Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.
Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.
Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.
Thoughts: The end of Red Seas Under Red Skies left readers on the edge of their seats, with Locke’s life hanging in the balance and his future uncertain. The Republic of Thieves opens by ramping things up a notch; Locke is now on his deathbed, physickers and alchemists are unable to help or even identify the poison, and Locke’s death is imminent. Until the arrival, of course, of another Bondsmage, who offers Locke his life back in exchange for taking part in a massive political scheme.
What can he do but agree?
The third but not the final book of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series was a strong following to the previous 2, though I found it held my attention less easily than the others. Oddly, the most interesting parts of the book were not the present-day political schemes that Locke and Jean found themselves trapped in, but the flashbacks to their youth and the days in which the whole group was together and still learning the ropes. Between the flashbacks and Locke’s attempts to woo Sabetha, it felt like very little was actually accomplished in regard to the task that Locke and Jean had been appointed, their actions amounting to a couple of smaller schemes that seemed more intended to annoy Sabetha than actually advance the party they were assigned to. It was a bit disappointing to see most of the book’s action and intrigue not actually take place surrounding the central plot, which was a vast change from previous novels.
It’s a shame, because the idea contained so much potential for mishaps and discovery and uncovering deeper truths, the same stuff we’ve come to know and love in previous books in the series, but it mostly seemed to be used as a backdrop for romantic tension. Were it not for the flashbacks that told a complete story in themselves, I’d have to count this as half a novel half-finished, because there was the idea, a bit of execution, and then before you know it, BAM, it’s over and a lot of the motivation for development is gone.
Still, Lynch has a fine way with words and knows how to weave an interesting story and truly impressive dialogue, so even when I felt that the plot was lagging or getting bogged down with Locke’s romantic issues, it was still an entertaining book to read. Not as much as The Lies of Locke Lamora or Red Seas Under Red Skies, but still worth reading. Perhaps it suffered from a belated version of Second Book Syndrome, where much of what happened was building on prior issues and setting up for later ones, but lacking an overall sense of completeness, the ability to really stand on its own.
The possibilities hinted at by the book’s revelations, particularly about Locke’s mysterious past, will keep me reading future books in the series, without a doubt. The Republic of Thieves could have been quite a bit worse and I’d still want to keep reading, because even if this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations, it was still a very good book, with fantastic dialogue and an interesting story, beautifully vivid imagery, and a hook that’s firmly lodged in my mind and will keep pulling me forward.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)