Author: Scott Lynch
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Don’t confuse my exclamation for a bad pirate imitation. Despite the novel’s swashbuckling theme, my utterance is for having finished a book on a cliff hanger with the sequel yet to be published.
Even though he has published only two novels, I can say without hesitation that Scott Lynch’s writing is something I treasure. He breaks many rules of writing — withholding information, letting side characters drive large parts of the action, and he introduces these ever-intriguing bondsmagi to his world and fails to enlighten us any further into their abilities and culture.
But there ends my complaining — Red Seas Under Red Skies, while not quite living up to the high bar that was set by The Lies of Locke Lamora, was a truly enjoyable read. Locke Lamora and his brawler buddy Jean return with new schemes planned. The story begins at the Sinspire, a popular casino with a supposedly impenetrable vault with a great sum of money that will put Locke and Jean back on the map. For two years, the gentlemen bastards pull sleights of hand and various tricks to build up a hoard of cash. Of course, nickel and diming (or is it Solari chit and silvering?) of suckers at the casino is too amateurish for two master thieves — they have a bigger plan at stake.
Per Locke’s usual method of engagement, nothing goes as planned and the two thieves find themselves sidetracked on the high seas, having to swindle a group of pirates to do their bidding. It doesn’t take long for them to be completely over their heads, trying desperately to stay alive and perhaps make some money in the process.
There are many things to love about this novel despite its inconsistencies. Ezri Delmastro and Zamira Drakasha serve as fearsome pirates that take Jean and Locke aboard when they are stranded aboard an oarless row boat. After risking their lives, Jean and Locke later earn Ezri and Zamira’s respect and a romantic interest later develops between Ezri and Jean. The interaction between Jean and Locke is as witty as ever, with snappy dialog and lurid descriptions of the world around.
Scott Lynch also has a talent for innovation, designing things such as playing cards that turn into a paste when in contact with alcohol, later hardening into a material harder than steel. The world and the buildings are so intricately crafted that one has the feeling that we are seeing but the tip of an iceberg when reading the novel. While I felt that Jean and Locke were often just along for the ride at parts, the novel was never dull or slow-moving. With most authors, I wouldn’t have faith that the protagonists knew what they were doing. With Locke and Jean, one can never doubt what tricks they have up their sleeves.
Red Seas Under Red Skies is not quite as good as the first novel, but is a stellar read nonetheless. The writing is fantastic and the characters are as likable and clever as ever. I eagerly await the third book in series.