The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of ThievesTitle: The Republic of Thieves
Author: 
Scott Lynch
Series: 
Gentleman Bastard #3
Published:
 8 October 2013
Publisher: 
Del Rey (Random House)
Genre: 
fantasy
Source: 
eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 
7/10

I just finished a 5-week long read-along for The Republic of Thieves, and I’m really glad I chose to take part because there was so much in this book that I wanted to talk about that I would have despaired of writing nothing but a review for it. Now I don’t feel so bad about having to leave out all the spoilers, although I have made some general comments about one aspect of the plot, that some might consider a mild spoiler.

At the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies Locke didn’t know for sure if he’d really been given a fatal custom-made poison. Well, he was, and now he’s dying horribly while Jean desperately searches for a cure. Unfortunately, the situation remains utterly hopeless until they get an offer of salvation from a Bondsmage named Patience. Locke and Jean have nothing but loathing for the Bondsmagi after the Falconer murdered their friends in Camorr, but without Patience’s help, Locke won’t live another day.

In exchange for curing Locke, Patience wants the two Bastards to rig an election in the Bondsmagi city of Karthain. The election itself is not important – no matter who wins the Bondsmagi will ensure that the city is run properly. What they’ve done is turn the election into what they call the Five-Year Game. The two opposing factions within the Magi support the opposing parties in the election, and every election the Magi recruit someone to rig the election in their party’s favour. The magi factions that ‘wins’ the election wins prestige, so Locke and Jean are expected to take the game very seriously, especially when considering their opponent. Because when Patience’s rivals learned who she was recruiting, they sought out the only person in the world familiar with the Bastards’ methods – Sabetha Belacoros.

Running parallel to the Five-Year Game is a flashback plot in which we finally meet Sabetha and learn her history with the Bastards, beginning with Locke’s first encounter with her at Shades’ Hill. This plot line also fills in more of the Bastards’ childhood, right up until their turbulent teens. So turbulent in fact, that Chains decides he needs a break and kicks them out. He sends them to the town of Espara to help an old friend who needs actors for his theatre troupe.

Of course, nothing about this mission is nearly as simple as the Bastards expect, and the moment they arrive in Espara they have to start running cons that require as much skill as being on stage. It’s as tense and exciting as the Karthain plot with one major drama running through both – Locke and Sabetha’s relationship.

It’s actually the main attraction in The Republic of Thieves if not the main drive of the plot. Sabetha’s absence in book 1 and even book 2 was really weird, given that she was one of the Bastards and had Locke so beguiled he never slept with anyone else after they parted. She was only mentioned as someone who grew up with them (but never appears in flashbacks), and who Jean never speaks about for the sake of sparing Locke’s feelings. The only good thing about this is that it drummed up a lot of anticipation for her appearance, which is perhaps what Lynch intended.

And… Well at first I was disappointed. Locke falls for her the instant that he sees her, when he’s only “five or six or seven years old”. But Sabetha doesn’t seem all that impressive at this point, and Locke’s infatuation is very strange for such a young child.

Later, when both Locke and Sabetha are Bastards, it bothered me that she doesn’t share the kind of camaraderie that the boys have. She doesn’t quite feel like part of the gang, and her character wasn’t as funny and upbeat. The fact that she’s the only girl obviously factors into her behaviour, but mostly it seemed awkward for Lynch to put her into the narrative now when she should have been there all along. The result was that she didn’t seem to fit into the space that had been left for her.

But I should have had more faith. As Sabetha’s character and her relationship with Locke develop we get to understand so much more, and previously incongruous details suddenly make sense. My feelings about it all kept changing, and I loved discussing these issues in the read-along. I’d side with Sabetha, then with Locke, get really upset with one or both of them, but be happy with they got things right. Locke’s feelings are driven by simple infatuation, but his younger self is impeded by his lack of knowledge about girls in general, and his lack of understanding about Sabetha in particular. Her feeling are more complex – she likes Locke but refuses to simply be charmed by him like everyone else is. She would never just fall for him; it has to be a careful choice.

I don’t normally take this much interest in a romance, but Lynch makes it intriguing, mixing it up with all the other attractions of the plot. And there are plenty. We get to see much more of the Bastards’ youth, and the nuances that went into Locke’s development as a character. Calo and Galdo are back with all their characteristic humour. Chains’s fatherly affection made me feel all warm and fuzzy, but it was also good to get a more critical perspective of Chains from Sabetha. We have another three locations to add to Lynch’s massive world: Lashain, Espara and Karthain. We learn more about the mysterious and extremely powerful Bondsmages, who will undoubtedly play a major role in future books. There are even hints of supernatural forces whatever power might have done away with the Eldren.

One thing I need to discuss in detail though, is the election. I found it unsatisfying, largely because it’s not really political. The game is mostly played with bribes, blackmailing, and a series of childish pranks and cheap tricks that Sabetha and the Bastards play (mostly on each other). Some of the pranks – like dropping snakes down a chimney to ruin a party – are presumably intended to tarnish the opposing party’s reputation, but that seems like a lousy way to win votes.

It was very entertaining, but at the end of the election our three protagonists had almost no noticeable influence on the election’s results. I don’t know if the votes would have been any different if they weren’t involved, and at the end of the day it doesn’t seem like they played the game they were recruited to play.

In Locke’s other schemes, he understood what his marks wanted and how they behaved, and used that in elaborate or at least entertaining cons. But there’s no con here, and we never find out what the Karthani want from their politician or see Locke, Jean and Sabetha use that to their advantage. I know politics is boring but Lynch could have made it interesting. The series has involved plenty of light politics already: The Secret Peace; the rise of Capa Barsavi (which led to the revenge of Capa Raza/The Grey King); the unstable politics on Emberlain on which the Austershalin Brandy scheme was based; the Archon of Tel Verrar trying to recreate the war that put him in power.

