I just finished the leviathan that is Scott Lynch’s Republic of Thieves. Overall, it’s a thumbs up. I am grateful to be back in this fantastic world, running with these bastards again. The character Patience was great. She was rounded, nuanced, and quite unpredictable, the textbook example of how to write dark fantasy antagonist. It was great to see some of the old characters again in flashbacks, like the twins and Chains. I would love it if Scott were to write a novella on just an escapade with the original crew running one of the scams that built their fortune. Hell, I could read ten novellas of that. I shall now commence with the spoilers.
Caution, here be spoilers:
Back when the first book in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was released, we were at a reading at Dreamhaven books in Minneapolis. I clearly remember Scott saying that the reason Sabetha got pushed back to the third book was because every time he wrote her, she tended to take over the book. Having experienced characters like that while writing I know exactly what he meant. I am also relieved that she wasn’t a standard fantasy cold hard badass bitch. There are reasons and rationales for most of her behavior and reactions though I was a little bewildered as to why she left at the end. I just hope Lynch doesn’t make a habit of her coming and going. It could become a cliche.
Now on with the caveats: First of all, the dialogue. There’s too damn much of it. Yeah, Lynch has a natural ear for dialogue but damn, this was almost as talky as Steven Brust and in my book, that isn’t a good thing. Every other conversation with Locke and Sabetha had my eyes glazing over as these two motor mouths over analyzed every aspect of their relationship. It really bogged down the middle of the book because there was very little action to push the story ahead. I somewhat agree about the level of high stakes in this book. The flashback plot really didn’t get interesting until the noble had a scissors in his chest, then it picked up steam. The election never really picked up steam because of the lack of stakes and the lack of dirty tricks. I would have been happier with more skulduggery in the vote rigging but the whole barge thing was well played. I really have HUGE issues with Locke being a special magic person. Scott has blogged before about his dislike of standard fantasy tropes (seek out his Eleven things I will serve my best never to put in a fantasy novel unless I am trying to undermine them, and in fact could do without entirely from now on, thanks.) That document makes me think he’s going to turn this hoary cliche on its ear, similar to what Joe Abercrombie did in his first three books.
Hereby the end of the spoilers.
So in short, I am going to trust where the author is going. I do believe it is a transitional novel and one that had to be written to move things forward. It is the AFFC of this series and that’s not a bad thing. It pulls things together, sets up the higher stakes to come and illuminates who the big bad might be, and integrates Sabetha into the weave. It’s a win and the next book will be an autobuy.
If this series is new to you and you’re open for a little dark fantasy, I would suggest giving The Lies of Locke Lamora a ride. It’s not your standard plate armor noble houses sort of crap. The best description I have read was “Pirates of the Caribbean crossed with Ocean’s Eleven.” The Gentleman Bastards are thieves and con men, plying their trade in time and locale not similar to 16th century Venice. Of course this Venice is a whole lot nastier but that’s half the fun.
As for me, I have several hangover cures lined up but we’ll start with picking up where I left off in James SA Corey’s Expanse Series.