The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – October 10, 2013

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.)

Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch

Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

Author’s website
Publication date – July 1, 2008

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can’t rest for long—and are soon back to what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele—and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior… and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house’s cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.

Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors… straight to Requin’s teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb—until they are closer to the spoils than ever.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo’s secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough…

Thoughts: If there’s any series that’s on the lips of fantasy fans these days, it’s Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series. The first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, blew me away when I read it. Its sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, did not disappoint.

Where the first book took place in Camorr, a Venice-inspired city of corruption and commerce, the second book of the series takes place partly in Tal Verrar, with its giant casino known as the Sinspire, and mostly on the high seas, turning the book into a grand tale of piracy and betrayal.

It’s hard to review this book without making comparisons to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Locke’s adventures and misadventures, along with a complex plot of double-dealing and lies within lies, sounds very much like something Jack Sparrow would encounter if he started his life off as a grand thief on dry land. Both Locke and Jack are larger-than-life characters that have brutal and humourous realism to themselves, making them fantastic characters to follow and get invested in.

Most interesting is that over the course of the story, the relationship and trust between Locke and Jean gets stretched and altered, with the presence of Ezri coming between them on more than one occasion, and we get to see a fine example of platonic jealousy. Locke certainly has no romantic interest in Jean, but is jealous of the attention he gives to Ezri, and how that might change the dynamic between the lifelong friends. It was wonderful to see this, not only as character development but as an example of a very real feeling that occurs between close friends when someone new comes along. Rarely do I see this happen without there being a romantic bent or love triangle in the making.

I’m coming to realize that this series is difficult to talk about without giving away a good deal of the plot. To say that this book involves Locke and Jean engaging in high-seas piracy is accurate, but does the complex and well-thought-out plot a great disservice. As in the previous novels, seemingly random occurrences come together in the end in the literary version of a cinematic masterpiece. The duo get caught in political machinations with wide-spreading ripples, and it goes far beyond a pirate tale with familiar characters. It takes what was established in the first novel and expands upon, showing us more of the world and the characters who dwell within it, taking us on a wild adventure that leaves a deep impression, and a legacy I hope the final novel in the series, The Republic of Thieves, will live up to.

I’m starting to feel like this review is turning into a fandrogyne squee-fest instead of a constructive dissection. Ultimately, this book is best experienced by experiencing it, not reading reviews like this. Begone with you. Go read it. Seriously, go now; you won’t regret it.

Gentlemen Bastards readalong – Red Seas Under Red Skies – Chapters 5-8

It’s time for week 2 of the Red Seas Under Red Skies readalong, hosted by Gollancz and Fantasy Faction, so let’s get right to it.

Question: The section where Locke talks with Chains about reminding the rich who they are certainly enforces the idea that Locke is more Robin Hood than malicious thief. Indeed, this is also the first time we’ve heard the Bastards claim to be more than simply thieves. Do you think this is something Scott has always planned or do you think Scott decided after the first book that he needed to give Locke a heroic purpose?

I admit, I’m not completely sure. It fits in with everything that Locke did in the last book, with no conflicts that I could see, so it wouldn’t surprise me to know that it was planned all along. However, with the amount that Locke and Jean are quoting the “thieves prosper” line in this book, you’d think that if it was planned from the beginning, that line might have come up a time or two in The Lies of Locke Lamora. So there are signs that even if it fits perfectly well in character, it might not have been planned this way early on.

But either way, Locke didn’t need to have a heroic purpose. Not really. I don’t need to think that he’s doing what he does on behalf of his god to think that he’s great to read about. It adds another layer to his characters, but I don’t require that my protagonists view themselves and morally right in some fashion to empathize with them and enjoy reading about them.

redseasunderredskiesQuestion: For me, the archon trying to destroy Karthain plot-thread is the first time this series has felt like an ‘Epic’ fantasy novel (i.e. epic in scale). How do you guys feel about that? Is it inevitable in a fantasy novel that the protagonist eventually has to play a part in saving / bringing down the world?