None of that was particularly complicated, nor did I find it boring to read the very long conversations or info dumps where these schemes were explained or enacted. I’m assuming that most if not all readers who made it to book three liked it as well. Why couldn’t Lynch have done something similar here? All the amusing pranks could have been part of a larger scheme, and the theatre experience from Espara could have played a role in helping them address large crowd or something. As it stands, the Espara plot has no link to the Karthain one, save Locke and Sabetha’s tumultuous romance.

I know we’re told from the beginning that the election has no real political importance, but it still feels empty, a neglected aspect of the plot. And the thing is that it’s more important as a plot device than a political event within the novel. In many ways, this book is a stepping stone to the rest of the series, and the election serves as a reason to save Locke’s life, a ways to connect the main characters to the Bondsmages, and then move them into place for upcoming events. After reading the books so closely for the read-along, I felt a lot of details were a bit thin, a bit contrived. They made perfect sense in terms of moving the narrative in a desired direction, but didn’t make that much sense for the characters or the plot.

So, out of the three books in the series so far I’d say that this is my least favourite, but even then it was still a great read packed with things I loved – the humour, characters, character development, world building, scheming. The story had me hooked throughout and there were so many little moments I was glad I could pick out and mention in the read-along. If I had to choose I’d say the Espara plot was more enjoyable than the Karthain, with proper cons and a great deal more tension and danger. That said, it can’t beat the Karthain plotline for sheer drama and amazing food (sadly the younger Bastards can’t afford decadent meals, and I’ve always liked the bizarre dishes and inventive wines in these books).

There are some devastating reveals and events in this book, and the series is making some serious progress. Already, the Austershalin Brandy scheme from book 1 feels like a lifetime away. Even thinking back to the beginning of Republic makes me feel like I’ve come on a long journey, and you can see from the ending that there’s an even longer and more dangerous one ahead. There are even more questions left unanswered than in the previous books and it’s like I can feel the series gearing up for a transition into truly epic, world-spanning plots. And it’s going to be so, so awesome.

 

For more in-depth discussions, check out my read-along answers (naturally, these will be full of spoilers):
Part 1 – prologue thru Intersect I (pages 1 – 136)
Part 2 – chapter 3 thru interlude “Bastards Abroad” (pages 136 – 292)
Part 3 – Chapter 6 thru Interlude “Aurin and Amadine”  (pages 293 – 413)
Part 4 – Chapter 8 thru chapter 10 (pages 417 – 577)
Part 5 – Interlude “Death masks” thru epilogue (pages 578- end)

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The Republic of Thieves read-along part 5

The Republic of Thieves

And so we come to the end of the read-along. Our finale is hosted by Allie from Tethyan Books. I’ve had a great time, getting into in-depth discussions with equally enthusiastic readers, although keeping up with all the comments has been a challenge! I’d hoped to leave comments on more blogs, but sadly I didn’t always have the time. Another challenge was finding the willpower to stop reading every time I came to the end of the scheduled chapters for each part. The Republic of Thieves was a fun read and without a good reason to read slowly and carefully, I would have rushed through it in two or three days.

But it was worth taking my time, and as usual that means I’ve got lots to say, so on with the Q&A.

In Espara…

1. The Republic of Thieves:  It’s the first and final performance!  What did you think of the play?  Were you entertained, or eager to get on with the rest of the story?  Also, how do you feel about how the play fits in the novel, in terms of the story and the characters who play the parts?
I didn’t love the play itself, but I like the Espara story as much as the Karthain one (if not more) so I was keen to see the performance. At the beginning of this venture I thought there’d be several performances (and then all the trouble started). The Sanzas had an excellent opening, and I like that Amadine kills herself rather than have her fate decided by the two men. Sabetha doesn’t seem the type for dramatic suicide, but the feminist ethic suits her very well.

I thought the play drew a parallel with Lies – a plot to infiltrate a society of thieves and take down their leader, with lots of blood spilled along the way. Sabetha’s role could be a bit of wish fulfilment for her, as she plays the leader of the thieves. The sorcerer’s role and his influence on Aurin’s life is also similar to Patience’s role in Karthain – she’s partly responsible for bringing them together, and then drives them apart again.

Aurin and Amadine’s star-crossed love and Locke and Sabetha’s real-life relationship is the only thing that I noticed carrying over from this plot into the Karthain one. It would have been great if they’d also used the theatre experience in the election game – putting on some kind of performance to win the favour of a large group of people. But, well, yeah…

2. The Other Performance:  Of course, the GB and company had another important performance to get through—the one that ensures none of them end up hanged!  What was your favorite part of this scheme?  Do you agree with their plan for dealing with Moncraine’s treachery?

Umm, nothing really stands out for me, but I loved that bit where Gloriana gently scolds the Camorri for assuming that she’d never had to hide a body before 🙂 I liked the scheme as a whole though – hiding the body among the props, Donker posing as Boulidazi and taking a bow on stage, Sabetha playing the “giggling strumpet” again while Moncraine voices Boulidazi.

However, I thought it was dangerous to tell Ezrintaim that Boulidazi’s friends had taken him to a physiker after he hurt his ankle though. If she looks into that she’ll figure out very quickly that they were lying. But they didn’t have much time to think it through. Hopefully the case will seem simple enough after they were able to make it look like Boulidazi was murdered by Moncraine, and no one will notice that Boulidazi’s face was never seen again after he went upstairs at the inn.

Moncraine’s treachery was very convenient, giving them an even better explanation for Boulidazi’s death. And yeah, I think it’s fair to lay the blame on him, since he was willing to leave them broke and doomed to hang.

In Karthain…

3. The Election:  It seems Lovaris was indeed the final trick, and the election is over. Are you satisfied with how things turned out? Do you wish that the election had focused more on the political problems of Karthain, or are you satisfied with the mudslinging and pranks that went on between Locke and Sabetha?
Last week I wrote about how dissatisfied I was with the election, and my feelings haven’t changed. There’s no clear understanding of how Locke, Sabetha or Jean influenced the election at all, except to convince Lovaris to become neutral once he was elected. Would the votes have been any different if they weren’t involved? There was a game, but we never really see how it’s played.

