I’m loving The Republic of Thieves, so it was no problem at all to catch with the schedule for this read-along. If anything, it’ll be harder to slow down now that I’m on track.
The read-along is being hosted by 5 bloggers, and for part 2 we’re in the lovely company of Over the Effing Rainbow. Head over to her blog, and from there you can hop to the others and join the conversation. I’ll also provide links at the end of this post.
The chapters of part 2 were very satisfying to read, and I had so much to say about them – particularly the details of Locke and Sabetha’s relationship – that I should not waste any more time on introductions. Here are the questions:
And here’s what I thought:
Blood And Breath And Water: Patience tells Locke that the ritual to save him is serious business. She wasn’t kidding… What did you make of this scene, and do you think any of it might (perhaps literally) come back to haunt Locke?
What I liked most was the touch of horror. Patience had already made it clear that it would be painful and magical weirdness is par for the course. But the reappearance of Bug and what that implies about the afterlife… creepy. Because he died so young and idolised Locke, I can imagine him, more than the others, becoming bitter and angry at Locke if he finds himself trapped in some kind of limbo.
Bug completely contradicts Locke and Jean’s beliefs about the afterlife, which is why Jean dismisses it all as a nightmare, but as with any religion, they’re relying on faith and with no clue as to what the truth might be. Bug could have been perfectly real. So while I agree with Jean’s insistence that you need to be rational, I also like that Locke is doubting his beliefs. Of course, there could be other, metaphorical ways to interpret what he saw.
Lynch doesn’t use scenes like this lightly, so I think it will come back to haunt Locke, and I look forward to seeing how that plays out.
Orphan’s Moon: Back to the childhood of the Gentlemen Bastards, and here we get another ritual, this one in service to the Nameless Thirteenth. It looks as though it might be Locke vs. Sabetha, round two – but this time Locke seems to be a little slow on that uptake… Who do you think deserves to be given the final oath? Locke or Sabetha?
I don’t know what’s required, and I still don’t know Sabetha very well, but I would have chosen her on the basis that she’s actually thought this through and decided that it’s what she wants. Locke is still mulling it over at the moment he’s meant to decide and he ends up being a candidate partly because he’s just standing there, thinking. His motives have little to do with the priesthood and everything to do with impressing Sabetha. But Locke, you dimwit, how can you expect to impress her by stealing what she longs for?! Did you think that instead of being hurt and angry she would think “Wow, Locke is such a super awesome thief he can rob me of my heart’s desires without even trying. He’s so hot right now…”
Honestly, it’s like Locke can’t do anything except steal. And drink. And curse. TWIT.
Anyway, back to who deserves the oath. Chains knows both Locke and Sabetha very well and he’s a wise man so he would have had good reasons for choosing Locke. Maybe he sees that Sabetha is simply ambitious while Locke might be more suitable for the role. On the other hand, Sabetha later suggests that Chains favours Locke, so perhaps he’s not entirely objective. I don’t know…I’m more interested in how thoughtlessly Locke hurts Sabetha.
Across The Amathel: This chapter takes a breather for quite a bit of Eldren history, while Locke starts recovering. What do you think of the history lesson, and Patience’s ominous speculation regarding the Eldren? Is this something you’d like to know more about?
For part one, Little Red Reviewer said she was wary of Locke’s caveat about having his questions answered, because such an opportunity typically leads to infodumping. And she was dead right. This is a very… educational chapter.
But I don’t mind Lynch’s infodumps. Infodumps can be clunky and tedious, but they can also be a simple (if inelegant) way of telling you interesting things you’d like to know, and I not only enjoyed Patience’s history lesson, but all the info and insights into Magi’s political workings. It’s also the first time we see what a deep and pervasive influence the Eldren have had on the world, beyond the Elderglass they’d left behind. The mystery of their vast power coupled with their total absence is what informs the existence of the Bondmagi, their decision to destroy Therim Pel, their monopoly on magic, and their acceptance of work contracts. Without the Bondsmagi’s suspicions about the disappearance of the Eldren, the Falconer would not have been part of the Grey King’s plan and the events of Lies would have been very different.
