Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “gentleman bastards sequence”

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.

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #49: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, narr. by Michael Page

Dudes, what a surprise this book was. I’d heard magical things from credible sources, and since I’m not one of those contrarians who take praise for a thing to mean it must actually suck, I put it on my list, figuring I’d get to it eventually. So when a free download of the audiobook popped up in my library queue, I dove right in. With the exception of one instance of plot dragginess in a critical area, I was not disappointed, and even though I was expecting good things, it still managed to surprise me. Scott Lynch is one of the most engaging authors I’ve read in a long time. His words just suck you in, and his city and characters come to life in a way that most authors only dream of. It’s one thing to have a great story puttering around in your head, another to bring it to life. Scott Lynch manages both in The Lies of Locke Lamora.

The Lies of Locke Lamora — the first in a proposed seven books in the Gentleman Bastard Sequence — follows the titular Locke Lamora from the tender age of seven as he goes from a dirty and careless orphan with a penchant for thieving to being the master of his very own group of cultured and educated thieves. They call themselves The Gentleman Bastards, and it is their sole mission to break the secret peace that holds the city of Camorr together. The formidable Capa Barsavi is the head of all crime in Camorr, and he made a deal twenty years before that the city’s thieves would leave the nobles alone in exchange for lenience from the city’s government. Breaking the secret peace is absolutely forbidden and punishable by death, but Locke and his Bastards operate in secret right under the nose of Barsavi, who believes them to be but middling and loyal thieves. The narrative alternates between Locke’s childhood, growing up with his fellow Bastards under the tutelage of Father Chains, and the present day, in which one of Locke’s long cons is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious figure calling himself The Gray King, who uses Locke in his quest to get revenge on Capa Barsavi and take Camorr for his own.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is what would happen if The Godfather and Ocean’s Eleven had a baby and it was raised in a version of Venice that was built out of strange indestructible glass by aliens who left thousands of years before. It’s a world where magic exists but is considered dangerous and rare, and thieving and conning is a much more important (and practical) way of life. There are so many plot threads in this book that a lesser author would have buckled under the pressure, but Scott Lynch’s style is to take a bunch of shit and just throw it up in the air, and then make you watch as it all unfolds according to plan, even as you think there’s no way he could ever bring it all together. The book is full of clever (and often very, very funny) dialogue and extremely likable characters. Also, lots of violence, characters getting in and out of brilliant scrapes, and some truly excellent swearing. Like, swearing as an art form. And there’s so much detail in any given scene — scenes that go on for much longer than they have a right to and still work — it’s like the world Lynch has created is actually there and his story and characters just live there. We’re done with Camorr by the end of the book, and I kind of can’t wait to see what areas of this world and its history he’s going to explore next.

The Gentleman Bastards Sequence has been compared to George R.R. Martin’s and Joe Abercrombie’s work, but the similarities only go so far. Sure, they’re all writing in what I’m going to call the “bloody, violent, and epic fantasy” genre, but Lynch’s work is very different from both. For one thing, even though this is a seven book series, the books are essentially stand-alone, in that storylines are complete from book to book: beginning, middle, end. And sure, Lynch has obviously been to the GRRM school of brutality and killing characters you love, but the world he’s created wouldn’t have the same effect if it wasn’t one in which actions have consequences. The Bastards themselves — the irrepressible Locke, the cunning Sanza twins, cheeky young apprentice Bug, and Locke’s best mate, Jean — are a lovable group of miscreants, and you really end up caring what happens to them in a rather short period of time.

The only criticism I have of the book — and it’s a pretty big one — is that after a pretty climactic moment in the narrative, the book kind of stalls and meanders along for a while before picking up again. Maybe it was the way I was reading it, but all this crazy shit had just happened and it went into this lull instead of escalating it. It took me a while to get back into the story after that happened, but when it finally picked up again HOO BOY DID IT PICK UP. To steal a swear from Lynch, “fuck damn!” Given how much I enjoyed the sequel, which had a pretty wonky structure as well, I’m thinking a re-read might sway my opinion on this one, but even if it doesn’t, the rest of the book is so good it almost doesn’t matter. As for the audiobook itself, Michael Page was a great narrator, really good at voices in particular, although the quality of the download I had wasn’t that great.

This was a really great book, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good yarn, not just fantasy fans. It’s also a great investment if you like good series, as I actually enjoyed the second book more than the first, and now I’m impatiently waiting the release of book three, which is apparently reaching GRRM levels of WHEN WILL THIS BE RELEASED. But I’m willing to wait if Lynch delivers the goods like he did in the first two. Anyway, I’ll think you’ll be just as surprised as I was by this book. As Locke himself would say, “There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”

[4.5 stars]

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

Post Navigation