Monday, October 21, 2013

Re-read: Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch

Re-read: Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch
So in anticipation for the release of the "Republic of Thieves," I decided to re-read the Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series. Last week I posted my thoughts on "The Lies of Locke Lamorra," which if anything I enjoyed even more second time round. This week I will concentrate on the treaded second book. When "Red Seas Under Red Skies" was released, unlike now, it received mixed reviews. I was in the positive review camp it will be interesting to see how it holds up this time around.
The Blurb:
Escaping from the attentions of the Bondsmagi Locke Lamora, the estwhile Thorn of Camorr and Jean Tannen have fled their home city. Taking ship they arrive in the city state of Tal Varrar where they are soon planning their most spectacular heist yet; they will take the luxurious gaming house, The Sinspire, for all of its countless riches. No-one has ever taken even a single coin from the Sinspire that wasn't won on the tables or in the other games of chance on offer there. But, as ever, the path of true crime rarely runs smooth and Locke and Jean soon find themselves co-opted into an attempt to bring the pirate fleet of the notorious Zamira Drakasha to justice. Fine work for thieves who don't know one end of galley from another. And all the while the Bondsmagi are plotting their very necessary revenge against the one man who believes he has humiliated them and lived; Locke Lamora.
The answer is well but not as well as I hoped. What worked exceedingly well in the first book is not present for a lot of RSORS. In TLOLL Locke was a cocky, arrogant swine, who although got put through the wringer, always had quiet confidence in his ability and had a trick up his sleeve. In RSORS he spends much of the first part of the novel wallowing in self-pity and squabbling with Jean. 
He is then constantly out of his depth but does not appear to have too many answers. As a result the reader is never comfortable with where the story is going as any minute you are expecting it veer off in another direction when an even more powerful character arrives on the scene. Don't get me wrong, this is still a dam good read and I loved the settings of the Sinspire and the red sea but I felt the balance was not quite right between vulnerable Locke and the arrogant Locke we all loved in the first.
The other minor quibble I have with the book is the relationship between Locke and Jean. These are two friends that are loyal to the end, would die for each other and are so in sync that it made me yearn to have a friend on that level. However, after the initial wobble in their relationship Lynch almost tries to emphasise their argument a little too much. One minute they are back to normal and the next there are elements of distrust. I found these to be a little inconsistent this time round and certainly not in keeping with the previous dynamic the pair shared. It also made me miss the camaraderie and good humour of the first.
Despite these negatives the rest is a bloody good read. The new characters introduced are a joy from Zamira Drakasa to Romanov. It is also nice to see Jean in a relationship and one that is handled perfectly nonetheless.
Lynch's imagination is as impressive as ever. Whether it be the elaborate schemes that Locke comes up with or the fantastic settings and world building. Creatures in the sea that we just get a glimpse of make you yearn for more detail for example.
The ending of the novel is a bit of a mixture. Things are resolved to a degree (although there is a nice cliff hanger) but everything is far from neat and tidy. I applaud Lynch for trying to do something different with the second book and it is a lot better than a lot of books out on the market, on the re-read though, it fell slightly short of his first effort.
My rating: 8.8