I don’t think it’s inevitable, but it does seem to happen an awful lot. It doesn’t surprise me that Locke and Jean would get involved in something large-scale, though. Those two work big schemes on people who are either rich enough to affect politics, or who are placed to affect politics, and I think it was only a matter of time before their own big schemes yielded something bigger than the both of them.

Of course, I think the whole plot is bigger than everyone involved, and most of all bigger than those trying to orchestrate it, so I can’t wait to see how it all backfires.

Question: We recently ran an article on Fantasy-Faction about secondary characters. Certainly, Scott Lynch has put a ton of great ones in RSURS. What do you think of the mysterious characters like Merrain, Selendri, Requin, Stragos, Caldris? Which is your favourite?

Secondary characters are awesome, because they keep a book from only having a few principle characters being developed. And Lynch has done a great job making secondary characters layered and complex enough to seem as real as Locke himself. It’s hard to pick a favourite, really, because they’re all quite interesting. Seledri’s got an interesting past, Merrain keeps me on my toes every time she’s on the pages, Caldris had such a great scathing wit that he loved to turn on Locke and Jean, and Jibril’s just kind of awesome and I hope he shows up again so I can read more about him.

Question: What did you think of the sudden swing in direction – one minute we were focusing on a casino vault heist (Ocean’s Eleven) the next we are jumping on the high seas (Pirates of the Caribbean). Are you glad we are moving away from the Casino, are you looking forwards for the pirate sections?

Both settings were interesting in their way, and honestly, even if the book took place entirely in the Sinspire, it still would have ended up being great, because trouble follows Locke and Jean like a puppy. But I’d have to say the pirate sections beat the casino for interest, in part because the two have little idea what they’re doing and the game has expanded so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens from here on out.

Gentlemen Bastards readalong – Red Seas Under Red Skies – Chapters 1-4

So after finishing up with The Lies of Locke Lamora, it’s now time to launch into the second book of the Gentlemen Bastards series with Red Seas Under Red Skies. Questions and readalong organzation is all done through Gollancz and Fantasy Faction, so if you want to join in, hop over to one of those blogs for additional details.

And now, on with the questions!

Question: So, what are your initial impressions of the opening quarter of the book? A lot has changed… what do you like and what do you dislike?

It was weird to see Locke so despondant, for one thing. In the last book, he was full of life, either living it up as a kmaster thief or burning with righteous rage. So seeing him like that was strange.

I also found myself somewhat mistaken about the issue of the Bondsmage. Sort of. In the last batch of questions, it was asked if I thought we’d seen the last of the Falconer. And we have, so far. Sort of. We haven’t seen the last of people out for revenge on his behalf, however, and that’s a little different. So I guess I stand semi-corrected.

But overall, my impressions so far are of a strong continuation of a strong previous novel, and it makes me very happy to be able to read it!

redseasunderredskiesQuestion: How did you find Locke’s depression? Was it out of character for him? Was Jean’s frustration at Locke out of character for him too?

It was very much in character. Hard to deal with, because it presented a very different person than I was used to seeing. He had just lost 3 of his friends and companions, and that’s not counting Nazca, and life as he knew it was pretty much over. I can’t say I blame him for retreating into himself and letting despair overtake him.

That being said, I also completely understand Jean’s reaction. Locke wasn’t making things easy for him, and Jean had lost just as much, and doing his best to not only pull through for himself, but force Locke to stand on his own two feet, which Locke was refusing to do. It was a lousy situation for them both, and I think both of their actions were completely understandable.

Question: Why do you think Locke and Jean ignore the Bondsmagi? Are they scared of them or is it more a feeling of helplessness that they can’t stand to face?

I don’t think they ignore them so much as put up a tough face, trying to turn their back on them out of bravado, because they know that neither of them are in a position to face one Bondmage, let alone multiple.  But as to whether they feel scared or helpless? Why not Zoidberg both?