So yes, I want to know more. Much more. Infodump all you want, Mr Lynch.
Striking Sparks: The gang’s off to Espara, after a bad summer and a pretty thorough dressing-down from Chains, and we finally get to the source of the book’s title – they’re bound for the stage! What are your thoughts on this latest ‘challenge’ and the reasons for it?
Well, I enjoyed Chains’s send-off. One moment he’s apologising for having failed them, the next he throws a bag of money at them and tells them to fuck off because he can’t stand them anymore. I particularly liked the bit where he took out the pin that he’d brought for the occasion and dropped it into the silence he’d caused
The challenge itself immediately made sense to me, because as master thieves, they need to act all the time. Their best schemes are like elaborate stage performances. I don’t see this as just a challenge, but as crucial training.
I also like journey plots, especially since they typically present opportunities for personal development. And I was not disappointed; as soon as they join the caravan, Locke finally starts talking earnestly with Sabetha.
The Five-Year Game: Starting Position: The election gets underway with a party (as you do) and before it’s even over, the Deep Roots party has problems – and not just thanks to Sabetha. What do you make of Nikoros and his unfortunate habit?
It was quite a wtf? moment to see Nikoros drugged to the eyeballs! He’d been the definition of professional until that point. There’s something very odd going on here, and I suspect that Sabetha’s also dealing with all sorts of weirdness on the Black Iris side, all because of the Magi. I’m not going to speculate any further, but I’m highly intrigued.
Bastards Abroad: The gang arrives in Espara, and already they’ve got problems (nicely mirroring the Five Year Game!)… This aside, we’ve also seen some more of what seems to be eating at Sabetha. Do you sympathise with her, or is Locke right to be frustrated with her?
Oh, Sabetha. All this time…
Up until that crucial conversation in Bastards Abroad, I’d been getting frustrated with Sabetha’s character. She’s too serious, so focused on her training or a job. She doesn’t laugh and joke and drink with the other Bastards. She’s not as fun as they are. She’s clearly aware of Locke’s infatuation but she won’t address it. And most importantly, she doesn’t seem like part of their brotherhood. So disappointing…
I blamed Lynch. He’d failed his character. He didn’t include her in the beginning for god’s knows what reason, and now he’s trying to manhandle her into the plot and SHE DOESN’T BELONG.
And then… and then Sabetha finally explains herself to Locke and everything makes sense and I’m not mad at Lynch, instead I’m impressed because WOW, that might just be my favourite scene in all three books so far, and it’s certainly had the most emotional impact, thank you for writing another great female character, and OH SABETHA…
So, ahem, yes, I sympathise with her, almost completely. Locke unwittingly usurped her, but this didn’t just topple her leadership; it’s also the start of her detachment from the Bastards. Jean came along, became Locke’s best friend, and the Bastards are divided into two pairs – Calo/Galdo; Lock/Jean – with Sabetha as a bit of a fifth wheel. Being the only woman must have made her feel even more like the odd one out. In addition, she is never taken as seriously as Locke, as demonstrated with the Sanzas. It all adds up and I can empathise with her frustration.
This scene and their earlier conversation also made me realise that Sabetha is very much the object of Locke’s affection. He’d throw himself under a cart for her her, but it hasn’t occurred to him to try understand what she wants, that what he’s trying to do for her isn’t what she wants from him. She says
“Why do you assume it’s something you’ve done, and something you can undo at will? I’m not some arithmetic problem just waiting for you to show your work properly Locke. Did you ever think that I [...] might have warm-blooded motives of my own, being as I’m not an oil painting, or some other decorative object of desire-”
And Locke has been treating her like an equation or a machine – he thinks that if he just get the numbers right, if he can just push the right buttons, she’ll be his. Even if he fails hopelessly time after time, he still sees himself as the one in control believing that his actions will determine the outcome, depending on what he gets right or wrong. As we all know, Locke hates not being in control. I love that Sabetha points out this great flaw in his towering romance. He’s so shocked when she suggests that she might be “actively contributing” to their awkwardness or that she might prefer girls.
