Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

RedSeasSeries: Gentleman Bastard #2
Published by: Gollancz
ISBN: 0575079673
ISBN 13: 9780575079670
Published: November 2007
Pages: 630
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) / The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3)

‘Red Seas Under Red Skies’ by Scott Lynch is the second in his Gentleman Bastard Sequence series, which is currently slated at seven books, with one or two novellas thrown in for good measure. This review has been a long time coming, as I struggle to review books that mean a lot to me – how can my puny little review ever do it justice?

For those who were disappointed at the lack of female characters being a focal point in the first book (where they’re mentioned but not seen, or have background roles throughout), then this novel is full of main and secondary females – a point which caused a reader to contact Scott and he responded to publicly, which gained him quite a bit of interest. Though the famous Sabetha still does not make an appearance within this novel – the only female member of the now very small Gentleman Bastards group of thieves and con artists – we are not disappointed with a variable crowd of strong and intriguing female characters. 

Each of Scott’s novels so far is set in a different part of the world, with the first being set in Camorr, we are now in Tal Verrar – right at the edge of civilisation. Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen have moved on to another heist, and this is how the novel opens – after a short prologue of worst yet to come.

Part one, chapter one, opens with a fabulous scene set in a casino, with an intriguing game I hope someone will manage to create somehow, even though I’m not a drinker. The game, Carousel Hazard, is a game for two sets of pairs who work together though each has their own hand of cards. At the end of each hand, the losing team are then dealt an alcoholic vial from the carousel which has its potency masked by juice or otherwise. So while the player’s ability at cards is being tests, they also have to keep their wits about them as they get steadily more intoxicated. Those who miss seeing how Locke manages to get out of the various schemes he gets himself into are quickly sated, and the novel moves on, only to quickly drop us into something worrying. Ahh, of course, the author is Scott Lynch, after all – he’s the crueler version of George R. R. Martin for good reason.

The plot within this novel is speedy, as it cuts from the present to the past and then back again. This is an elegant way to show us important scenes rather than writing in a linear fashion and then perhaps having dull chapters, and it’s handled well throughout. The action is of a high quality, and even though part of the novel is set out on the open seas, on a boat – which isn’t really my ‘thing’, per se, it’s engaging and interesting throughout as we see Locke and Jean try to struggle their way through the current mess they’re in.

Again, though, what we’re really here for is the wit, sass and humour throughout. The dialogue is just as perfect as in the first book, and the insults just as sharp and startling.

The characters develop throughout the book, and we can see changes in them after the devastation that befell them in the first. Throughout what is thrown at them within this next instalment we see them under greater strain and how they cope with it, usually together. The bromance between these two friends is almost at Sherlock and John heights, and it’s glorious to read.

The ending of this book however will be the cause of great unrest if you don’t have the third with you, ready to dive into immediately. Please spare a thought for those who read this book in 2007 and then waited until 2013 for the third book. The wait was for good reason, was well worth it, and simply shows how desperate we were to know what happens next to our beloved characters. To those who are just getting into the series now, well, I would say you don’t know how lucky you are, but I bet Scott will leave us many more cliffhangers in the near future, and we can all join together in quiet torture as we wait to see how it is solved.

Because we know it will be worth it.

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