Question: What do you think about the new setting of Tal Verrar compared to Camorr?

It’s an interesting change of setting. In some ways, it’s familiar, because you’ve got a society that’s built atop corruption while maintaining an image of respectability. But there are enough differences to make it feel like a whole new place, and from the general feel of the novel, a whole new adventure.

But in a lot of ways, it’s like Camorr 2.0. I’m starting to wonder if there’s any place in this world that doesn’t glorify screwing people over. Perhaps that’s a narrow view, because we’re mostly seeing what Locke and Jean are going through, and they’re naturally going to be part of the underworld, the duplicitous and sneaky and opportunistic.

Question: Who do you think is the lesser of two evils? Requin or Stagos? Which one should Locke avoid upsetting at the end of the con or do you think it is inevitable Locke will have them both after his blood?

I think Locke’s going to have both of them after him, while having to dodge the Bondsmagi at the same time. Because that’s just how things seemed to roll in the last book, and I can see the very same thing happening here. I can’t see either Requin or Stagos as unlikely llies to Locke and Jean, and while I can completely see Locke trying to play one against the other, I can’t see him relying on either of them for help when push comes to shove.

But on the whole, I think that Requin, weirdly, is the lesser of two evils. His interests are smaller-scale, and mostly out in the open, where Stagos is another one of those people who has his fingers in everyone’s pies and then smiles innocently while the world goes to hell around him. I’ve never trusted characters like that; Requin, at least, doesn’t pretend to be anything but the hard-hearted and ruthless business man that he is.

Or so it seems, anyway. From my experience with the last book, I completely expect my expectations to be turned on their heads by the end!

Question: I found it interesting that Locke was talking about retirement or at very least changing how he works. We also see Locke finding it difficult to watch younger people die. Do you think the two are connected? Do you think Locke is losing his nerve as he gets older?

I think Locke has had a real taste of mortality, and he didn’t like it. Seeing others like him die, he becomes all too aware of the fact that every action, every scheme could lead to his own downfall, and in that, it’s not out of character to see him talk about settling down and retiring. it’s sad, but not unexpected. It reminded me of a quote from Mercedes Lackey’s Take a Thief: “There are old thieves, and there are bold thieves, but there are no old bold thieves.”

That being said, I can’t picture him actually settling down. Sure, he may buy himself a title, buy a house, live like a respectable well-off citizen of wherever he ends up, but really, can you honestly picture him not getting itching fingers or coming across an awesome scam that he can run? He just won’t rely on it, he won’t do it so much, and it’ll be more of a game for him than a way of life. I can see him cheating his way into every coin that touches his hand, but it won’t be his profession anymore, if that makes sense.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

liesoflockelamora  Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

Author’s website
Publication date – June 26, 2007

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Orphan Locke Lamora leads elite thieves “Gentlemen Bastards” trained by priest Chains. In Venice-like city, as the “Thorn of Camorr”, he stings the wealthy nobles. But the Gray King kills mobster Capa Barsavi’s trusted, and uses Locke as his pawn to take control. Locke vows revenge, but is best skilled at lies. His opponent has more money, men, and power.

Thoughts: The best books are the hardest to review, because it’s difficult to be objective when all you want to do is rave about how awesome the book was, how captivating and engaging the plot was, how smooth the pacing, how amazing was the whole package and how you didn’t want to put it down when the story was finished.

This is one of those books.

If you haven’t yet read The Lies of Locke Lamora, you’re missing out. While it doesn’t have many of the classic elements associated with fantasy (indeed, it seems to stop at rare magics and commentary on an ancient civilization who left an architectural legacy behind), it is unmistakably fantasy, throwing you into a new world with new cultures and interesting people, with inspiration taken from various European cultures in the way of most fantasy, making for a comfortable and familiar setting that allows the reader to focus entirely on the exciting plot without having to pick up the nuances of a vastly different culture.