As I mentioned in one of my comments, Locke’s previous schemes involved assessing the behaviour, desires and expectations of a mark, and using that in elaborate or at least entertaining cons. That’s partly what made his plots so clever and interesting. We got none of that in this election. We never found out what the Karthani voters want from their politicians, and never saw Locke, Jean or Sabetha use that to their advantage. The pranks were fun, but where is the big con? I know this might sound dull, because yeah, politics bores the shit out of me too, but Lynch could have made it interesting. The series has involved plenty of light politics. The Secret Peace is political.The rise of Capa Barsavi was an underground political endeavour that led to the revenge of Capa Raza/The Grey King. The Austershalin Brandy Scheme was founded on the unstable politics of Emberlain. Half the plot of Red Seas was political, with the Archon trying to force Locke and Jean to recreate the war that put him in power.

None of that was particularly complicated, nor did I find it boring to read the very long conversations or info dumps where these schemes were explained or enacted. I’m assuming that most if not all readers who made it to book three liked it as well. Why couldn’t Lynch have done something similar here? The Karthanis are pretty comfortable, they probably don’t have complex politics anyway. There could have been just one major issue to hook them, and Sabetha and the Bastards could have played to that. Their theatre experience would have helped them address large crowds, with their pranks functioning as parts of a larger scheme. That would also have made the Espara plot more relevant.

I know none of it matters at all because it’s just part of a distraction that allows Patience’s faction to kill the opposing mages, but when considering the election game in itself, I find it pretty lame.

4. The War: Do you have any speculation on what specific issues might have escalated the two Bondsmagi factions rivalry into this kind of violence?  What do you think the surviving Bondsmagi will do next, with all their gathered money and knowledge?
I assume it’s about the conflict between the Exceptionalists and the rest of the mages. Earlier in the book Locke asked why the Bondsmages, with all their power, haven’t tried conquering the world. Patience replies that most of the mages aren’t interested in that, in the same way that an ordinary person isn’t interested in ruling over a farm full of animals. But there are Exceptionalists who feel differently and the Falconer was an important figure among them. The rest of the magi presumably want to focus on whatever force did away with the Eldren, and feel that the Exceptionalists are a dangerous impediment.

I don’t really have any guesses as to what will happen next, given that I don’t even know what the threat is. However, the fact that they’re willing to kill seventy mages so they can focus on a specific threat suggests that there’s something colossal threat. The way the Falconer was so interested in those lights beneath the Amathel seemed important. Patience discouraged his curiosity so maybe it’s related?

Anyway, I think they will disappear for a while, and the plot of the next book will focus on something else while the Mage issue simmers.

5. Patience: Given the final revelation that Patience does hate Locke for what he did to the Falconer, what do you make of her behavior towards Locke throughout the book?  Do you think her plan of vengeance is well suited to Locke?  What do you make of the Black Amaranth story now, as well as the prophecy she threw on top?
Gods damn it, this complicates matters. I preferred it when I could just assume she was mostly telling him the truth about Lamor Acanthus. I liked that story. Now I realise she may just have been messing with him. Still, I’m not inclined to think that she was. It sounds like she really cared about Lamor, so I don’t think she would have made up a story like that just to taunt Locke.

I don’t know if it’s a great revenge for though. Locke knows who he is, and he’s got this devil-may-care attitude that will allow him to shrug it off. What’s more devastating for him is that Sabetha has left him again because Patience implied that Locke’s love for her isn’t a choice, it’s a remnant of the Bondsmage’s persona. Throughout the book she’s insisted on love being a choice, not an inevitability, so I can understand why she’s left now.

I think Patience/Lynch has also been really cruel to the reader – are we ever going to learn the truth?!

The prophecy though – I believe that. Yes, that’s how I also felt about the Lamor Acanthus story, but whatever. Plot-wise, it’s a nice setup for future books. And maybe it’s a prophecy specifically designed to con Locke. I’ll make a note and see how it turns out.

6. The Epilogue: Speaking of vengeance, do you think the Falconer’s vengeance against his mother was merited or excessively cruel, given the circumstances?  On that note, how do you feel about the Falconer’s transformation and possible status as a continuing villain?

Ok, now that was an awesome ending. The previous two books ended with Locke dying and headed for unknown shores; a bit dreary. But this… I absolutely loved what he did with the dreamsteel  – were those of you who were intrigued by it early in the book satisfied with this? It’s terrifying how powerful he is. After three years in a coma he crawls out of bed, un-handicaps himself, and then murders his mother with a feat he’d never matched before being mutilated. Who knows what he’ll do later?

The way he killed Patience was excessively cruel, but that’s what I’d expect from the Falconer. He’s a psychopath and he’s loathed his mother since childhood. Also, she tried to get him killed. I’d be pissed of too.

The only thing I don’t like about this is that it could be a set-up for that stupid “Chosen One” plot, where only Locke has the power to stop the Falconer, especially if there’s more to the Lamor Acanthus story. Lynch has avoided that kind of plot thus far, and I really don’t want to see the series fall into that cliche. But I trust Lynch to do something more interesting.

7. Wrapping up:  Thus ends the third book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence.  How do you think it compares with the first two?  In the end, do you prefer the Espara storyline or the Karthain storyline, or did you like them both equally?
For me, each book has had a very different feel to it. Even though the plots are closely related, they’re quite varied, and I like that. The series is showing some major progress, but I’ve always enjoyed the characters, the stories and the writing.

However, I will say that I find the election to be a major flaw of the kind that I didn’t find in the other novels. Given that it ends up being completely irrelevant, I can understand why Lynch may not have had cause to make it more political, and I’m sure that most readers won’t be bothered by it either. But I’m still left with the sense that the game was never played properly, and the pranks look pathetic when compared with the cons we saw before.

