- Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies
- Author: Scott Lynch
- Series: Gentleman Bastards #2
- Genre: Fantasy
- Format: Paperback
- Source: own copy
- Reviewed by: Erica
- Rating: 5 out of 5
Description: Thief and con-man extraordinaire, Locke Lamora, and the ever lethal Jean Tannen have fled their home city and the wreckage of their lives. But they can’t run forever and when they stop they decide to head for the richest, and most difficult, target on the horizon. The city state of Tal Verarr. And the Sinspire.
The Sinspire is the ultimate gambling house. No-one has stolen so much as a single coin from it and lived. It’s the sort of challenge Locke simply can’t resist…
…but Locke’s perfect crime is going to have to wait.
Someone else in Tal Verarr wants the Gentleman Bastards’ expertise and is quite prepared to kill them to get it. Before long, Locke and Jean find themselves engaged in piracy. Fine work for thieves who don’t know one end of a galley from another.
Review: I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. Other people’s opinions seemed to be either that this is better than The Lies of Locke Lamora, or that they didn’t get along with this one at all, even though they loved the first one.
Unpon finishing it, I’m not in either camp. I loved this book, no doubt, but I don’t think it was better than the first book. Very close, but Lies wins by a small margin.
So, with that out of the way, what can I say about this book? Well, this is another one of these really hard reviews where I’m not sure what to say. I loved this book on so many different levels that it’s hard to explain. The set-up is awesome. Now that Locke and Jean are no longer welcome in Camorr, they have moved their base of operations to Tal Verrar, an island city-state in the Sea of Brass. Tal Verrar’s islands are made entirely of Elderglass, and the city’s power structure doesn’t hinge upon aristocrats and a duke, like in Camorr, but on the military Archon, Maxilan Stragos, and the priori, a council of merchants.
Not that Jean and Locke care – their target and base of operations is the Sinspire, Tal Verrar’s most exclusive and opulent gambling house, and their grand scheme has so far taken two years to set up.
The scheme shows Locke’s usual brilliance, and throughout the book bits are seeded in that together form the full picture of what he has planned. It wasn’t what I expected at all, but then I don’t have the kind of genius that can think up these schemes, nor do I ever read books speculating about what’s going to happen – I prefer to just be taken for a ride, and boy, what a ride this is.
Partway through the book the plot takes a completely unexpected turn and Locke and Jean end up at sea to turn their hands at piracy. It sounds improbable, but the twist is very well explained, and it gives another crack at some fantastic scenes and adventures.
What I loved about this book is how much closer you get to Locke. In the previous book he was more a character, more his con-man persona. In this book you get to see Locke the person, and see his deep-rooted loyalty to the people he loves, and the kinds of morals and values he has. Yes, Locke is a thief and murderer, but he’s not indiscriminate, and there are things people do that are technically within the law which disturb him deeply. It paints a picture of a complex man with many flaws, but I loved him all the more for it. Plus, sarcasm. I’m a sucker for a man who can be sarcastic in the face of imminent danger.
I also loved how Locke and Jean constantly end up in ever-worsening situations, the kind where you really don’t have a clue about how on earth they’re going to get out alive, and then they do, and how it happens is totally plausible while at the same time making for fantastic reading.
Another thing I loved is that in this world, it is bad luck for ships to not have at least one woman officer on board, and you also need cats, or you’re doomed. It makes such a wonderful difference from the traditional earth custom of women being bad luck on ships, and I’m a sucker for cats anyway, so both were right up my street.
This book has everything. It has parts that make you grin from ear to ear, such as the section towards the beginning where Jean kicks Locke out of his depression. It had one section that made me cry like a baby (always fun when you read your books on the bus to work – cue discreet sniffling and wiping of eyes), even though I knew it was coming. The ending is very melancholy, just like Lies, and it made my heart ache for Locke.
In a way I’m glad that I didn’t read these books until now, because I only have less than a fortnight to wait for The Republic of Thieves. I really don’t know how other people could stand the wait. That said, apparently this is planned to be a seven-book series, and Scott Lynch doesn’t appear to be fast. Still, even if I’m seventy by the time the last book comes out, I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait. In the meantime, I’ll just be re-reading these ones again and again.