Thursday, October 24, 2013

What I'm Reading - The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

What it is: The Republic of Thieves is the long-awaited third book in the Gentleman Bastard Sequence. (The first two books are The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, the next book will be The Thorn of Emberlain, and the series is expected to be seven books in total.)

Why I’m excited: It’s the third book in the Gentleman Bastard Sequence!

For those unfamiliar with Lynch’s work, these books are a mashup between high fantasy and the caper story covered in a thin layer of grimdark. Imagine, if you will, the muddy ghost of Tolkien and the Soderbergh remake of Ocean's 11 making raunchy, sweat-stained love on a gondola in the stinking canals of Venice. Now imagine that act resulting in a charming, twisted, brilliant, wonderfully foul-mouthed baby. That baby is The Lies of Locke Lamora, and once you pick that little bastard up, you'll never want to put it down. At least not until it's time to pick up its siblings.

While RoT starts off a bit more slowly than the first two books in the series – this is necessitated by one of the carryover plotlines from the last book, and this is not a complaint but a simple observation – once it starts moving, it doesn’t stop. There are the usual GB: The Early Years flashbacks, which are fairly concentrated in this book and take us back to the time Locke and Co. strode across the boards. Much is revealed about Locke's past. (Or is it? The idea that Locke is a mark in a massive and never-ending shell game is only strengthened in this volume.) We learn quite a bit more about the Bondsmagi of Karthain, who are all up in the GB's beeswax, and the shadow of the Eldren spectre darkens. Not only that, the stakes continue to be raised, and we're left with a pretty clear picture of some of the challenges to come.

In short, this book proves itself to be more than worth the wait.

Favorite (spoiler-free) thing: We finally get to meet Sabetha! And holy shitcakes, people. I actually pushed this post back a week while I struggled to articulate just how much I love this character. Lynch kept subverting my expectations of her, repeatedly pulling the rug out from under me in the best possible ways. Seldom are relationships portrayed in this genre with so much careful consideration for both parties, and it's stunning to watch Sabetha and Locke's strange courtship unfold. Aside from that, Sabetha is, in her own right, a strong, flawed, complex character, who is driven by a whole host of motivations and desires, many of which have little or nothing to do with our -- and her -- beloved Locke. Lynch's books continue to raise the bar for the genre in any number of ways, but the care with which he crafts his characters is perhaps my favorite.

Side note: In case you’re wondering, I learned recently that Sabetha is pronounced like Tabitha, not Suh-BEE-tha, which is how I was saying it in my head. I blame this on reading too much epic fantasy. (Ha! As if such a thing were possible.)

What say you? Have you read RoT? What did you think? And is it possible to read too much epic fantasy?

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