What I enjoyed about the Karthani plot was the development of Locke and Sabetha’s relationship, the role of the Bondsmages in the world, and the future of the Mages in books to come. The election just felt like an excuse for that.

I don’t know if I enjoyed the Espara story more, but I think it’s a bit better plotted. It had so much more tension in different forms, as well as more classic cons. Also, we got to see the beginning of Locke and Sabetha’s relationship, which was great.

In her email for part 4, Andrea mentioned that the whole idea of Locke as a reincarnated Bondsmage had polarised readers. In addition, Locke and Jean might not go back to the kinds of schemes we saw in books 1 and 2, especially since the next book is set in Emberlain, in the midst of civil war. A war might be a great time for the right people to make piles of money, but things are definitely changing. So is there anyone who doesn’t want to continue with the series?

I’m a little bit apprehensive, but at the same time I’d like to read book 4. Now, if I could. *sigh* I don’t often read series; how do you deal with the wait?!

See what the rest of the Lynch Mob had to say
Tethyan Books
Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn’s Books
Genki na Hito
Little Red Reveiwer
Dab of Darkness
Theft and Sorcery
Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers
Joma’s Fantasy Books
All I am – a redhead

The Republic of Thieves read-along part 4

The Republic of ThievesOur 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.

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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?

The Election
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.

Other

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
Tethyan Books
All I am – A Redhead
Genkinahito’s Blog
Theft and Sorcery
Joma’s Fantasy Books

 

The Republic of Thieves read-along part 3

The Republic of ThievesOur host for part three of the RoT read-along is Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog, and I was so glad when her set of questions landed in my inbox. The scheduled reading for this part ended on such a cliffhanger, but I didn’t want to read any more until I’d written all my answers. Now, at last I am free to continue!

Oh, and here are my answers:

1. The election competition.  Sabetha isn’t wasting any time throwing pranks at Locke and Jean.  Mostly it seemed fairly harmless, or at least not overly serious, until they were kidnapped and put onto a ship and taken out to sea.  What did you make of Sabetha’s latest plan? And what did you think about the way she executed it?
Firstly, I was glad that this plan finally gives the reader the opportunity to see present-day Sabetha! I waited a long time for that. I like how impeccably stylish she is, and that she’s free to show her red hair (her argument with Locke at the end of this section of the read-along suggests how dangerous her hair colour has been for her).

Sabetha certainly surprised me with her plan. I expected her to try something, but nothing as dramatic as having Locke and Jean kidnapped, imprisoned, and sent away on a cruise! While I admire her audacity, that pissed me off. 

I fell for the seduction about as hard as Locke did; it was only when he tasted her perfume that I got suspicious. She’d had such a long talk with him, and I think that what she said about being happy to see him was sincere, so I thought that maybe she really did just want to kiss him. And all this after I said, in part one, that I didn’t think she’d just fall into his arms even if she wanted to!

On the downside, it’s such a cliche – a beautiful woman uses her charms and a man’s infatuation to deceive him? Not very imaginative Sabetha. And apparently she used the same tactic to con men in Emberlain. Is this the only option for a beautiful female thief operating alone? I took Sabetha’s side in part two of the read-along, but now I find my allegiances shifting again. Locke might have been stupid to fall for this, but it was cruel (and cliche) of her to exploit his feelings.

What does intrigue me though is that Sabetha seems to have political reasons for wanting to prevent Locke and Jean from winning. When Locke tells her about Stragos she says, “You brought the gods-damned Archon down! You silly, stupid, lucky little wretches!” This suggests to me that there are some wide-ranging political effects that she understands but Locke and the reader do not. Then, when she drugs Locke she tells him that the Tel Verrar story convinced her to go ahead with this plan, and she has to win, “for both our sakes.” Which leads me to think – what will happen if Patience’s faction wins this game?

2. During the escape overboard and Jean’s rather subtle nose dive into the water – I was curious about the lights Locke saw deep in the water when he was performing his rescue – Locke thought they looked different once he was under the waves which I suppose they would but he also had the feeling that he was being watched?  Do you think this relates back to the Eldren or some other presence? 

Locke certainly seems to think so – he has a little rant about the Eldren once he’s in the boat. It sounds like something that might be significant later, but I don’t have any theories. However, it just occurred to me that Sabetha’s little kidnapping trick may have been (at least in part) a plot device to allow Locke to have this encounter with the lights. I wonder if it’s related to that weird sea passage that Locke and Jean passed through on The Poison Orchid, the one where something in the mist called Locke by his real name.

3. Given that Locke hadn’t seen Sabetha for five years how did you think their first meeting together went (well, it wasn’t strictly speaking their first meeting of course – were you surprised that Jean and Locke hadn’t figured out that the woman pickpocket was Sabetha?) and also what did you make of Jean and Sabetha’s reaction to each other?

I wasn’t surprised that Locke and Jean didn’t recognise Sabetha. This is not the kind of game where she would put on a disguise and scam them so directly, so they weren’t expecting it. It was a nice trick too – Sabetha’s just so damn good. And, narratively speaking, it’s better that Locke and Jean don’t realise who the old lady is at first.

Obviously, their next meeting didn’t go well at all, given that it ended with Locke drugged, Jean beaten, and both kidnapped and in chains on a ship headed out to sea! Before Locke started licking Sabetha’s neck, however, I thought it was fine. Locke’s nervousness and Jean’s annoyance was funny. Since these scenes are parallel to the Espara plot, you can imagine that Jean’s had it up to here with lovesick Locke. But while Locke still acts like a love-struck teenager, Sabetha seems to have calmed down and isn’t as bitter as her teenaged self. There are obviously still issues between them, so a few barbed words are expected, but at least they can catch up on each other’s lives and share some of their feelings.

I thought Jean could have been a bit warmer at their meeting though. They grew up together, after all, and as Sabetha says, they’re rivals, not enemies. I find Locke’s explanation about Ezri to be a bit weak. It’s easier for me to see his attitude as pure suspicion of Sabetha’s methods. She has just as much reason to be suspicious of them, however, and she still gave Jean a friendly hug.

