Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Gollancz: paperback published 2007: 628 pages
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 Verrar. 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 Verrar 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.
It’s taken me several years to get around to reading the follow-up to Scott Lynch’s amazing The Lies of Locke Lamora (reviewed very briefly here). Locke and Jean are back – but not as you’d recognise them. Oh, they’re still stealing to their hearts’ content, but without the rest of the Gentleman Bastards around them, they are entirely different animals.
Remember how I said Locke reminds me a touch of Jack Sparrow? Well, now the likeness gets better! Locke and Jean are dumped aboard a pirate ship, quite out of their depth (excuse the pun) and hilarity/drama ensues.
I love Lynch’s writing. He has the uncanny ability to create complex characters whose wellbeing becomes integral to your own enjoyment of the book. There are so many twists and turns in the plot that there is absolutely no point in trying to predict what will happen next – because I can guarantee it won’t. Instead, Lynch does something remarkable (and rare) – he keeps you guessing. Too many plots fall at the hurdle of a plot twist that’s too obvious. You read Red Seas with absolutely no idea what the next page will bring, and Lynch carries that to the end.
It’s a book that (though I hate to use the phrase) is a page-turner. It’s un-put-down-able. The dialogue is razor sharp, the characters vivid and the plot indecipherable (until Lynch decides to reveal all). And I rather enjoy some of the savvy female characters who give the boys a run for their money. Someone who can write balanced male and female characters (and write balanced scenes with both) is an expert in characterisation and someone you should study closely.
In his acknowledgements, Lynch apologises for his lack of sailing knowledge, but it never comes across in the story. He writes with confidence and flair, and his characters grow with every word. Oh, and you will never see the ending coming!
There is, at last, word on the third book in the Gentleman Bastards’ series – The Republic of Thieves comes out in March next year, and it can’t come soon enough. The beauty of these books is that they leave you wanting more, but still hold the magic that you feel the first time you read them.
The only thing I would hold against this book is that Locke gets a bit too much screen time, and Jean is left in the shadows somewhat. Despite Locke being the showman, I want to see Jean more… Perhaps there could be a spin-off?
Next book: I am settling down to a Young Adult book this time – World War Z (An Oral History of the Zombie Wars, to give its full title) by Max Brooks has recently been adapted in to a film with Brad Pitt. This book took the Young Adult (and sci-fi/fantasy) world by storm, and I need to see what it’s all about, seeing as I’m writing my own zombie bestseller (*snort*)