Absurdly, even the crass Sanza twins have been more respectful of her feelings in this regard. Locke on the other hand, only thinks about Sabetha from his dim perspective. He thinks that if he keeps proving himself better than her, she must therefore admire him. Or that if he doesn’t back down she must admire him. She’s an equation. He doesn’t think about how she might feel when he beats her at something or, as Jean points out, how pathetic he looks when he allows her to abuse him. Jean, being more sensible and sensitive, is at least trying to consider things from Sabetha’s POV. I thought one of the most ridiculous parts of Locke’s plea was to tell her how wonderful it would be for her to see herself through his eyes, which would even further diminish her subjectivity, making her an idol rather than a person.
I’ve wanted to whack Locke over the head for being unable to notice any of this, but he’s young and stupid, and Sabetha hasn’t been open about her feelings. In fact, we seldom see any of the Bastards talk openly to each other about their personal feelings; it’s all joking and scheming. However, you could assume that the Sanzas or Locke and Jean might open up to each other off the page; who would Sabetha talk to?
Like Locke though, Sabetha’s also very arrogant. If she wasn’t so determined to be the leader, then her relationships with Locke and the other Bastards might not have been so fractured. So I’m on her side, but with reservations. And I think Locke has one very good reason to be frustrated now – after suddenly dropping the very complicated truth in his lap, she expects him to come up with a “good answer” for how they should proceed. And clearly Locke is no good at intimate personal relationships.
But Sabetha’s young, she awkward, she doesn’t know how to handle this, she seems to have feelings for Locke, but she resents him too. She mentions two or three times that she chooses not to be charmed by Locke, and I think this is key. Chains, Jean and the Sanzas could not help but be charmed by him, and that’s how Sabetha ended up in this position. She doesn’t want to fall for the same charms that have caused her so much anguish. But she likes Locke anyway. It’s… complicated. I could talk about it for ages.
Extras! Let’s be having any random bits that amuse you, confuse you, or just plain interest you…
- I found the ritual in Orphan’s Moon a bit silly. Too theatrical, and some of the recitations reminded me of being in church. *snore*
- Chains on the Sanzas’ promiscuity: “You two spend more time in bed than invalids.”
- “False names are fun,” said Caldo. “Call me Beefwit Smallcock.”
“These are aliases, not biographical sketches,” said Galdo.
- Does Locke feel at all betrayed that the Sanzas each made a pass at Sabetha, or does he just dismiss this as part of their increasing vulgarity?
- The Thorn of Camorr: Dear god, as if Sabetha hasn’t been hurt enough. The grand name is her idea, and she wants one for herself. Then the Sanzas tease her about it before making up a name for Locke, essentially stealing her idea and handing it to her greatest rival, who doesn’t even want it. We all know how important the name will later become, making this all the more poignant. Sabetha’s silence at the end of this scene actually pained me; I could imagine her trying not to cry or scream at them.
- For part one, Dab of Darkness suggested the possibility that Locke and Sabetha never actually had a sexual relationship. This had never occurred to me, but it seems possible now that Sabetha’s cracked and revealed some of her feelings. Could Locke have been agonising over a failure instead of an intimate relationship this whole time?
- Locke doesn’t respond well to losing control. Could this be why his relationship with Sabetha didn’t work out? Or is it because he never comes to understand Sabetha’s desires and ambitions?
- It’s become very easy to see why Sabetha chose to compete with them in Karthain. She and Locke have been competing since they met, and Locke defeats her even when he’s not trying to. However, they wouldn’t have had that rivalry if she wasn’t at least as good a thief and con-artist as he is. She might be even better, and Karthain gives her the chance to show it. I don’t think she needs to do it for Locke though; it’s for herself.