4. So, the gang have arrived in Espara and already the plans have gone wrong through no fault of their own! Jail for a year plus lose a hand for slapping a noble?? What do you think of the justice system in Espara and how does this bode for the gang?
Is it heartless that I didn’t even bat an eyelid at Moncraine’s sentence? The justice system comes as no surprise – think of how all the nobles in Camorr are protected by the Secret Peace. That’s not an official law, but it’s a symptom of the huge disparity between rich and poor. Lynch frequently emphasises this disparity by stating, for example, that a rich man’s outfit is worth a decade of wages for a labourer. With that sort of inequality it makes sense that the law would offer so much protection to a noble and treat the common man with injustice. As Salvard explains:

Surely you understand that those of elevated blood don’t keep laws on the books that would require them to take abuse from their inferiors.

When Locke and Sabetha speak to Boulidazi, it’s clear that his honour is considered so important – and so easily damaged – that it should be protected by imprisoning a man and chopping his hand off. The offending incident isn’t just about a disagreement between two people – it’s about a commoner daring to strike a noble, a disgrace that the law won’t tolerate.

Now Locke and Sabetha have given an even greater insult to Boulidazi’s honour by convincing him to pardon Moncraine, pay off his debts and finance his theatre company, while letting him believe that he has a chance with Sabetha. Locke should hope that Boulidazi is so embarrassed that he won’t go to the authorities. I haven’t thought much about what will happen to them, I’m just so glad I can go and find out now that I’ve answered this week’s questions!

5. The acting company are finally coming together and we’re watching the gang as they try to read, act and grab the best parts – are you all ‘happy face’ with the whole theatre scenes or, sad face!  Also, I can’t help feeling like this whole storyline is a step out of character for the gang.  Any ideas of how it will play out??
Happy face 🙂 It’s funny and entertaining. I liked the tension between the Sanzas, and the fight that breaks out when Chantel insults Sabetha, Locke insults Chantel, Bertrand tries to beat up Locke, and Jean jumps in to fight with Bertrand.

I don’t think this is out of character at all. True, it’s quite unlike other things the Bastards have done, but they have been sent on a variety of training missions. Locke spent a summer working on a farm and Sabetha worked as a scullery maid. It adds to their experiences, which, as Chains says, gives them the freedom to fit in anywhere.

Theatre is at least more ‘in character’ than manual labour. Moncraine’s acting advice is perhaps a wee bit tedious, but I like seeing the Bastards learning to play the kinds of roles that make their greatest schemes possible.

6. We are also being introduced to a number of new characters, particularly Moncraine and Boulidazi.  What are your first impressions of these two and the other new characters in the Company and any particular likes or dislikes so far?

Moncraine is one of those talented egotistical bastards who might be a terrible person most of the time, but is so fantastically skilled in one significant way that you admire him anyway. He’s not the kind of person I want to hang out with in real life, but he’s wonderful on the page.

Boulidazi has just become an antagonist, but I like him. Yes, he was going to see Moncraine imprisoned and maimed for slapping him, but he’s acting according to his culture. That doesn’t make it right, but you can also see how he would be publicly disgraced if Moncraine wash’t punished, and you can understand his anger. Nevertheless he is very reasonable, agreeing quite easily to Locke and Sabetha’s suggestions. He doesn’t hold a  grudge, and I think his offer of patronage was well-intentioned.

Dislikes? I wasn’t too keen about Chantel pitching up, because I’m not in the mood for a catfight between her and Sabetha. No serious dislikes though.

7. The rooftop scene and the apology. How did it all go so wrong?  And how will Locke get out of this latest fix with Boulidazi?
I didn’t see that coming. I’ve done a complete turnaround since part 2 of the read-along, and now I’m on #TeamLocke. Why is Sabetha giving him such a hard time? Everything seemed to be ok, but when he tries to have a serious conversation with her again she’s surly and bitchy.

I felt so proud of Locke though – he expresses himself as well as he can, and he stands up for himself when Sabetha snaps at him about the wine and not wanting to talk to him. Go Locke!

And then it all went down in flames…. I don’t know what to make of the whole red-hair thing. Since we get a lot of narrative from Locke’s POV, I think it’s fair to say that he isn’t infatuated with Sabetha because of her red hair. That certainly caught his attention and stayed with him, but he loves so many other things about her. Sabetha should have realised this; if he was obsessed with her hair, he might have asked her to wear her natural colour or something.

Locke doesn’t even seem to think her red hair is significant in any way except its beauty, which is why Sabetha’s outburst seems especially unfair. But, admittedly, this could be another thing that Locke has been insensitive about. The red-head problems that Sabetha mention seem to be serious social issues that Locke should be familiar with. If anything, it’s really weird that this has never come up before. They’ve lived together for years – did Locke never see her dyeing her hair? Never ask Sabetha or anyone else about it? I can’t believe I’m saying something like this, but I would like to know more about Sabetha’s hair.

Other stuff

“Gods, as far as Locke was concerned, watching Sabetha handle people was as good as watching any other girl in the world take off her clothes.”
That’s pretty hot Locke 🙂 I wonder how Sabetha would react if he told her that…

“We need to be within reasonable distance of a beach, and we need a rolling deck, and we need to not be tied up in the hold when our chance comes.”
Locke and Jean get their storm and for some reason the ship gets much closer to a beach than it should. How very convenient – a little help from Patience perhaps?

LOL: “Verena’s our Amadine,” said Moncraine. “There’s a certain deficiency of breasts in the company, and while yours may be larger than hers, Sylvanus, I doubt as many people would pay to see them.”

Moncraine speaking about the play: “And we’ll cut avuncular and Twitch, the comic relief thieves, for a certainty.”
Makes me think of Lynch cutting Calo and Galdo’s throats in book 1.

