Review of The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

2890090Title: The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3)

Author: Scott Lynch

Publisher: Del Rey-Spectra

Format: e-ARC

Where I Received the Title: NetGalley

Review:

Ah, so here it is! The book I’ve been waiting to read — the book we’ve all been waiting to read and it is finally here!

The Republic of Thieves has been one of the most anticipated sequels in the last five years. With each delay, the anticipation of eager fans only grew. From that standpoint, it is nearly impossible to deliver a novel that will knock the socks off the faithful readers. But did it quench that insatiable thirst to know Locke’s fate and learn of his new adventures? Absolutely!

Scott Lynch tortured us by leaving the second Gentleman Bastard book, Red Seas Under Red Skies, on a cliff-hanger that left readers everywhere restless. In The Republic of Thieves, Lynch absolves himself of his sin by delivering an imperfect, but quite satisfying work.

Locke Lamora lies on his deathbed as his faithful companion, Jean Tannen, bribes and kidnaps the most prominent of physikers to remove the poison from his body. Despite Jean’s efforts, Locke’s condition continues to get worse. When all hope appears to be lost, a bonds-magi by the name of Patience shows up at their doorstep with an offer that Locke simply can’t refuse. In exchange for his life, Locke must rig a political election. Under normal circumstances, this would be a walk in the park; however, Locke learns that he will face the most formidable opponent he has ever encountered — his first true love, Sabetha.

To tell you any more of the plot would be of disservice, but I’ll share a few broad impressions I had.

Many fans were critical of Red Seas Under Red Skies for not furthering the story arc of the bondsmagi. The Republic of Thieves gives us intimate details of this underground clan. We learn of their inner-workings and politics and even discover a connection that Locke may have to these conjurers. Locke’s encounters with Patience help to develop the world he lives in, but it almost serves as a backdrop to his attempts to: first, reacquaint himself with Sabetha, and secondarily, survive.

Locke’s relationship with Sabetha is interwoven deeply throughout the novel. She is in many ways Locke’s equal, but stays ahead of him by avoiding the romantic allure that cripples Locke’s efforts. Sabetha keeps her emotions closer to the vest and I was often uncertain where her heart resided. Their interaction was written well, but the complexity of the story was toned down from previous novels. There are fewer cons to titillate the reader and the action is slower, making this novel more of an interesting read than a fun one.

Despite its slower pacing, The Republic of Thieves cemented in my mind that this is a series to read for the long haul. The broader story arc of the series is now clear, leaving my expectations high for the next in series. In fact, I didn’t previously own any of the Gentleman Bastard books, but after finishing this novel, I went out and purchased a nice first-edition hardcover of The Lies of Locke Lamora. I will be grabbing nice copies of the other two as well.

The Republic of Thieves is an excellent novel. If you haven’t read this book or series, I strongly suggest you do so. Some writers crank out several books a year, but Lynch’s meticulous efforts in writing his novels pays off. His prose is full of wit and the experience of reading his books is like drinking a well-aged, single-malt scotch, compared to the grocery store bottle of whiskey that you get from lesser writers. If you prefer cheap booze because of its convenience, then maybe this isn’t the series for you. If you like to savor a quality drink — sip-by-sip — over the course of an evening, The Gentleman Bastard series is right up your alley. The Republic of Thieves was worth the wait.

Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

887877Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentlemen Bastard #2)

Author: Scott Lynch

Rating: 5 star

Publisher: Bantam Spectra

Review:

Aarggh!

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.

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Author: Scott Lynch

Rating:

Publisher: Gollancz

Format: Hardcover

Review:

I have been reluctant in reading The Gentlemen Bastard Sequence. Lynch’s recent personal struggles have made it difficult for him to meet deadlines and the third book in the series has now been postponed until Autumn of this year. Furthermore, there is no indication that the predicted release date has more integrity than the words of Locke Lamora. Scott Lynch reiterated this point in his new blog, saying “not to take any date as valid until you see [him] posting it online [him]self.”

Despite the uncertainty in future releases, I couldn’t help myself. I heard Scott Lynch on the Sword and Laser podcast and he seemed to have a knowledge of the genre and craft that surpassed many of his peers. He is smart and thoughtful and in the end of the interview, he recommended Dan Simmon’s Hyperion for the S&L book club pick. Given the high esteem I hold for that novel (what can I say — Lynch has good taste), I figured it was about time I acquiesce and begin Scott Lynch’s first novel.

So here I am, reviewing The Lies of Locke Lamora.

In the city of Camorr, there are two classes of people: nobles and gangs of thieves (hundreds of them). There is a secret peace between the two classes — a general understanding, if you will — that the thieves do not steal from nobility and in return, Camorr’s law enforcement turns a blind eye to the unlawful gangs’ profession.

So here comes a six or seven-year-old boy by the name of Locke Lamora, a meager-sized orphan whose ambition and cunning far outweigh his fellow thieves. After breaking the Secret Peace and nearly giving himself a death sentence, Locke is sold to a so-believed priest named Father Chains who embraces the youth’s lofty aspirations and teaches him how to be a gentleman thief.

After several years of training, Locke conspires a grand scheme to steal half of the fortune from a notable duke. To assist him in this fraud are Jean Tannen, a broad-shouldered tough man with a violent temper and a master of hatchets (particularly, his “wicked sisters”); Calo and Galdo Sansa, jack-of-all-trades twins with a love for gambling; and Bug, the cadre’s youngest member.

The Lies of Locke Lamora reads like a caper, but I will not be one of the many reviewers who likens the novel to Oceans Eleven. In fact, if you want to compare it to a movie, I think Catch Me If You Can is a much better comparison. This is not a story of one great heist against a wealthy enterprise, but rather a story of Locke and a collection of lives he invents in order to gather a vault full of money. He is a complete commoner who passes himself of as one of society’s elite in several different circumstances.

Locke’s biggest obstacle is not the nobility, the law, or Capa Barsavi (ruler of the gangs of thieves). There is a much bigger threat — a man who calls himself the Gray King. With the help of a bondsmage (a for-hire sorcerer), the Gray King systematically assassinates the garristas (gang leaders) in an effort to replace Capa Barsavi as the thieving-class leader of Camorr. Locke is thrust into the center of the Gray King’s plans and soon the Gentlemen Bastards find themselves in the direst of circumstances.

The nature of Locke Lamora’s profession leads him to always be on his toes. He is perpetually in disguise and forced to react quickly. With a protagonist/anti-hero such as Locke, I found myself hanging on every page and every word wondering what would happen next. The book does not unfold like a grand mystery and at times wanders with multiple timelines. But the overall impact was truly satisfying. It was a pleasure to experience Locke battle wits with the nobles and to cringe when Jean pummeled the faces of rival gang members. Jean and Locke share a brotherly bond that most men can relate to, united not through their common interests, but through their dependence on one another as if they were born of the same blood.

The Lies of Locke Lamora was a truly enjoyable read. It has elements of mystery, magic, and swashbuckling adventure that appeal to diverse interests. I look with eager anticipation to read the next novel and hopefully the rest of the series in the near future.