Our host for week four of the RoT read-along is Andrea, the Little Red Reviewer, and her week is packed with drama: shocking reveals and devastating new developments. As she mentioned in her email to participants, fans have been polarised by one thing in particular, and I can see why. I don’t think I need to give a warning at this point but I’ll do it anyway – if you haven’t read this book or any of the others, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS ahead, mostly in the final question. Seriously, don’t even skim it.
1. We finally know why Sabetha dyes her hair, and that’s so disturbing even the Thiefmaker under Shade’s Hill was disgusted by it. Too dark for this world? Or just right?
It was certainly the most horrific thing I’ve come across in this series. Anything that came close was an exceptional act of violence, not some sick underground social practice. Then again, as was mentioned several times last week, Camorr is a society that hangs children in public. What it does in secret would be much worse.
Edit: I just remembered that horrible holiday island near Tel Verrar where poor people were beaten, raped and murdered for the entertainment of the wealthy. The redhead thing looks a little less shocking now.
It does feel a bit too dark now that you mention it, but it does the job of explaining Sabetha’s feelings and putting some perspective on the beginning of this scene on the rooftop. I thought Locke might have been at fault for not knowing about the dangers redheads face, but I don’t expect him to know about something this twisted. Sabetha’s outburst seemed unfair, but when you consider that, for most of her life, she’s had to worry about being circumcised and then raped to death, it’s understandable.
2. The “Asino” brothers are drunken idiots, but they’re not blind. What did you think of the little rendezvous they helped arrange for Sabetha and Locke?
Thank you Sanzas! I didn’t think that they would be the ones responsible for finally getting Locke and Sabetha into the sack. Pity Calo had to interrupt them…
3. Locke managed to get everyone out of the Boulidazi mess we discussed last week… what do you think of this latest Boulidazi complication?
Well, Boulidazi at least got what was coming to him. I thought he was likeable enough after Locke and Sabetha’s initial meeting with him, but I disliked him more and more with every appearance.
And now…! This is surely the biggest con that the young Bastards have faced, but I think it’ll be the one to solidify their loyalties to each other. That’s how I’ve always viewed the Espara plot – an experience that will turn a gang of bickering teenagers into the Gentleman Bastards we met in book one (plus Sabetha). They might not get out of it unscathed – Sabetha has already murdered a man – but they’ll be better con artists for it. At least we no longer have to worry about Boulidazi’s overbearing interest in Sabetha. I wonder if Chains imagined they’d have to do anything this dangerous.
And back to Karthain (I’m jumping around in time here, leaving the most important bits for last)
4.Time is flying, and the election is getting closer. Desperation calls for cheap tricks. I think my favorite so far is Sabetha’s special roof guards. What’s your favorite election dirty trick so far?
I’m with you on the granny guards – that was really funny and utterly adorable at the same time. It was not long before that the younger Jean went to bed with Jenora and gallantly took the wet spot, and I was just loving how cute and sweet he was. I think Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog has her priorities straight on #TeamJean 🙂
But childish tricks don’t seem like a particularly good way to run a campaign. There’s way too much negative campaigning. This is fun for the reader – I enjoyed most of it – but it doesn’t really make sense politically. Shouldn’t they be out there giving people a reason to vote for their respective parties rather than try to discourage people from voting for the opposition? More on this after the questions.
5. There’s a mole in the Deep Roots. Was that person’s identity a surprise to you? And how did you like Locke’s method of identifying the person?
No surprise. We knew early on that Nikoros’s addiction posed a problem. Then in that scene where Nikoros gets caught buying drugs at the alchemist’s, it was fairly obvious that Sabetha wanted to use him to sabotage Locke and Jean somehow. Because the woman in that scene was simply described as a redhead and not specifically identified as Sabetha, I did wonder if it was someone else and Lynch was trying to trick us, but (for now at least) it seems the simplest conclusion was the correct one.
Locke’s method was the first thing I thought of because Tyrion did the exact same thing in Game of Thrones (the TV series; he might have done it in the second book too, but I can’t recall). Locke was in a very similar situation and it just seemed like the most efficient course of action.
6. What’s so important about this Lovaris fellow? The election is right around the corner, so why introduce someone new so late in the game?
I might be missing something here because I have no idea; mostly it seemed like a means of informing Locke that they had a mole. It also shows that Locke really doesn’t understand how Karthain works. You can’t simply throw money at people all the time. Lovaris does seem to be very important politically even though he’s not an overtly political person, but I don’t understand how. I didn’t assume he’d have any significance later, but we’ll see.
7. It’s so nice that Locke and Sabetha can finally have some nice, normal dinner dates. He even cooks her dinner! But that sneaky Patience, always interrupting everything! Finally, she promises some answers. that’s nice. what, Locke is WHO? Locke is a WHAT? How much of it do you believe?
Well, he doesn’t actually get to cook her dinner… I was so pissed off with Patience pitching up to ruin the moment! Does Sabatha really need to know right at that moment that Locke is a reincarnated Bondsmage? Is she going to risk getting a magical STD from him? Seriously Patience, I don’t buy your reasons for stepping in at that moment. Enough of the cockblocking Lynch! (funny how I’m blaming the author for this, but he could have let poor Locke get laid, especially since he’s written so that Locke hasn’t had sex for five years).