Blog hop through the read-along
Lynn’s Book Blog
Over the Effing Rainbow
Little Red Reviewer
Genkinahito’s Blog
All I am a Redhead
Dab of Darkness
Joma Fantasy
Theft and Sorcery
Tethyan Books

 

The Republic of Thieves read-along part 2

The Republic of ThievesI’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:

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?
 
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?
 
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?
 
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?
 
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?
 
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?
 
Extras! Let’s be having any random bits that amuse you, confuse you, or just plain interest you…

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*

LOLz
– 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.

Read more at:
Dab of Darkness
Over the Effing Rainbow
Tethyan Books
Little Red Reviewer
Lynn’s Book Blog
Genkinahito’s Blog
Just Book Reading
Joma’s Fantasy Books
Theft and Sorcery

 

The Republic of Thieves read-along part 1

The Republic of ThievesSo, Andrea at the Little Red Reviewer has organised a read-along for The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. I recently read and reviewed The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies just because I got a review copy of book 3. Luckily for me I’ve really enjoyed the series so far so I’m eager to read Republic, where we FINALLY get to meet the infamous Sabetha. I’ve never participated in a read-along like this, so I’m looking forward to it.

If you’re interested in participating in the read along or just lurking, check out the reading schedule.

I spent most of October away on holiday, so I missed the start and I’m behind for part 2, but luckily the schedule is fairly relaxed and the book is very readable, so I finished all of part 1 yesterday, covering everything from the Prologue through to the end of Intersect 1. This discussion is hosted by the blog Dab of Darkness, so you can head over there and then blog hop to the other participants. Note that if you haven’t read the first two books, you’re going to encounter major spoilers all the way.

Here are the questions for part one:
1) We get to reminisce with several old friends in this section – Calo, Galdo, Chains. How did you like this? Bitter sweet or happy dance?
2) Finally, the infamous Sabetha makes a physical appearance, albeit in Locke’s reminisces. What are your impressions? How do you think the romance, if there is to be one, will play out?
3) After trying absolutely everything to save Locke, Jean still won’t give up. What did you think of that little pep talk he gave Locke concerning Patience’s offer of healing?
4) Locke has a few caveats to working for the Bondsmage. Wise or just Locke grasping for some control over his life? What would you ask Patience?
5) At the end of this section, we see that all is not as Patience laid it out. How much do you think Patience knows of the plot to off Locke and Jean? Do you see it interfering in the rigged election?

And here’s what I thought:

1) We get to reminisce with several old friends in this section – Calo, Galdo, Chains. How did you like this? Bitter sweet or happy dance?
Happy dance, but I’m probably not as overjoyed to see them as most. Before I read Lies, I saw a meme stating that Scott Lynch was more brutal in killing off his characters than J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin. I don’t think this is true regarding Martin, but it made it obvious that Calo, Galdo and Bug were going to die, so I didn’t get that attached to them. Chains dies of old age off the page, so his death didn’t have any real emotional impact. As a result, I don’t really miss any of them.

That said, they’re all wonderful characters who work wonderfully together, so I enjoyed reading about them again. At first, the return to Locke’s childhood training seemed dull, but it picked up with Sabetha around. We also see nuances of Locke’s development that aren’t shown in Lies, like when he tentatively tries to swear the way the adults in his life do (of course he becomes an expert later on). And the combination of fatherly affection, guidance and strict training Chains gives Locke and the other children makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

2) Finally, the infamous Sabetha makes a physical appearance, albeit in Locke’s reminisces. What are your impressions? How do you think the romance, if there is to be one, will play out?
Yes, AT LAST! Her absence in Lies felt very odd, and in Red Seas Jean explains that he never talks about her because Locke is so absurdly sensitive about the topic. A bit of a feeble excuse for the reader, in my opinion. Now I feel like Lynch has to try a little too hard to put Sabetha into the narrative when she should have been there all along. At the very least, Locke and Jean should have spoken to or about her regarding the massacre of the other Gentleman Bastards. Even if Locke doesn’t want to talk about her, there’s nothing stopping Jean from thinking about her in sections written from his POV. And now we learn that Locke became obsessed with Sabetha at Shades Hill but somehow this major development is never mentioned in book one? Awkward. Very awkward.

But I’m glad to finally see her, although she’s still too enigmatic for me to form an opinion. In the Shades Hill chapter I was disappointed that I didn’t get a demonstration of the skills that earned her a higher rank among the thieves. Locke is infatuated with her because of her pretty face, her implied skill, and a certain je ne sais quoi. I don’t particularly like this sort of infatuation-at-first-sight plot, especially since Locke is only 5 or 6 or 7 years old; I would have preferred it if Locke was merely intrigued and became infatuated after a taste of her personality, intelligence and skill. He comes to appreciate that later, but for now I don’t feel like I know Sabetha very well. I find her mysterious but not beguiling.

As for a romance? Well clearly those two have some issues to sort out first. And although I don’t know yet what exactly happened between them, Sabetha has a seriousness that suggests she won’t be falling into Locke’s arms, even if she wants to. My guess is she’ll approach him with caution and consideration, influenced by her role in the plot.

3) After trying absolutely everything to save Locke, Jean still won’t give up. What did you think of that little pep talk he gave Locke concerning Patience’s offer of healing?
Absolutely wonderful. One of the things I enjoyed in Red Seas was the way Jean developed some independence as a character, openly criticising Locke and becoming more than just his sidekick. I also liked seeing Locke undermined a bit, with his flaws on display. His vulnerability brings me closer to his character, making him more human.

This scene does that again, but with even more heart, given that Locke is on the verge of death and Jean recently lost Ezri. I love seeing Jean criticise Locke for his bullshit and his arrogance, while offering an interesting interpretation of his emotional problems. No doubt Locke will have to face this issue again in the future. Jean also lays out his own feelings about Ezri and loss, so that Locke finally understands how much others have done for him, and how selfish it would be to throw his life away. He might be the star of this series, but he can be such a dick; Jean is the person I’d prefer to hang out with.

