The Republic of Thieves
Warning: This review contains minor spoilers!
Whereas in Lies of Locke Lamora the flashbacks jumped around quite a bit and told the story of how the Bastards came together, and in Red Seas Under Red Skies we had a much flashback story of the events between books one and two, the flashback in The Republic of Thieves we are treated to two complete stories in one cover: the main tale thrusts our protagonists under the thumb of the dreaded Bondsmagi of Karthain, as Locke and Jean are pitted against one of their own in a battle of political maneuvering; the “secondary” story tells a complete story of the young Bastards on a training mission to save a theater company by participating in a production. Of course, in neither tale does a thing go right.
The flashback is not entirely irrelevant to the main arc. In both tales we meet Locke Lamora’s long lost love Sabetha. Unfortunately, while both stories concern their sparring and coming together, we gain little insight into the life and motivations of Sabetha. By the end we have a fairly deep understanding of Locke Lamora’s feelings and motivations, but Sabetha remains largely a mystery. I suppose this may be because Lamora is THE Dramatis Personae of the series, but compared the rich and complicated relationship established between Locke and Jean Tannen, this relationship feels somewhat flimsy. The series is intended to range seven volumes, so I’m looking forward to some of the corners getting filled in.
While I really enjoyed both stories in this book, unlike in the previous books, this felt a bit like two books, mixed up, then stuffed in one cover at times. The jumping back and forth made reading this a bit stressful to get through than a more straightforward telling might have, or even the previous two books. I really did enjoy both stories, but I’m not sure whether or not I’d have preferred them standing alone. Political intrigue also doesn’t quite whet the palate like their grand capers and sea battles. Overall, I enjoyed the childhood story more than the adult one.
While I seem to have focused more on the negative aspects, it’s probably because the bar has been set so high by the previous volumes. Scott Lynch has developed a rich, textured, and mysterious world to inflict upon the Bastards, that we expect nothing but greatness behind every corner. The truth is I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment, and I expect that to continue as long as it takes for the series to unfold.
Compared to an Ocean’s 11-esque con job or a bloody pirate yarn, election rigging just doesn’t seem as high-stakes. Especially since the political plot is secondary to the love story between Locke and Sebetha.
I’m not particularly fond of Sebetha as a character. But I’m never fond of the sorts of female characters that exist only to sit on a pedestal for the protagonist. Sebetha has no motivation, no agency that doesn’t relate to Locke in some way. She’s not interesting on her own, but is only interesting as a companion piece to him.
Comparing that relationship to the rich, complicated and realistic friendship/brotherhood/bromance that Locke and Jean share… Well, there’s no basis for comparison at all. Locke and Jean are magical and I unabashedly say that I love them. Especially when they’re in one of their hurtful moments with each other, I want to hide under the blankets on my bed and shout “Mom and Dad! Stop fighting!”
As must be expected from a Gentleman Bastard novel, there’s a game running below the surface con. This time it’s bigger, more mystical and more mysterious but also somewhat hokey.
Luckily, Scott Lynch is such a talented, clever and downright addicting author that I loved the book as a whole, even while being annoyed with a lot of its parts. His real strength is dialog, especially of the deadpan snarker variety. I made sure to jot down several choice lines from the book, in case I ever have opportunity to use them in my life.
4/5 – Bryce W