Review: Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

 

This is largely spoiler free.

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Short of it: 4/5 stars. Read it. By the gods, read it.

Long of it: Pretty often they say more of the same in a derogatory tone. Often enough that is true, but it does not apply to Scott Lynch’s Republic Of Thieves. Not only is there more of what rocks, but enough that is new to keep things interesting.

This book is the third installment in the Gentlemen Bastards Sequence, a tale of scalawags and mischief-makers of the highest accord. Feel free to read about my impressions, but I really gotta say, if you’re unfamiliar with any of this, you really ought to check out the first two books.

No, really. Scotty Lynch is my favorite living author.

Whereas the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, introduced us to Locke and his gang (initially lead by one of my all-time favorite characters: Chains) pit against a variety of increasingly interesting and challenging obstacles (and foes), the second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies, could be described as a fantasy Ocean’s Eleven, one of the most entertaining caper stories I’ve yet come across, with a healthy dose of action and intrigue on the high seas.

Lynch’s Republic Of Thieves carries on most enjoyable tradition of following Locke and Jean’s adventure as they find themselves in Karthain, a city-state serving as the power base for the Bondsmagi. Locke and Jean’s skill’s at deception, hoodwinkery, occasional violence and overall tasteful use of charisma. The story is told through an excellent form writing the likes of which I have yet to discover a specific term for — basically, we’ve got two primary stories happening. One in the past, and one in the present. Every other section goes from one to the other, so we as readers experience the intrigue of the now adventure in addition to a journey that familiar characters (some of whom did not survive to the “present”) during their younger, formative years as awkward teenage Gentlemen-Bastards-in-training.

Lynch’s wordsmithery prevails once again, following this common theme of storytelling throughout his books thus far, and I found myself delighted to hear the talented Michael Page narrate Republic Of Thieves as he did the previous books. Michael Page alone is worth it — though I gotta say, his rendition of Chains in this 3rd installment was not as awesome as before (as brief as Chains’ appearance was), though that role was largely filled by an aged actor named Jazma (unsure of the spelling, as I heard it pronounced, didn’t read it), both in terms of vocal talent and downright hilarity.

In Republic Of Thieves, we are introduced to characters who have been hinted at in the previous works, and we are thrust into a world where their most hated enemies — the Bondsmagi — hold sway. Bondsmagi alone are an interesting concept; Lynch covers magic in his world in a way I find most favorable: rules are not explained to the reader, at least not outright. There’s a great deal of mystery and fear involved with people capable of using magic, and the magic itself is dark and gritty. A powerful worldbuilding point was revealed in this book as well, one that genuinely inspired me. I’ll get into detail of that in a separate article.
So we’ve got excellent wordsmithery, an intriguing, interwoven plot, well-fashioned characters, and a subtle backstory of the world revealed to us piece by piece that, the more I learn, the more interested I become. We have well-fashioned romance – something I all-too-often find to be either contrived or just awkward in a lot of fantasy – and a strong, capable female lead. Lynch goes in-depth about his thoughts regarding writing characters of feminine persuasion in this great article from 2013.

On that note, I found it interesting that the lady-character in question reminded me sharply of someone I used to know and care about. While I am aware this may have colored my impressions of the character a little (I remember getting genuinely irritated with the character at times, not in that she was written poorly, but in that I shared the protagonist’s frustrations), I found very little to dislike in this book. I wish there was more Chains, and the climax of the Past Plot didn’t hold a candle to the Main Present Plot, but Lynch’s style (carried forth by Michael Page’s delightful gift as a narrator), but all in all I’m loving it.

The final climax gave me chills, for even at the end of the 2nd book I had all but lost hope for the main characters. Now at the end of Republic Of Thieves, the characters know they’re in trouble and have gotten out of dodge, but something terrifying now stirs in their wake. There were a number of Reveals that did not fail to awe me (even a “false reveal” that turned out to be pretty funny), and I am super psyched to see how the characters get into (and hopefully out of) the next catastrophic mess that they’ll no doubt find themselves in.

4/5 stars, I recommend the Gentleman Bastards Sequence to anyone, as always, who take their fantasy seriously, because there’s an exceptional amount of polish put into this.

