Book Three in the Gentleman Bastards sequence
By Scott Lynch
Available now from Del Rey (Penguin Random House)
Read my review of Red Seas Under Red Skies
RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES came out in 2007, a little over six years ago. The one-two punch of the hilarious, complicated, and inventive THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and its sequel had fans eagerly awaiting the third book in the Gentleman Bastards series. (Especially because it promised a reunion between Locke and his love Sabetha.) Now, it's finally here and almost guaranteed to be disappointing because there has been so much time to anticipate it and wonder about what would happen.
I breezed through THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES, happy to be reunited with Locke and Jean and see them get out of their last scrape and straight into a new one. As always, the story alternates between an episode in their past and their present. I quite enjoyed the past, which reveals how Locke fell in love with Sabetha and wooed her. I found those sections funny and liked how the ending forced the Gentleman Bastards to rely on their developing skills. I also liked the development of Locke and Sabetha's romance, which is complicated by Sabetha's resentment of Locke's place in the gang. They're similar in skill, but Sabetha is the outsider and Locke is the leader because of their sexes.
The present plot, which involves Locke and Jean trying to rig an election and Sabetha working for the other side, was less satisfying. Yes, I liked spending time with the characters, but . . . there is no heist here, no clever unfolding of tricky plans. The trickiest thing that happens in THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES is about on par with Locke not even trying in one of the first two books. The biggest revelation occurs in a bit of awkward exposition. There's barely any plot here. My disappointment isn't so much from over anticipation as THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES not much resembling the first two books. Not to mention there's no danger. Each side is forbidden from killing the other. If Locke and Jean win, they get to leave with protection. If they lose, they just get to leave. Those are possibly the lamest stakes ever.
I'll be back for the fourth installment in the Gentleman Bastards series. The ending of THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES remembers that there is a series arc and that danger is tantalizing. The past bits are good and there's plenty of fun banter. It's just that the main plot of this entry is oddly airless. On a whole, this book is a nice diversion for an afternoon, but not what I expected from a favorite series.