Not that doing so is a bad thing. But the European influence works well here, and the familiarity really did let me put my focus on the fast and tight plot that was unfolding. Lynch does some wonderful world-building, layering piece upon piece until not only do you have an interesting culture in Camorr, but also a believable one. It’s a city of hidden corruption, hands stabbing as often as shaking, the unwary losing their fortunes or their lives just as easily as they once kept both. But it’s not a crapsack world where everything is dark and horrible; there’s light and hope and fun and all the positive and negative things that make up the life of a busy city of commerce and culture.

The story, naturally, centres around Locke Lamora, orphan and thief with a flair for the dramatic. No score is too big for him, no scheme too complex. If it involves disguising himself as a rich merchant in order to con nobles out of their money, well, all the better! Locke’s sense daring nature is one of the things that makes this book so incredible; you can’t help but admire the guy. He’s the quintessential lovable rogue, the charismatic thief whose clandestine dealings are nothing but thrills and adventure. Even when he’s robbing people blind and scaring them into silence, you can’t help but root for him.

The way the story is told takes a little getting used to, with each chapter followed by an interlude that sometimes tells some of Locke’s childhood and training, sometimes the training of another of Locke’s friends, sometimes little stories and explanations of things in Camorri culture. It isn’t confusing so long as you can keep holding the main plot in your mind, and the back-and-forth method of storytelling is one that I’m quickly coming to enjoy, since it allows for the conveying of greater amounts of information without an awkward infodump or long stretch of exposition that isn’t always in character or situationally appropriate. It doesn’t always work, but I’m finding more examples of ways where it does, and this is most assuredly one of them. In the end, between character conversations and the interludes of backstory, you have the bulk of a character’s life laid out before you, and for revealing things little by little, it works wonders.

The characters… Again, it’s hard to describe some things without going over the top with praise. The characters are a delight to read about. Calo and Galdo, witty twins with somewhat crude senses of humour who finish each other’s sentences. Jean, loyal, tough as nails and with a temper you don’t want to mess with. Locke himself, loyal and quick-witted and creative and not one to suffer a slight without giving back at least as good as he got. The antagonists are well-developed, each other their own stories and complete personalities, and are just as interesting to read about. The only exception might be the Bondsmage, whom we don’t learn too much about except for what we learn about Bondsmages in general, but that was less bad character development and more of the deliberate mystery built up around his character and his profession.

Trust me, if you haven’t taken the time to read this book, you need to correct that. from beginning to end, it was a fast-paced and amazing adventure, one that’s worth every second you spend on it. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s one of the closest to perfect that I’ve ever read. And I hear the rest of the series is just as good or better, and I can’t wait to dive into book 2, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and sink into Locke’s world once again.

Gentlemen Bastards readalong – The Lies of Locke Lamora, Chapters 13-epilogue

It’s been 4 weeks, and the Lies of Locke Lamora readalong has drawn to a close. And what a ride it was! I don’t know why I’d waited so long to read this book, but I’m glad I finally had a good excuse to stop putting it off. The questions and discussion have been a lot of fun, and when all is said and done, I should be writing a finally all-encompassing review early next week.

Speaking of questions, let’s take a look at this batch, before we all move on to the next book of the series.

Question: The Meraggio chapter felt like an Ocean’s Eleven inspired mini-adventure all to itself. What did you think of it? Did it feel a little out of place or do you think that it did well to lighten the book a little after all the dark events that occurred just before it?

I thought it was interesting to see one of Locke’s schemes not going according to plan. Well, not drastically and potentially fatally, anyway.  It may not have been immediately related to the action, but it didn’t feel out of place to me. It was a necessary step to getting Locke where he needed to be, and to have skipped it would have stretched credibility. Locke just happens to have one last awesome set of clothes to continue his ruse, one that escaped destruction or theft? That would have been a bit cheap.

Question: The Interlude about the Camorri brothels is an interesting one. It seemed as if it would have been better coming a little bit earlier. Why do you think Scott Lynch chose to include this Interlude where he did, so late in the book? What do you think it added to the story?

