a game of thrones, a song of ice and fire, book review, fantasy, fiction, george rr martin, red seas under red skies, scott lynch, series, the gentleman bastards, the lies of locke lamora, the republic of thieves
OMG Fantastic!! Five BILLION Stars!!
How’s that for some enthusiasm? I haven’t been this excited about a series since George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones for you TV people). It hasn’t been since I first read A Game of Thrones that I had to buy the next book in the series immediately. And the next one, too. So really, I”ll be reviewing the whole Gentleman Bastards Sequence, so far.
I picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora because I’m getting ready to write my own fantasy series, and needed inspiration. And it was provided in spades. In fact, I feel that Lynch has set the bar rather high. He does everything right. If I can emulate him to a tiny degree, I’ll be happy.
Locke Lamora is an orphan with an unknown past, picked up by a “thiefmaker” in a fantastical version of Renaissance Venice, known as Camorr. It soon becomes apparent that Locke at age six or seven is dangerously good at what he does. Mostly dangerous.. So, the thiefmaker sells him to a temple, where the resident priest is really a confidence trickster, grooming youngsters for the trade.
Locke joins the twins, Calo and Galdo Sanza, along with the mysterious Sabetha, who is away training. Eventually Jean Tannen, a burly nerdy sort, rounds out their little gang. The story quickly jumps ahead to Locke in his early twenties. The old priest is dead, Sabetha is gone (and no one is willing to talk about it), and a 12-year-old named Bug is now part of the group.
They run an elaborate confidence scam on a local nobleman, but get caught up in a personal vendetta masked as a turf war between the local Capo and a rival newcomer. There are regular flashbacks to Locke’s years of training, but that does nothing to slow things down. Oh no. The only reason I couldn’t read this in one sitting was because it was so dang long. Which is great! I love it when books I love are long.
Lynch keeps cranking up the tension, throwing the boys into one hairy situation after another, and extricating them (mostly) in ingenious fashion. I’m in awe.
So of course, it was on to the next one, Red Seas Under Red Skies. Locke and Jean have barely escaped their last scam with their lives, and take ship for Val Terrar, another city-state. They spend nearly two years trying to hit the vault of a huge casino- or, is that what they’re really after?
Anyway, things go awry, as usual, and they end up as pirates! Yay! I love pirates! And the pirate captain is the bad-ass chick who has her two small children on board. Words can’t express how much I love that. The first mate is a tiny, badass chick who recognizes in Jean Tannen a fellow badass and sparks fly while Locke sulks.
Somehow, crazily and ingeniously, the pirate plot runs alongside the casino plot and it all blows up in spectacular fashion about the same time. And at the end, Locke is in a pretty pickle, so there HAS to be another book, right?
Right! The Republic of Thieves is the third very enjoyable installment. Locke is offered help from an unlikely quarter- for a price. A very weird price having to do with rigging an election. But the other side is also rigging the same election with the assistance of, wait for it- the elusive Sabetha!
We learn that Locke has loved her from the moment he first saw her, when he was seven. Lynch juggles several plot threads, as he takes us back to Locke and Sabetha’s early years with the thiefmaker, their temple training, and then a curious gig in which the two of them, Jean, and the Sanza twins pretend to be actors in distant Espara.
Their long-ago adventures run parallel to the current one, and they are both extremely suspenseful. I love the way he tucks at least two stories into one.
I love a lot of things. Locke’s whole world is interesting and colorful. Each new location is unique and plausible and sometimes horrible (Salon Corbeau- shudder!). There is abundant humor, mostly between Locke and Jean, and Locke is the most endearing, lying, fast-talker ever. Though he’s not a narrator per se, much of the action takes place through his point of view, which is unreliable in the extreme. He’s a truly enjoyable scoundrel.
I am intensely relieved that there will be at least one more book. Oh, and there’s a prequel scheduled to come out in 2017. Hmmph. Hurry up, Scott!