Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review - Republic of Thieves

Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch
Sometimes authors are a victim of their own success. Scott Lynch launched his career with two fantastic books. Unfortunately he then suffered from a well documented illness which led to a prolonged six year wait for the third entry into his “Gentleman Bastards” series.
With all delays there is a sense of inevitability these days that the reviews will always be mixed and the book will be met with general disappointment. I therefore made a point of letting the pandemonium die down after the release before enjoying the book with my views untarnished.
The blurb:
After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bonds Magi. It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke's own long lost love. Sabetha is Locke's childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke's life and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds Sabetha has just one goal - to destroy Locke forever. The Gentleman Bastard sequence has become a literary sensation in fantasy circles and now, with the third book, Scott Lynch is set to seal that success.
It was like Scott Lynch had never been away. Having recently re-read both preceding books in preparation for ROTs, I can safely say the style of writing and natural dialogue remains as strong as ever.
Once again, Scott Lynch tells two stories at once. One is concerned with the present day and the other returns to the familiar flashbacks of the Gentlemen Bastards and their time with chains.
In both we finally meet the eagerly anticipated Sabetha. For those that don’t know she is the one member of the Gentleman Bastards that we have heard mentioned a lot but have never met. Up until ROT, all we knew of her was that she was well regarded, dangerous and Locke pined hard for her.
What Scott does is interesting as essentially we are meeting two versions of Sabetha. In the interludes we meet the younger, more insecure incarnation and in the present day we witness Sabetha as a more closed off and confident woman who has established her place in society.
I have to admit, I liked both versions very much. She is strong, cunning and selfish but also retains a certain charm. It is easy to see why Locke falls for her in a big way and Lynch does a good job of conveying just how attractive she is by having others desiring her too.
Her relationship with Locke however is not so well handled. There is something a little too babyish about their dynamic and there are often times when one misinterprets what the other says or how they act, when their meaning was so blindingly obvious. A lot of the relationship also felt too drawn out so it felt frustrating rather than endearing. Even the other characters got annoyed at the pair’s reluctance to take move from a platonic relationship, this is fine to happen once, but when your own creations start repeatedly getting frustrated with the relationship, it is a sign that maybe the reader will too.
It did not detract from my enjoyment too much, but it did irk me slightly. Locke is stronger in this entry. He is back to being his assured self and is at home when improvising or getting out of trouble. His antics are amusing and you always feel like he has something extra up his sleeve which is the Locke you want to root for.
Jean on the other hand is relegated to a more supporting role once again. He does get his own POV chapters but is far less influential this time round which is a bit of a shame.
It was also nice to get reacquainted with Callo and Galdo in the flashbacks. The twins constant banter was a massive loss in “Red Seas Under Red Skies.”
Of the two stories the flashback plot is probably the stronger. The parts in Camorr in particular are excellent and the cast of actors who perform the play of Republic of Thieves is stronger and more diverse. If I had a quibble, it would be that the parts where Lynch had his characters read out lines from the play were a little tedious. The verses went on a little too long and felt unnecessary. I had little doubt that Lynch has probably written a whole play to support the story, it just felt a little self indulgent to include large portions of it and didn’t really add anything to the story for me. 
The present day storyline is enjoyable enough. It is fun reading about the one-upmanship the two sides of the political parties partake in, but there is never really the sense of danger involved. Yes there is the external threat from the Bonds Magi but you always get the sense that the outcome of the election doesn’t really matter.
What is good is that we learn more of the Bonds Magi and their background. We also learn a bit more of Locke’s past which is interesting to say the least.
Overall I enjoyed the Republic of Thieves a lot. It certainly disappoint me in any shape of form although it was not without its minor flaws.
My Rating: 8.6