Sunday, 21 August 2011

Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch

This is the second book of the Gentlemen Bastards sequence, following on from The Lies of Locke Lamora.

One of the few downsides to The Lies of Locke Lamora was the fact that its beginning was a little slow. Mr. Lynch has improved this aspect in its successor, and Red Seas Under Red Skies has a much better start.

In addition, the interludes from the past are somewhat less common and blend seamlessly with the main thrust of the story.

The plot is simple in general and complex in detail. Locke and Jean are plotting a huge robbery (not so surprising), when the Bondsmagi take a hand in their affairs which leads to them being reduced to puppets of a military leader.

The pair are tasked with travelling out to sea and stirring up trouble with pirates, causing the military leader to crush said pirates, enhancing his own standing and helping him deal with his political rivals.

Locke has to balance completing his grand heist with doing his reluctant but unavoidable task, whilst a third unknown party tries to kill him and Jean.

I don’t want to give away much more than that as, similarly to the predecessor book, a real strength of Red Seas Under Red Skies is the complexity of the plot, the slyness of Locke Lamora and the cunning writing of the author.

The relationship between Locke and Jean is developed as it changes in the aftermath of the events that occurred in the previous book, and Scott Lynch does a fantastic job of creating two characters that are not merely credible but likeable and engaging.

In a similar vein, the world the escapades take place in is curiously realistic. The world is never the centrepiece of the book, but the detail and realism (in a fantasy-based context) is a great backdrop upon which the story unfolds.

A minor negative is that, whilst the start is better than The Lies of Locke Lamora, the build-up to the end lacks the feeling of a car accelerating downhill and going faster and faster and getting more and more exciting and unpredictable. The end itself is probably even more complicated than the last book, but it does all make perfect sense. Mr. Lynch is brilliant not only at creating characters, but at putting together a subtle and enticing plot.

A third book, The Republic of Thieves, is due out next year. It’s been oft-delayed, but hopefully we’ll see it in hardback in March 2012.


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