4) Locke has a few caveats to working for the Bondsmage. Wise or just Locke grasping for some control over his life? What would you ask Patience?
Both. I find it hard to believe that anyone with such power can be trusted (as previous powerful characters have proved) so Locke is wise to try and take some control. I don’t think his requests are unreasonable either. Demanding that Patience answer all his questions is particularly important  for him to do a good job. However, I have very little faith in Patience’s promise that they will sever all ties with him once he’s fulfilled his contract. Maybe she’s trustworthy; we’ll have to see.

I don’t know what I’d ask Patience. No doubt a crucial question will pop up later when Locke and Jean desperately need the answer.

5) At the end of this section, we see that all is not as Patience laid it out. How much do you think Patience knows of the plot to off Locke and Jean? Do you see it interfering in the rigged election?
Being in her position, she must surely know that this sort of thing is possible if not likely, at the very least. More so given the Bondsmagi’s unusual elections. Initially I would have said that Patience doesn’t know the details of this particular conspiracy, but the question made me think of alternatives – that she know but is secretly letting the conspiracy play out so she can keep an eye on it, or that she’s spearheading it herself as part of a larger plan. Mind you, I’m more interested in the conspiracy itself than Patience’s role in it.

And now on to part 2, which begins at chapter 3. Obviously Patience is going to save Locke, but how harrowing is it going to be?

In the meantime, you can do a blog hop and check out the other participants’ answers if you like:

Over The Effing Rainbow
Dab of Darkness
Lynn’s Book Blog
Tethyan Books
Just Book Reading
Genkinahito’s Blog
Book Den
Theft and Sorcery
Many A True Nerd
Joma’s Fantasy Books
All I Am – A Redhead
Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers
Rose’s Thingamajig
Books Without Any Pictures

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red SkiesTitle: Red Seas Under Red Skies
Author: 
Scott Lynch
Series: 
Gentleman Bastard #2
Published:
 20 June 2007
Publisher: 
Gollancz (eBook)
Genre: 
fantasy
Source: 
Own copy
Rating: 
8/10

Like The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies uses narratives from different timelines. One picks up shortly after the events in Lies, with Jean tending to a grievously injured Locke as they escape Camorr and head for Tel Verrar by ship. Locke heals slowly, largely because his growing depression becomes a far greater problem than his wounds. Devastated by the deaths of Calo, Galdo and Bug, he wallows in self-pity and cheap wine, becoming so bitter and angry that even Jean is on the verge of just letting him die as he seems to want to.

But we know that Locke somehow recovers from his melancholy because the main narrative sees him and Jean in the middle of a casino heist that they’ve been working on for two years. The Sinspire is a high-class casino with a huge but impenetrable vault. It’s almost impossible to cheat on the gaming tables, and anyone who is caught trying will accidentally ‘fall’ from the ninth storey. Of course, Locke and Jean have been cheating there for months as part of their plan to steal a bigger fortune than the Gentleman Bastards have ever taken.

Everything runs smoothly until the Bondsmages start sending them eerie messages. The terrifyingly powerful sorcerers want revenge for the Falconer, who Locke mutilated in his attempt to stop the Grey King. The Bondsmages operate only through other people, eventually delivering Locke and Jean up to Maxilan Stragos, Tel Verrar’s military leader. Stragos uses them for his own political machinations, sending them to sea as undercover pirates.

Locke and Jean are faced with an impossible con – to pose as a pirate captain and first mate when they know next to nothing about sailing, and trick a group of people who could easily see through them and slit their throats. Refusing to do it, leads to an even more certain death. It makes for a story that’s quite different to Lies, but just as dangerous and thrilling. It also has what I have quickly come to think of as Lynch’s trademark world building (which is fabulously, overwhelmingly detailed) and fantastic characters (including my new favourite pirate captain).

I enjoyed Red Seas even more than I enjoyed Lies, for several reasons. Firstly, it’s more fun and adventurous. It starts out with a casino heist reminiscent of Ocean’s 11, and then turns into Pirates of the Caribbean if it was made by HBO instead of Disney.

I also approached Red Seas blind. Because it was part of a series I wanted to read, I just jumped in without knowing the plot. I knew only that it contained pirates, including a particularly interesting pirate captain named Zamira Drakasha (more on her later). I didn’t know much about Lies either, but its reputation preceded it: I saw a meme for Lies suggesting that Scott Lynch was more ruthless in killing off his major characters than J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin (although, in my opinion, Martin is far more brutal). Based on this, I knew Calo, Galdo and Bug were doomed, so from the beginning I saw them as sacrificial victims. They existed to die tragically, so I didn’t get attached, and missed out on key emotional impact.

Luckily I encountered no such spoilers for Red Seas, and except for one or two slow sections, I loved reading it. Lynch continues to explore the rich world he started creating in Lies, and although he still provides more detail you could possibly take in I’ve grown accustomed to just enjoying it without trying to learn it all. Tel Verrar is very different from Camorr; the world of the pirates even more so. Lynch just keeps unveiling one wonder after another and it all feels just as amazing as the wonders in book one. I could do a whole series of blog posts on the world building; instead I’ll just discuss my favourite points.

I particularly liked the fact that Lynch developed the thieves’ belief in the Thirteenth/The Crooked Warden. In Lies, Locke and the other Gentleman Bastards just seemed to be thieves who prayed to the god of thieves for protection and good fortune. Now, we get a deeper understanding of their belief as a religion. They live by the tenets that “thieves prosper” and “the rich remember”. This is why Chains taught the Gentleman Bastards to defy the Secret Peace and steal from the rich as a duty, not merely a preference:

Nara, Mistress of Ubiquitous Maladies, may Her hand be stayed, sends disease among men so that men will never forget that they are not gods. We’re sort of like that, for the rich and powerful. We’re the stone in their shoe, the thorn in their flesh, a little bit of reciprocity this side of divine judgement. That’s our second mandate, and it’s as important as the first. […] It’s my divine duty to see that the bluebloods with their pretty titles get a little bit of what life hands the rest of us as a matter of routine – a nice, sharp jab in the arse every now and again.

