I mean tales, stories. Not sure how an editor missed it, to be honest.

The ending, though. Oh my god. What? What?! WHAT?!?!?

I need the next book now. ;_;

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Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies

Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies

Author: Scott Lynch

Series: The Gentleman Bastard (#2)

Publisher: Gollancz

Genre: Brutal, Thieving Fantasy… with pirates!

Pages: 630

Rating: 9/10

The night quiet was broken by the high, distant trill of a whistle, the traditional swarming noise of city watches everywhere. Several other whistles joined in a few moments later.

“It is possible,” said Locke with a sheepish grin, “that I have been slightly too bold.”

Summary: With his sights set on the Sinspire, a gambling house no one’s ever stolen from and lived, Locke Lamora is in the city state of Tal Verarr. The game is proceeding as planned, and Locke and Jean are looking forward to their hard-earned windfall.

But the Bondsmagi of Karthain have a long memory, and soon someone else in Tal Verarr wants Locke and Jean’s expertise. Before long, Locke and Jean find themselves engaged in piracy, and are once again embroiled in a fight for their lives.

Review: Once again, wow.

I knew I’d like this book from the moment that Locke hopes Jean gets his cock sucked by a shark. Yes, that is a thing.

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting as much from this book as from the first one. Second books tend to have a bit of a stigma surrounding them. I take back any hesitation I had.

Okay, some people might not like the fact that there’s more than one plot thread going on (though they tie up neatly in the end), and the fact that the piracy plotline doesn’t start until you’re a fair chunk into the book. But, you know, I liked that. Locke’s life, with its layers upon layers of deception, isn’t going to be straightforward. There’s going to be complications. Just as his Sinspire game looks to be going well, BAM. Something HUGE comes along and messes up all his plans and he has to do major damage control.

Kind of like the first book.

Poor Locke. I believe that he had some major character growth going on in this book. The events in the last book have taken their toll on him and his relationship with Jean, and I feel like he’s growing up. He seems to think more about consequences (well, sometimes), and isn’t quite as cocksure and reckless as he was in the first book.

And we see the aftermath of the first book, even though this first one is set two years after the end. For the first part of the book, we get reminiscences of the previous two years, bringing us up to date on Locke and Jean’s adventures to the starting point of the novel. I liked this feature. Not only was it in keeping with Lynch’s style (like the flashbacks in book one), I’m glad we got to see what happened in the missing two years of time. Locke and Jean’s relationship was strained to the breaking point, and we got to see that, and see the ramifications of that even two years later.

We also get to see the beginnings of the Sinspire game, which, in the main plot, is coming to a close. All in all, I really enjoyed the flashbacks. I always enjoy when an author is clever with time, and with their narrative structure. Especially when it’s not confusing at all.

The prologue was and is, I admit, a dirty trick. Prologues that are a scene from somewhere near the end of the novel always put me in two minds as a reader. Firstly, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to spend the entire book waiting for this scene, or feeling anxious because it hasn’t happened yet. No, thank you. On the other hand, I admire the ballsy hook.

Jean got some character development too! I appreciated the scenes from his point of view – I know there were a few in Lies, but not nearly as many. Jean is the source of MANY FEELS in this novel, just to warn you. I was SO HAPPY and then I was DISTRAUGHT. That aside, you really get to see what a damn good friend he is to Locke. Locke puts him through so much crap sometimes, and yet he is still always there. Always looking out for him.

I love their friendship. They would die for each other. Just die. And we get to see evidence for this over and over again. It’s not just words for them. It was never just words.

Let’s talk about some of the other characters in this book. I LOVE the badass women pirates. I love the fact that Scott Lynch’s world is so totally different than our own when it comes to gender roles. Being a woman doesn’t stop any of his characters doing anything. His women are as real and vibrant as his men, with as many nuances and shades of grey and badass awesome moments.

Like Zamira. She’s a middle-aged pirate woman, a captain of one of the most feared pirate ships in the Brass Sea. She also is the single mum of two kids, and is raising them right out there on the high seas. She’s a great character. She oozes authority, and courage, and you definitely do not want to get on her bad side.

There are, of course, other great characters. I particularly liked the antagonists in this one. I felt that they had a lot of depth to them, rather than just being assholes for the sake of assholes. There are loads of other characters I could mention – Ezri, for instance – but you really need to experience them for yourself.

There is no map at the beginning of this one, which was a grievance I had in the last book. Once again, I feel that the novel would have benefitted from the inclusion of one.

The writing, though. I love the way Scott Lynch can turn a phrase. I really, really do. Amongst beautiful descriptions and plenty of atmosphere building, there are moments of pure humour and snark and wondrous narration.

For example:

“Mew,” the kitten retorted, locking gazes with him. It had the expression common to all kittens, that of a tyrant in the becoming. ‘I was comfortable, and you dared to move,’ those jade eyes said. ‘For that you must die.’ When it became apparent to the cat that its two or three pounds of mass were insufficient to break Locke’s neck with one mighty snap, it put its paws on his shoulders and began sharing its drool-covered nose with his lips. He recoiled.

