Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch
Posted January 6, 2011on:
Red Seas Under Red Skies is the 2nd book in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series. I suggest reading my review of the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora here, and a little more about my love for Scott Lynch here.
It’s been a few years since Red Seas Under Red Skies came out, and I’ve read it more than a few times. It’s now without embarrassment that I can say the first time I read it I was reading too fast to understand what was happening. Honestly. The first time I read Red Seas I wasn’t sure if I liked it, going so far as to call it “not quite as friendly”, or some such. Only upon rereading did I realize that I’d become party to the most brilliant piece of misdirection I have ever seen.
Picking up a few years after Lies left off, Locke and Jean are working another scam in the gambling paradise of Tal Verrar (Think Monaco or some such, on more). The plan is the rip off Requin, the wealthiest casino owner, by playing on his pride, his reputation, and his love for fine antique furniture. It doesn’t hurt matters that Requin holds the deposits of Tal Verrar’s wealthy Priori leaders, who are desperate to be rid of an accidental military dictator, Maxilan Stragos. When Stragos makes Locke and Jean an offer they can’t refuse, they can’t help but try to start a pirate war.
That plot summary sounds rather silly, doesn’t it? So does the one line plot summary for most Doctor Who episodes, and we all know how that worked out. Let it be known, Red Seas Under Red Skies is approximately 0% silly, and 100% fucking awesome.
so much for keeping this review professional and not super fangirly.
I don’t know what I love most about this novel.
There’s the characterization – we really get to know Locke and Jean. Lies of Locke Lamora was all fun and games and action and nail biting, whereas Red Seas under Red Skies is just a teensy bit slower paced, offering the opportunity for Jean to shine as the book smarts of the operation, as finally more than just the side kick. I fear that Jean will eventually be Locke’s undoing, but not before Jean saves his life just one more time.
There’s the dialog, and oh gods, the language. Beautifully colorful invective, snarkyness like you’ve never seen, sarcasm, pirates arguing literary philosophy . . . just brilliant. Not sold on the pirate thing? read it just for the dialog, which is completely inappropriate for anyone uncomfortable with four letter words that appear on nearly every page. Be prepared to be schooled in the proper use of a potty mouth.
There’s the world building. This is an epic fantasy style world, and oh did Lynch have some wicked fun building it. Even Locke Lamora feels uncomfortable in certain cities, and you will too. And even that was part of the plan.
There’s the way Lynch puts the story together – ledgermaine hiding misdirection hiding something else altogether. As usual, the prize has nothing to do with gold. This is a heist plot that goes all pirate, and my first thought was that the first half of this book did not match the second half. But it does. trust me. everything that happens has to happen. Even when you don’t want it to, and sometimes because you don’t want it to.
and did I mention it’s hilarious? and bittersweet? and magnificent? and a little bit of a bromance? and perfect? and everytime I finish reading this book the first thing I want to do is start reading it all over again?
Here’s hoping fans will get to read the third book in the series, The Republic of Thieves, sometime in 2011. Some rumors say February, others say June, others are wisely keeping their own council.
If you love snarky dark fiction, bad guys who deep down are good guys, epic fantasy, adventure, and smarts sometimes winning, you’ll like Scott Lynch.