narfna’s #CBR4 Review #50: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
The Lies of Locke Lamora ended with our hero, Locke, asking of the universe, “So this is winning? Well it can go fuck itself.” That statement pretty much sets the tone for Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book in the Gentleman Bastards sequence.
Locke and his best mate Jean may have “won” against The Gray King and the Spider of Camorr — escaping the city to live another day and lick their wounds — but the price they paid for that victory is almost unbearable for Locke. Forced to flee their home, their hard-won (i.e. stolen) fortune gone, and their temple burned to the ground, they are gravely injured in body and soul, and three of their fellow Gentleman Bastards, their brothers, are now dead. It’s under the shadow of these events that Locke and Jean cook up their latest scheme in the island city-state of Tal Verrar (a scheme which is just as much about healing as it is about doing what they love). But what starts out as a two year long-con of the most exclusive and impenetrable high-stakes casino in the world — the Sinspire — morphs into a high seas pirate adventure, when some of Locke and Jean’s old enemies get wind of their presence in the city and corner the two thieving con-men into becoming pieces in their own games for power. Games for power which involve Locke and Jean pretending to be pirates and raining hell up and down the coast. But, as always happens with these two, things don’t go according to plan.
Once again as he did in the first book, Lynch plays around with structure. The book starts out with an in media res prologue, with Locke and Jean held at crossbow point, and with Jean seemingly betraying Locke. This is one misstep the book makes . . . it’s not believable at all that Jean would ever betray Locke, and Lynch does a kind of half-assed job sowing those seeds throughout the rest of the book before we reach that moment again, and it is quickly revealed that, duh, Jean would never betray Locke in one billion trillion years. That makes the prologue completely unnecessary. Something else weird about the structure, although not necessarily bad, is that throughout the first half, the narrative alternates between present day and telling the story of the two years that have happened since we last saw Locke and Jean. Lynch seems to enjoy discombobulating his readers, but in the end it seemed to be nothing more than a callback to book one, as that alternating narrative completely disappears in the second half. Again, not necessarily bad, just kind of bizarre.
If The Lies of Locke Lamora was a hybrid of The Godfather and Ocean’s Eleven, then Red Seas Under Red Skies is a hybrid of Ocean’s Eleven and Pirates of the Caribbean, with just a hint of The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s one part casino heist, one part swashbuckling pirate adventure, and one part revenge story. It’s kind of nuts, to be honest, but it just sucked me in and didn’t let me go. I zoomed through all 578 pages in just under two days. This one was also much more about the friendship between Locke and Jean. Lies had so much plot and so many other characters shoved in that there really wasn’t time for the bromance buddy narrative Lynch so badly had a-brewing in his mind between these two characters. But in this one, it’s just Locke and Jean against the world, and both of them evolve into even more interesting characters because of it.
Oh, man, I just love this series, but now it joins my shelf of frustration, as I wait an eternity for the next book to be released. WHYYYY. At least there’s way less of a chance of Scott Lynch dying than there is of The Great Bearded Old One to finish up A Song of Ice and Fire before he drops dead of old age, (or more likely, the HBO series catches up to him). Alas. The perils of being a fan.
Whatever, you guys should read this series because I said so. The End.