Now that I’ve got that rant out of my system, back to Locke as a reincarnated super-Bondsmage. I’ll admit I’m rather chuffed with myself for picking up on the Seamstress connection while not assuming that Patience is Locke’s mother (I was a bit worried that she would be, that’s just too much). I couldn’t guess at this particular story though. I like the idea of a Bondsmage accidentally creating a plague by trying to bring the dead back to life, and getting reincarnated without his memories or powers in the process. I can understand why this polarised fans though – this could take the series in a totally different direction now. However, Lynch has warned of such drastic developments. I’m on the fence and willing to see where he goes with it as long as he keeps telling good stories.
In existential terms Locke has no powers, and no memory of his past life. He’s a different person, so how important is it that he was once a Bondsmage? Except that it’s personally shocking since he kind of hates the Bondsmages. The only hint about a potentially sinister nature comes from Sabetha musing about his two different selves (the devil-may-care Locke, and the Locke that clings to rules), and the possibility of a third. But lots of people wear different faces in daily life; it’s not remarkable or creepy.
Locke’s history seems more important to me in terms of what the Bondsmages want from him. Patience speaks of “a chance to redeem yourself for a terrible crime” which might involve doing something according to her benefit or plans. And then of course the conspirators want to learn how he reincarnated himself.
I believed Patience’s story, and if anything I thought she might be omitting important information rather than lying about something. However, the Bondsmages are so mysterious with so many hidden agendas, so who knows? There is one odd detail in the story: why is Locke’s impression of his mother an impression of Patience and not his real mother or his wife? Exactly what kind of relationship did she have with his earlier self? Were they lovers rather than just friends? Could Patience be jealous of Sabetha? Does Patience want Locke to become his previous self?
There’s one big issue I wanted to tackle, and that’s the election. As I mentioned in question 4, there’s way too much negative campaigning, and although it’s amusing it’s not plausible or sensible. Locke and Jean’s other election strategies mostly seem to involve paying people to vote for them in some way – bribes, paying off debts, favours, etc. The only thing that I remember them doing to boost the party’s overall image was making public sacrifices to the gods. No speeches or events, or at least none that get as much page time as throwing snakes down a chimney. Sabetha seems to be riding on the existing popularity of the Black Iris; I don’t know of anything she’s done except sabotage Locke and Jean.
And then there was the matter of the refugees. A very simple plan – giving rich refugees luxury accommodation in exchange for their votes. I can’t imagine the refugees are impressed by such openly self-serving aid, but I guess they’re desperate. However, no one even thinks about how Karthain’s citizens might feel about an influx of refugees into their city. And although they’re all wealthy, and Karthain surely has resources to spare, refugees are not typically welcomed with open arms. People worry about the effects that a large new group of vulnerable people might have on their lives and on society. What happens with all these people after the elections? Can they continue staying in their luxury accommodation? And now that the wealthy have been so readily accommodated, will the poor end up being taken in too?
No one considers the Karthani’s opinion on this or anything else. Voting is about to start and we have no idea what the voters might want from their parties, what their political interests are. We know only that some voters have been bought, and that some people might change their vote because of some embarrassing prank by the campaigners. I’m not particularly interested in politics and I don’t want a very serious political novel, but this is just silly. I know it’s not important in that the Bondsmages will keep running everything anyway, but this is still an election even if it’s a game. I’m hoping the last part will reveal more serious political schemes by either Locke or Sabetha, although at that point it’s probably going to feel tacked on.
Locke vents his anger at Sabetha after making it back to Karthain: “You didn’t just trick me. You used the deepest feelings I have ever had for anyone, and you know it!”
Yes! So proud of Locke for standing up for himself. I also felt that this aspect of Sabetha’s trickery was a bit too underhanded. I expect her to deceive them every chance she gets, but to exploit Locke’s love seemed unfair. It’s a bit like using Calo and Galdo’s deaths to trick him. I was a bit annoyed when Locke later apologised for this outburst in his letter, but Sabetha at least was touched.
Sabetha’s bit of musing about how Chains tried to make the Bastards good people caught my eye:
“Have you ever thought about how badly Chains fucked us all up? […] He wanted a family, very desperately. […] I often think he wanted a family more than he wanted a gang. […] A conscience is a dead weight in our profession. […] Make no mistake, he shackled each of us with one. Even Calo and Galdo, rest their souls. For all that they did most of their thinking with their cocks and the rest with their balls, even they wound up with essentially kindly dispositions. […] [Chains] trained a gentle streak into us and let us pretend it would never cost us.”
Locke’s counterargument is that this ‘gentle streak’ is loyalty, and that loyalty in itself is a weapon. Sabetha disagrees. She’s in a weird, melancholy mood but her words have me a bit worried. Why is she concerned about loyalty as a weakness? Is she planning another betrayal? Is she scared of something? Or is she just reflecting on some of the things she’s done, like killing Boulidazi?
Calo and Galdo were lying on their sides, artfully symmetrical, in the middle of a slick black-red puddle.
Another reminder of their deaths, where their bodies were also arranged symmetrically, if I remember correctly.
Locke’s embarrassment at walking in on Jean and Jenora was hilarious 🙂
How did you feel about Locke’s letter to Sabetha? I’m glad her communicated with her, and it had the right effect, but gods it was long-winded.
See what other bloggers had to say:
Little Red Reviewer
Dab of Darkness
Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn’s Book Blog
All I am – A Redhead
Theft and Sorcery
Joma’s Fantasy Books