For Locke and Jean this also means sharing a sense of community with other thieves. An incident in the earlier part of the novel serves to illustrate this. Locke and Jean are nearly robbed and killed, but when the situation is turned around and the thief is at Locke and Jean’s mercy, they spare him and send him home with a purse full of coins. Because “thieves prosper” and the thief in question is very poor. This becomes part of an important debate in relation to the pirates, who are, of course, all thieves.

The pirates themselves worship another of the Thirteen gods, and I quite like their beliefs about ensuring good luck at sea:

‘When you go to sea, there’s two necessities, for luck. First, you’re courting an awful fate if you take a ship to sea without at least one woman officer. It’s the law of the Lord of the Grasping Waters. His mandate. He’s got a fixation for the daughters of the land; he’ll smash any ship that puts to sea without at least one aboard. Plus, it’s plain common sense. They’re good officers. Decent plain sailors, but finer officers than you or me. Just the way the gods made ’em.

‘Second, it’s powerful bad luck to put out without cats on board. Not only as they kill the rats, but as they’re the proudest creatures anywhere, wet or dry. Iono admires the little fuckers. Got a ship with women and cats aboard, you’ll have the finest luck you can hope for.

It’s a nice change from our world’s superstition that it’s bad luck to have a woman on board. But Locke’s world is also much more egalitarian than ours when it comes to gender. I noticed that in Lies, and it’s clearer here.

My favourite and most anticipated character was Zamira Drakasha, a black, female pirate captain with two young children. Zamira is pretty badass even when bouncing her two-year-old daughter on her knee, but she’s a much more rounded character that the girls and women who tend to be termed “feisty” or “strong” but have few other qualities. Drakasha feels real – stern, sometimes brutal, funny, curious, carefully affectionate towards a few select people, firm but generous in dealing with the crew, skilled in political negotiations, and every inch an exceptional and experienced pirate captain. She’s one of Lynch’s best characters.

And the absolute best thing about Drakasha? No one makes a big deal about the fact that she’s a black woman. She’s not the only woman on the ship, she’s not the only female pirate captain, and the world is so much more comfortable with its racial diversity than ours. So no one thinks of Drakasha as some kind of fluke, men don’t single her out for criticism or make crude jokes about wanting to sleep with her, she’s not the exceptional woman, or the token black character; she’s a person like everyone else. I really enjoyed seeing that as as a norm, for a change.

I also liked the sexual freedom among the pirates. With a mixed crew, lots of people are having fun casual sex and indulging a variety of preferences. Even Jean gets involved with one of the crew members, which came as something of a relief – it was nice to see a normal human being exists within the master thief.

I really like how Jean’s character develops too. In Lies, he was too much of a faithful sidekick, hovering on standby to assist Locke, who always took centre stage. Now we see Jean come to the fore. He drives the narrative in the early flashbacks, when Locke is too miserable to get out of bed or sober up. Jean loves him, but struggles to put up with his appalling behaviour, and I think most readers would empathise with Jean while distancing themselves from Locke. I certainly did. Similarly, when Jean begins sleeping with one of the pirates, he seems warmer and more human. Locke looks prudishly celibate in comparison, especially when he gets jealous of Jean’s new girlfriend.

Jean, understandably, is fed up with Locke’s emotional bullshit, especially when it comes to sexual relationships:

We carry your precious misery with us like a holy fucking relic. Don’t talk about Sabetha Belacoros. Don’t talk about the plays. Don’t talk about Jasmer, or Espara, or any of the schemes we ran. I lived with her for nine years, same as you, and I’ve pretended she doesn’t fucking exist to avoid upsetting you. Well, I’m not you. I’m not content to live like an oath-bound monk. I have a life outside your gods-damned shadow.

This gives a somewhat feeble excuse for why we learn so little about Sabetha, but more importantly this sort of tension is crucial plot-wise. The prologue takes a scene from late in the novel, where Jean supposedly betrays Locke. At the time I thought it was a stupid prologue, because such a betrayal would be simply impossible. As the novel progressed however, the cracks begin to show in Locke and Jean’s relationship, and in Locke’s reliability, leaving open the possibility that Jean could give up on him.

It’s nice to see Locke knocked off his pedestal like this. In Lies, he was so smart and slick – an awesome character, but an unreal one too. He could be defeated only through the absurdly powerful sorcery of the Falconer, but even then you knew he’d come out on top. Although he’s criticised for being arrogant, I felt that, ultimately his arrogance was justified.

Now, we see Locke’s character flaws when he allows the Grey-King disaster to cripple him emotionally. Then we see both him and Jean forced into dangerous, demanding situations that they often can’t handle or escape. And while Jean begins an exciting new relationship, Locke can’t get over Sabetha, and feels insecure about losing Jean’s attention. On the whole, it’s a more interesting character story than you find in Lies.

My only complaint about the book is that is drags in parts, particularly when it transitions from a casino heist to a pirate adventure. Locke and Jean are prevented from working on their Sinspire scheme and forced to spend their time learning how to sail a ship. The plot is unable to advance much under these conditions, and there’s little opportunity for action or cons, so it gets boring. I also found sailing as tedious as Locke and Jean did.

I got worried at this point, but the pace picked up again when Locke and Jean left the land, especially with all the tension that comes from them being crap sailors while pretending to be experts. It’s an exciting read, with lots of action, political intrigue, great characters, and a growing world. I also get a sense of the series expanding into something epic and overtly socio-political, with issues regarding the rich vs. the poor and the influence of divinely inspired thieves like Locke coming into play. Lynch leaves a lot of dangling threads to be picked up in the next book, which must have been agony for those who had to wait five years for the sequel. I’m rather pleased that I started reading this now, when I have book three waiting on my Kindle 🙂