I am in love with his writing. Pure, unadulterated love. *swoons like a maiden*

Whilst The Lies of Locke Lamora can stand alone as a novel, the same isn’t entirely true of this one. Sure, the main plotlines are all wrapped up at the end, but there is a massive great question mark left hanging over the characters. Technically, you can read this one as a standalone too, but I, for one, am very glad to have the next book sitting right next to me.

If you like cons and thieves and brutal fantasy and enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora, read this book. If you haven’t read The Lies of Locke Lamora, read that first, then come and read this book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Author: Scott Lynch

Series: The Gentleman Bastard (#1)

Publisher: Gollancz

Genre: Brutal, Thieving Fantasy

Pages: 531

Rating: 9.5/10

 

Some day, Locke Lamora,” he said, “some day, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope that I’m still around to see it.

Warning: If you hate expletives, perhaps this book is not for you. But damn, do they add to the atmosphere.

Summary: Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn of Camorr. Far from being an unbeatable swordsman and friend to the poor, however, Locke is skinny, terrible with a sword and keeps all the riches for himself and his Gentleman Bastards (though they don’t know what to do with it). What Locke Lamora does have, however, is brains and the balls to go through with complicated schemes.

But when the Gentleman Bastards begin the Don Salvara game, they get caught up in another, more murderous game. Suddenly, they’re not in control, and they’re struggling to stay alive.

Review: Wow. Just wow. I feel as though I’ve been hit across the face with a sledgehammer after reading this book. I was blown away by how good it is.

Firstly, the worldbuilding is amazing. You can really tell that Lynch’s world is lovingly crafted, and that he’s really thought about the cultures and religions, as well as the history of the city. I particularly liked the fact that Camorr was built on the ruins of an old alien culture, the Eldren, and that no one really knows what happened to them. All that’s left behind of them are structures made of Elderglass, a substance unable to be destroyed by human hands and that generates its own light. Very interesting, really.

The only thing I would say about the worldbuilding is that I really wished there was a map included at the beginning of the book. I sometimes felt a little bit lost when Lynch was describing one of the districts of Camorr, and a map would greatly have helped with that. Also, Lynch tends to describe the city a lot, so if that’s not your kind of thing be prepared for it. It was noticeable, but not too distracting; it did, however, occasionally jolt me out of the story when I was trying to get everything straightened up in my head. Like I said, a map of Camorr would do wonders (and this is the main reason why I knocked off 0.5 of a point).

I felt that Scott Lynch’s narrative structure was very brave. The main story is interspersed with flashbacks into the past, when Locke and the other Gentleman Bastards were receiving their education. On top of that, sometimes the main action is presented out of chronological order, so the reader believes one thing has happened, and then we are shown the events leading up to it and so learn what truly happened. If you are not prepared for it, it can be a little confusing. The prologue, for example, threw me off a little because I wasn’t expecting the timeline jumping. When I got used to it, however, I really appreciated how clever it was. Scott Lynch isn’t spoon-feeding his readers. You have to work your brain and pay attention to this book, and I revelled in the challenge.

I also liked that sometimes there were little mini-chapters describing bits of the culture, especially as those little mini-chapters became relevent in the main story more often than not. Even if they hadn’t become all that relevant, I enjoyed them for what they were: another piece of the fabric of the world Lynch has created. It is kind of like watching a tapestry unfurl in front of you, piece by bloody, fantastical piece.

On top of that, the writing style was wonderful to read. There were beautiful, gritty, vivid descriptions of the city, but there were moments of witty humour and deft wordsmithing too. The wittiness came through in the narrative, not just through Locke’s mouth, which I liked a lot. I liked feeling Lynch’s personality infused in the narrative of the story, as though I was being told a tale, a tale of an extraordinary man.

And Locke is an extraordinary man. Sure, he has a lot of failings. He’s terrible in a fight, he doesn’t quite think through the consequences of his actions (though it’s a lesson many people try to beat into him), and he doesn’t know when to shut his mouth. (He really doesn’t know when to shut his mouth.) You know those protagonists that taunt the villain when they’re in pretty deep trouble? Yeah. Locke puts all those protagonists to shame. However, despite his failings, he has some pretty good virtues too. Loyalty to his friends. An extraordinary brain. Some of the schemes he comes up with are so ludicrous, so complex and so damn ballsy, that you can’t help watching them unfold with your jaw dropped open.

It’s not just Locke that’s an amazing character, though. Jean Tannen. Calo and Galdo. Bug. Father Chains. Don and Dona Salvara. Capa Barsavi. The Grey King. The Falconer. The whole cast of characters are memorable, three-dimensional and unforgettable.

And another thing. No one’s safe. This book ripped my heart out, stomped all over it, and then sewed it back into my chest so it could do it all over again. And I loved it.

This is the first book in a projected series of seven books, but it also works as a standalone. This is a rare quality in a book that is part of a longer series, and a refreshing one. Loose ends are tied up. We’re not left hanging. The story is pretty much bundled up in one neat package. But there is potential for more and, trust me, by the end of this first book, you’ll want to spend another book with the Gentleman Bastards.

This is a debut novel that I was truly blown away by. If this is what Scott Lynch can do as a first effort, I can’t wait to see what he does with the gift of more experience