Review Take Two: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Title: The Republic of Thieves
Author: Scott Lynch
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Gentlemen Bastards #3
Pages: 650
Published: October 8 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4.75/5

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.

Excuse me, while I have a fangirl moment to myself. See, I have been waiting for this book -- any book -- from Scott Lynch for 6 years. When I heard, finally, definitively that The Republic of Thieves was a publishing go for 2013, you cannot imagine my mixture of happiness and total apprehension (unless you are another Lynch/Martin fan). And then I was granted an ARC and the trepidation grew. So I cracked the cover.

I didn't look up for four hundred pages and five hours. I couldn't. It was impossible.I only stopped when Real Life demands could not be ignored for a minute more. And I resented that intrusion into my return into the lives of these great, clever, arrogant, amusing, deadly characters.

While the Republic of Thieves remains largely unconcerned with rehashing the details of the two previous novels, it is kind of important to remember what was revealed in both The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies. I would recommend a reread and while it may be tough to wait through hundreds of pages to get to the new material, it's more than worth it. Your comprehension at the situation Jean and Locke find themselves caught up in will increase and you'll have a greater understanding of the complex, evolving relationship(s) between Sabetha, Locke, and Jean.

The narrative works the same way it has for the previous novels -- the current storyline of Jean/Locke vs. Sabetha -- along with alternating chapters about their training at the hands of Chains in Camorr. As an author, Lynch may be a bit too fond of the chapter cliffhanger, but each storyline holds up thanks to the strong performance of the characters and the talent of the author. When it comes to characters, I've widely and frequently expressed my love for the criminal that calls himself Locke Lamora. He's a great character; an utterly reprehensible antihero. And while I would have loved a third episode of the Locke Lamora Show, Lynch cleverly draws more on Jean Tannen and on the often-mentioned-but-never-before-seen Sabetha Belacoros.

Let me tell you, is Sabetha more than a match for the combined team of Locke and Jean. She's crafty, ruthless, devious. I want to be her when I grow up. She's a force to be reckoned with and the chance to see Locke and Jean tangle with someone of their own caliber is remarkably entertaining. She uses all the tools at her discretion, and it's hard not to admire her when she gets one over on the Bastards. They're out of their element in Karthain and she isn't afraid to use any and every advantage. She's a strong character -- not just a strong woman. Her sex is superfluous to her high levels of awesome. And while Locke is attracted to her, it's for more than her looks. Hell, I can't decide if I am attracted to her or if I want to be her.

I can talk and talk about characters, but despite my immense affection for nearly everyone, there is actually more to The Republic of Thieves than just Locke and Jean and Sabetha politically pranking one another with varying degrees of severity. There's detailed worldbuilding, steadily built up over years and books and hundreds of pages; there's inventive storytelling and plotting with the characters we've come to know so well; there's subtle magic that plays pivotal roles in the plot. Lynch's world is often a harsh place, but you cannot deny it is a well-drawn one. Lynch also plays it smart with the backstory element -- while the current storyline may be the more compelling, the birdseye view into the shaping of the group (along with chances to see Bug and the Sanzas!) is appreciated.

With four more planned books to go in the Gentlemen Bastard series (The Thorn of Emberlain is the next expected), Scott Lynch has a lot on his plate and a lot of expectations to fulfill. Luckily, this is an author that never does what you expect and manages to make you like the outcome. His story paths are unpredictable and matching wits with the likes of Chains' crew is easier said than done. His talent is both immense and obvious.

It had been a long time since I'd had the pleasure of a first read of one of Lynch's novels. Like my lovely coblogger mentioned, his open struggles to write and to deal with his depression leave me with nothing but respect for both him and what he has created. His work is more than worth the wait for Scott to get better. I can't wait to see what he chooses to do next with his series. If the first book was cited as a fantasy meets Ocean's Eleven, and the second a better Pirates of the Caribbean, the third would definitely have to be a Shakespearean movie adaptation -- with Bondsmagi. Don't worry --- it completely works. 

Danielle's lovely review can be found right here.

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