I like the little interludes that shed light on Camorri culture and mindset. This one served as a effective conveyance for how the one hand greases the other, how everyone has arrangements to keep the peace, and if that peace is disturbed, bad things happen. It was a microcosm, a small example of the larger whole, in addition to just being a neat tidbit of info about how some of the less salient parts of Camorr function.

liesoflockelamoraQuestion: Although we had the Bondsmagi, Magic and Mythical creatures were more ‘in the background’ of this novel. It’s worth noting that this was one of the first fantasy novels that, despite being set in a fantasy world, features very little fantasy (many followed / were released around the same time such as Joe Abercrombie’s or Doug Hulick’s books, for example). What did you think of the lack of ‘fantastical’ elements?

To be honest, where often this is a fairly glaring thing to me when I read fantasy without fantastical elements, I didn’t really notice it much here. And it could just be that I’m also in the middle of reading Game of Thrones, which is similar in its lack of fantastical stuff, only moreso, but The Lies of Locke Lamora didn’t seem to have anything lacking. There were plenty of fantasy elements scattered through the pages, mostly hinted at, but the fact that most of the book took place around them rather than including them wasn’t a problem because the story was told in such a fantastic way. It’s hard to notice when a thing is lacking when you’re too enthralled by what is there.

Question: Do you think we’ve seen the last of the Bondsmage or do you think he’ll be back? 

I think we’ve seen the last of him. Though given other things I’ve tried to predict about this book, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to discover that I’m dead wrong about that.

Question: Do you think the fact Locke saved so many nobles makes him a good guy after all? Do his past crimes deserve to be forgiven for the saving of so many lives?

There’s too much emphasis placed on “good guy / bad guy.” A person can be both, or neither, depending on the situation. Locke saved the day, which was good, but still carried on his schemes and would cheerfully have robbed everyone blind, given half the chance, which many would say makes him a bad guy. I think he’s just a guy defying simplistic categorization, and having a damn load of fun while he’s at it!

Question: What were your favourite and least favourite parts of the book?

That’s a tough one. Least favourite would probably be the Salvaras inviting Locke to the grand party at the end, because that seemed a touch contrived. I suspected that they had figured out a few things about Locke’s disguise and were trying to lead him into a trap; that was how contrived it seemed to me.

My favourite bits were toward the beginning, when we’re seeing more of Locke’s childhood and his early attempts at theft and learning restraint. I have a soft spot for charismatic thieves, and an even softer spot for them when they’re children, because they’re such fun to read about then.

Question: Where does Locke Lamora stand in your list of all-time great fantasy books? Is it right up there or does something hold it back?

Oh, it’s right up there. I wouldn’t call it my favourite, but the story and the writing definitely put it in the Favourites list, where I suspect it’ll stay for a long time to come.

Gentlemen Bastards readalong – The Lies of Locke Lamora, Chapters 9-12

Time for this week’s installment of questions and my overanalyzed answers from the Gollanz and Fantasy Faction readalong for Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. This quarter of the book was holy-crap-I’m-on-the-edge-of-my-seat exciting, even moreso than last time, and it took a lot of self-control to not just cave and start reading ahead.

So, let’s move on to the questions, and then I can feel perfectly justified in starting in on the final quarter of the novel!

What did you think of Scott Lynch’s system of religion in Locke Lamora? Do you think it is over explained, under explained, perfect?

I think a fine line is generally walked when it comes to creating religions and featuring them in fantasy novels. When it’s done badly, it’s done badly! Happily, this wasn’t the case here. I think Lynch thought things through quite well, and it comes across in the details. We aren’t being inundated with long expository passages about how the religion works and which people believe in which deities, but instead the information’s being dropped casually in the narration and speech patterns of characters, so that we not only pick up the gist of how things work, but also how much of a part it all plays in the lives of the characters we’re seeing.