This post’s theme is brought to you from Assassin’s Creed II. Much of this soundtrack is pretty dang good, but it’s based in Renassance Italy, and much of Lynch’s setting bears resembling features to places such as Florence and Venice, so one might be able to see the connection.

Keep writing and reading, dear readers!

 

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A Time Travel Surprise

Never been much of a fan of time-travel themed stories. Perhaps it is a concept that is inherently paradoxical, and often in pop-fiction it serves as little more than a means of saying “What if a modern character were placed in [this time period]?” Or of course vice versa. Aside from the shear physics-defying mechanics and technology that would be involved, usually there’s a bit of accountability lost in some of these stories.

Now don’t get me wrong, few can argue the greatness of Back to the Future. And sure, there’re others that come to mind, but there’re also a few less-than-good ones that come to mind as well. As far as I’m concerned, Time Travel as a genre or theme is kind of a turn off for me.

Now, had I known this, I might not have tried a certain audiobook I picked up from the Humble Bundle some time ago known simply as Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Having finished it with a smile, I can safely say that I was pleasantly surprised by the time-travel element that sorta came out of left field for me. Now, this can be totally attested to my ignorance of Margaret Peterson Haddix – and her Missing series – but I’m not afraid to admit it.

Let’s just say this: Normally, I don’t like Time Travel (much). Normally, I don’t like Young Adult, either. But Found was both of these, and I rather enjoyed it. I wonder whether not knowing anything about the book beforehand before reading it enhanced my experience, but I know for certain that no previous knowledge might have prevented me from experiencing it at all. Let that just be a word of caution to everyone out there!

Try reading something outside of your genre, or outside of your interest-range. Or, better yet, pick up a book (or have someone pick one for you) that you know nothing about, and just give it a shot. I have heard of a ritual that people will do where they give each other book-gifts, with brown paper bag covers – so no one but the giver knows what the title, author, genre or whatever is. I guess I’d do this if I knew more people who read books, but hey, in the meantime I’ve got a pile of audiobooks from that Humble Bundle left to go.

Not to mention something that was handed to me by a stranger once, a little paperback called Random Harvest by James Hilton. Was told it was immensely popular – a New York Times bestseller –  and, looking at its Wikipedia entry, apparently it was.

70 years ago.

But anyway, as for Found, I’d recommend it for anyone into Time Travel, Young Adult Fiction, or mysteries. This is something I would, along with Redwall and The Hobbit, read to my nephew one day.

What books have you found surprising in either content or quality?

Book Review: Perfume by Patrick Suskind

This book was given to me as a gift, with the hope that in it I might discover a whiff of inspiration. Not only was I happy to find this to be true, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing and the simple joy of simply enjoying the style – to say nothing of the content. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Who this book is for: people with a dark sense of humor, fans of stories about criminals or estranged folks, anyone remotely interested in [post-Revolution] France, or anyone who thinks they’d enjoy a very different story. It’s a story about a murderer, but I wouldn’t call it a murder mystery nor a horror. There’re some (possibly) fantastical elements to it, but there’s no real indication that this is fantasy or paranormal.

This book is about the power of scent, as one might deduce from the title, and a Parisian’s struggle from birth to go through life with an inhumanly acute sense of smell – and an excellent memory and hatred of humanity to go with it. In describing the protagonist/villain Grenouille (“grr-noo-ee”) to a friend of mine, I told of how he did not grasp the concept of spoken language until later childhood. Nouns such as milk made no sense to Grenouille, for milk had a distinct odor yes, but that odor was different depending on the cow, the food eaten by the cow, or even how spoiled the milk was throughout the day if left out. How could one word mean something as complicated as milk?

Much like categorizing the book.

The author describes the world as seen by Grenouille through his nose, and it is a miserable, stinking world to be sure, populated by pitiful, stinking people. While most of the novel describes Grenouille’s life story, and those folk unfortunate enough to have anything to do with him, it is anything but slow-paced. Several times as I was reading I almost began to think “okay, hurry it up,” but the story would turn or develop in such a satisfactory way before I would ever feel such impatience.

In other words, the storytelling of Perfume is fun, the pacing was perfect for me, and the subject matter was fascinating. A refreshing, interesting bit of literature that I’ll be thinking about even as I try to get through A Storm Of Swords.

Go read it, and forever rethink how you (and your characters)  sniff the world around.