Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentlemen Bastards #2) by Scott Lynch

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*This post contains SPOILERS for The Lies of Locke Lamora. For a full review of the first book in the Gentlemen Bastards series, go here.*

Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentlemen Bastards #2)
Author: Scott Lynch
Publication Date: 2007 (MMP available in 2008)
Genre: Fantasy

For Fans Of: Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson

I have to say, the second book in the Gentlemen Bastards series is an improvement on the first. Though I thought The Lies of Locke Lamora was a fun, fast-paced book, it also had quite a few flaws. The sequel has more distinctive voices, a more nuanced and well put together plot, and far more emotional connections for its characters.

The first book leaves off with Locke and Jean on the run from Camorr, their friends all killed at the hands of the Bondsmagi of Karthain. The story picks up in the midst of yet another heist. Living in Tal Verrar and posing as gambling merchant speculators, the Bastards have set their sights on the Sinspire, the infamous gambling house that has largely ruled alongside Tal Verrar’s government.

The Bondsmagi of Kartain are still on their tail and, unbeknownst to Jean and Locke, have set a tangled web for the Bastards to be caught in. They’ve sicced upon the duo Tal Verrar’s archon, the military head and dictator.

The plot does double up on some old plot points, in particular coercion via poison. Though this did make me sigh and shake my head when it was introduced, it was handled fairly well. I understood the need to use a plot device that made it necessary for Locke and Jean to heel to the Archon. I wish that Lynch had chosen a different way to do this, but it was a bit of an Occam’s Razor decision.

The other disappointing thing with this installation was the dormant Bondsmagi plotline. Though they are coming after Locke and Jean, it’s largely unseen and very much unreciprocated. Locke and Jean are flying under the radar for the better part of two years. I was surprised with this decision. It seems more likely to me that with their temperments and personalities, they would seek out a way to get at the Karthani who had killed their friends. I expect that Lynch will take us there in the next book, but I found it largely untrue to whom he had built the characters to be.

However, I loved the members of the Poison Orchid. It was a fun decision to have Jean and Locke have to join up with a pirate crew. A crew led by women was even more fun. It also let us see both men in different lights and to see how they build relationships. It was good to see more of Jean and his thoughts and emotions. Granted, I felt horrible for him by the end, but that was the point.

Not to mention that it was a relief to finally see a major character with a uterus.

The ending was dynamic. I really enjoyed the ways that Lynch tied up the men’s experiences on the crew and, though I didn’t much care about the Archon ending either way, it was nice to see them leave the story vexed and outwitted. Especially since Lynch is always adamant about telling us (not necessarily showing us) how clever Lamora is.

Rating: 3.5/4

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