There was a very long action scene where Jean and Bug fought against Salt Demons. How did you find this scene? Did it fit with the rest of the novel?

To be honest, I found it a little boring. That isn’t to say that Lynch can’t write a fight scene, but my mind was on Locke’s predicament and what would happen next in a larger sense, so I found myself hoping that the fight would end quickly and I could get back to reading what I was looking for.

liesoflockelamoraThe Spider is revealed to be Dona Angiavesta Vorchenza, an old woman who lives in one of the 5 towers. Did you always think the Spider was going to be an older person or did this twist catch you by surprise?

I quickly came to learn, during the course of reading this book, that nothing should surprise me. I can’t say that I expected the Spider to be an old woman, it did make sense that it would be someone older, with experience under their belt, and somebody whom nobody would suspect. So even if I didn’t expect that twist, it does make sense.

Part of me expected the Spider and the Midnighters to be something of an urban legend, something that always happens “to a friend of a friend” but nobody ever experiences for themselves. An urban legend like that still would have been something that Locke would take advantage of, after all.

The Handball story is one of the few interludes that don’t feature the main characters at all. What did you think was the message of this story and why did Scott choose to throw it in here?

It was an interesting little interlude, and did quite a bit to shed light on Camorri culture and ways of thinking. It may not have been about the main character directly, but it highlighted the way that they (specifically, Locke) tends to think, and so gives more insight into his future actions. No waiting to get his revenge!

We lost Bug, Calo and Galdo in this section :( Why do you think Scott Lynch chose to kill them off at this point of the novel? Do you feel their deaths take away the dynamic of the bastards? 

I didn’t expect them to die. But I should have. I liked them. Characters I like in books seems to have an annoying habit of dying, and I really liked Calo and Galdo.

I think the remaining Gentlemen Bastards will feel their loss, on both a professional and personal level. They weren’t just colleagues, but friends, and it’s understandable that Locke took their deaths personally. As for why Lynch killed them… It seems clear that it was done to give Locke a good and undeniable reason to do after the Grey King and take that revenge. he had a reason to start with, obviously, but this just sealed the deal, and in a painful and hard-hitting way.

And yes, there was probably no small amount of desire to make the reader feel the same emotional gut-punch that Locke did. A good writer can do that with character deaths, and Lynch is a good writer. I just wish such interesting characters didn’t have to die…

Were Bug, Calo and Galdo’s deaths a result of Locke’s cockiness and inability to listen to Chains’s advice? Chains told Locke to mind his manners should he ever face a Bondsmage and he did the opposite. He also antagonised the Grey King, not following the rule allowing another person feel they are in complete control of the situation. To phrase the question in another way, if Chains had still been alive and picked up by the Grey King to play him instead of Locke – would Chains have done the deed and kept everybody alive?

First, I doubt that Chains would have been picked by the Grey King, since Chains stayed very low-key and Locke, while keeping himself largely hidden, had a reputation that was very well-known. So I doubt that particular situation would have actually arisen. But if it had… Chains may have been able to keep everyone alive, but I doubt it. The point was for the person playing the Grey King to die. True, this would have left Locke in a position to not be shoved in a barrel of horse piss and thus defend himself and others when the attack came, but I still don’t think it would have made that much difference. There would have been someone dead at the end of it all, no matter what.

While Locke did break the rules he’d been taught to follow, the situation was such that I can completely understand why. It’s one thing to be in control of a con and yet work things so that the mark feels in control of the situation when they’re not. It’s another to not be in control of things from the beginning. It was a whole different dynamic, and the rules went out the window.

Gentlemen Bastards readalong – The Lies of Locke Lamora, Chapters 5-8

So, very belatedly, it’s time for this week’s (read: should have been posted on Monday…) selection of questions for the Gollancz/Fantasy Faction Gentlemen Bastards readalong. Chapters 5-8 of The Lies of Locke Lamora, which of course ended at such a cliffhanger that it was hard to put the book down and prevent myself from reading ahead!

Question: It is interesting that Lynch shows Locke unable to perform in a brothel. Very few authors would show such ‘weakness’ to their male hero. How did you find this scene? Did it fit with the rest of the novel? Did it show – as I guess it was meant to – just how cut up Locke was on Sabetha or did it weaken his character? Maybe both?

Personally, I don’t find that to be weakness, and I thought it fit very well with the established character. It had already been stated multiple times that he was really hung up on Sabetha and had been celebate for years because she wasn’t around. And in a moment of stress, he tries to just give that up and succumb to lust… and his emotions override his, er, more base desires. Rather than finding that to be an expression of weakness, I found it to be very effective at showing his loyalty and devotion, which is something that you see often in novels, but rarely done so well and so realistically. I have to give Lynch some serious props on showing that men can actually be loyal to their mates (or people they like/love/desire) instead of just crude sex-machines.

liesoflockelamoraQuestion: Locke’s conscience coming into play during Chapter 7 is interesting. Before now he could be excused for not comprehending the pain he causes those he robs, now though he has lost this excuse. Is Jean right, are they really Robin Hoods, robbing the rich and greedy who ‘deserve it’ or is Locke right to reconsider his position now the con is on him? 

‘Deserve’ is a relative term. I’m sure that in many ways, the people that Locke and his gang rob don’t need as much money as they have. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t earn it, and it doesn’t mean that Locke needs it. As they clearly don’t. Robin Hood at least tried to redistribute stolen wealth to those in need.

It is interesting to see the tables turned, I admit. Though I can see the event affecting his actions in the long-term, I don’t think he’ll end up reconsidering his calling. From what I’ve seen of him, he’s more likely to step up his game to the point where he can’t be touched, where he won’t have to worry about he or his ending up in a bad situation again.

Question: Can you think of a better plan than Locke came up with to survive both the Grey King and Capa’s wrath or would you have just run?

Me personally? I’d have run. Grabbed what I could, gone into hiding, then made my way to some other city where I stood less chance of being found. But then, I’m something of a coward and wouldn’t have turned to thieving anyway, so my own choices aren’t really an issue here. For the position that Locke found himself in, I think he did the best he could. Torn between danger to himself and loyalty to those he cares about, there really wasn’t much else he could do unless he confessed everything to Barsavi and begged for his help. Which would have been very much out of character.

Question: If not answered above, how would you kill the Bondsmage and get away with it?

Short of catching him sleeping, I honestly don’t know. Everyone can be killed, one way or another, but the Bondsmage would be a tough mark, and there’s every chance that whoever tried to take him out simply wouldn’t survive the encounter. Maybe overpowering him with brute force and hoping for the gods’ own luck?

Question: Do you think Chains’s background fits his character?

I was a bit of a surprise to discover his origins, but not so much of one that his eventual path seemed unrealistic. It was interesting, actually, to hear Chains alk about how similar origins can lead to very different ends, and was yet another touch of realism in a very well-put-together world. I think his background fits, in that it isn’t an uncommon end in the situation that Chains found himself in.

Gentlemen Bastards readalong – The Lies of Locke Lamora, Chapters 1-4

I mentioned before that I’m participating in the readalong for Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series, starting with the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora. Which, by the way, is an awesome novel! I’ve had a long-time love of smooth-talking rogues and thieves, and so this book is keeping me highly entertained.

Part of the readalong involves discussion questions, the first batch of which can be found here, on the Gollancz website. Let’s see if I have anything worthwhile to add to the conversations.

What do you think of Scott Lynch’s narrative style?

It takes a bit of getting used to, with all the time-jumps, but if you’re paying attention and getting into the story then it’s not that hard to follow. And that manner of storytelling not only allows for the present to unfold bit by bit, but also the past, giving the reader lots of hooks into the life of Locke and his gang. It’s an interesting setup, and I at least for my part, it’s working to get my attention, keep me engaged and focused, and I love watching everything come to light.

As for the tone, it’s suitably dark and light in the right place, with the correct amount of gravitas and humour where it needs to be. You get a good feel for how the characters speak, how they act, odd habits they have, and interesting pieces of info about the world without needing gigantic infodumps. Lynch leaves many things hinted at rather than explicitly stated, waiting for the reader to pick up on the subtleties rather than beating them about the head with things. I like that. A lot!

What do you think of the way Scott Lynch weaves, sometimes giving us present day events and then going back and explaining them in a different timeline? 

It’s a different tactic than most authors take, and when most authors try to take it to the extent that Lynch has, it usually comes across as a bit of a garbled mess. It’s a testament of Lynch’s writing that this isn’t the case here. Here, it works, and is a great way to show how the story has been unfolding for years without having to take you through it chronologically and then leave gigantic gaps in the timeline where less important events happen.

liesoflockelamoraWhat do you think of Locke? Is he a good guy surviving the only way he can or is he a bad guy that is too loveable to hate? 

I think there’s a mix of both opinions in there. He had few options as a child, but with his currently-amassed fortune, if he wanted to go elsewhere and start a new life as a tailor, he could afford to do so without worry. He does what he does because he’s good at it and enjoys it, and that’s clear from his personality and words. And “bad guy” is too restrictive a term, I think, to use for Locke. He’s not inherently bad because he goes against established laws. He’s a lovable scoundrel, and no mistake, and as much as he’s the kind of person I wouldn’t want to associate with in real life, he’s a lot of fun to read about.

Other than Locke, who is your favourite character?

A tie between Calo and Galdo. If you could consider them a single character, then they’d be my favourite. I love their banter, their wit, their humour. They may be nearly quintessential sidekicks, but what a pair of sidekicks they make! They complement Locke nicely.

Do you think I am right with my guesstimate of currency? If not, do you have a better working out?

I wouldn’t even try putting their currency into real-world terms. Math has never been my strongest point, and what they would be making in dollars doesn’t interest me much, because it’s not really relevent to the story. it’s said that they could live comfortably on about 10 crowns a year, and assuming that to be about $1500 USD (give or take) would be fine for my own level of comfort if I had no debt… Well, that’s still not hugely applicable to the story. I’d guess the figures that were played with would work out, with a little variation, and they seem sound enough, but it’s not something I would both to figure out myself, even as an idle curiosity. What matters more to me is how what the characters get relates to their own economy, rather than mine.

Finally, what do you think happened to the Elders? Were they human? Were they mages?

Now this is a curious question. In my head, I picture them vaguely as an almost elven race, and I suspect that’s partly because I’ve read many books where the relics of lost civilizations usually get traced back to long-dead elves. And there’s nothing to say that said elves couldn’t have been mages, or else had some interesting technology to make Elderglass. I’m hoping that some more detail gets revealed about them as the books go on, to satisfy my curiosity, but to be honest, even if that doesn’t happen I’ll still be fine with it, because the very presence of their relics even when they aren’t there themselves adds to the depth and realism of the world that Scott Lynch has created.

Gentleman Bastards Readalong

Because I’m foolish and didn’t pay enough attention, I thought this readalong, hosted at Fantasy Faction, started later this month. Nope, it apparently started a few days ago. Well, there’s me with a red face!

liesoflockelamora  The Gentleman Bastards readalong is designed to help people get caught up for Scott Lynch’s newest book in the series, The Republic of Thieves, coming out in October. As for me, this is just a good excuse to read a series that I keep putting off. Much like with A Song of Ice and Fire, I can no longer say that.

This will go at about 4 chapters per week, a fairly relaxed pace, and it isn’t likelt to interfere with me reading other books in the meantime. Expect a Q&A post every now and again as I participate in the more social aspects of a group read. I now have until this Sunday to read the first 4 chapters of The Lies of Lock Lamora.

Anyone else want in on this readalong? Still time to join over at Fantasy Faction, if you’re interested!