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Fantasy Review: ‘The Republic of Thieves’ by Scott Lynch

Spoilers from the first two books guaranteed.  

Prologue

The young man has found a rekindled interest in the fantasy genre.  Joe Abercrombie pulled him back in with The First Law.  George RR Martin tried to break him.  Eagerly the man searches forums for something new, something great, a series to follow for years to come.  Making his choice he grabs one of the shelf, thinking “damn that is a long, awkward title.”

1

The man, slightly older, fires up his Kindle.  It is finally here!  Eagerly he starts reading, looking for answers to old questions.  Was Locke really poisoned, if so how will he pull through?  Is there any possible way Sabetha will live up to the hype?  Can Lynch’s unique writing style stay fresh, particularly the flashbacks?  Will the man be just as excited for the fourth book of the series as he was for the third?
The early going proves promising.  Quickly the man is ensnared in a flashback, complete with an early Sabetha sighting.  The author still has the touch; the flashbacks are not intrusive despite the impatience to get to the main story.  The flashbacks are a bit different this time around, no longer dealing with major time jumps.  Instead, after the prologue dealing with early life, they focus on the full complement of the Gentleman Bastards dealing with one assignment (reviving a theatre in some disrepair).  Very much focused on the relationship between Locke and Sabetha, there were plenty of shenanigans to keep readers entertained

The flashbacks may be a bit dry for some readers, despite plenty of the usually scheming large sections were still spent dealing with the workings of the theatre and the play being performed.   No doubt the play, entitled ‘Republic of Thieves,’ will be devoured by some readers looking for clues hidden within for future story lines.  Though the man isn’t one of those, he did enjoy the wit and glimpses of larger story that he saw from the imaginary work.

Interlude

Oh my god was that book awesome.  Instantly the young man grabs the sequel.  Peaking at the cover synopsis he wrinkles his brow.  A Pirate story?  How the hell is that going to work?

2

The man, finished all too soon, sits back to gather his thoughts.  A rare book that he would have been happy to have another hundred pages of.  The flashback storyline was wonderful, felt complete, and was a fun addition to the backstory.  But what of the “present day” storyline?  Was it everything the man was hoping for?  In some ways it was, though he can’t help but thinking it needed…something more in order to feel complete.

The main storyline was certainly entertaining.  Politics as spectator sport!  With Gentleman Bastards playing the game there is no way it couldn’t be fun.  But the political game perhaps is best not looked at too deeply; it wasn’t the most convincing set up.  And while a deeper look at the vote chasing Locke and Jean must go through may have led to a more bloated book, it might have been a good thing.  A lot of double crossing and fun shenanigans for sure, but not much showed how votes were turned or lost in this all important election.  For those used to getting the full details of the Bastards complicated plans handed down piece by piece it was a tad disappointing, though by no means a complete let down.  Perhaps just a case of unusually high expectations.

Learning a bit more about the bondmages is welcome as well.  Their participation in the game of politics is perhaps not something to look at too closely, but in most other ways they were fleshed out strong.  Why they serve for money, why they don’t run everything with their magics; perhaps not all is explained but details are becoming clearer.  It all makes the land Locke lives in a bit more alive; not a place one would want to live in but enthralling to read about.

Interlude


The dinner was good and the evening enjoyable.  The man’s little boy is tired, thus the bedtime rituals begin.  Teeth are brushed, jammies put on, and hugs are given.  One for Mom, one for Dad, and one for the visiting Aunt; the man’s younger sister.  Little boy in bed the Aunt realizes she has a long drive ahead and starts to say goodnight.  Can she look through the man’s library and borrow a few?  What would he recommend?  Sounds interesting, I’ll try it.  Damn is that a long, awkward title.

3

The man’s thoughts turn to Sabetha.  Rarely is there such build up for the unknown, such an important character in the protagonists life yet not seen for two full books.  It was asking for a letdown, there was no way she could live up to the hype and expectations readers were building.

But she did.

She matched Locke hit for hit, mental blow by mental blow, scheme for scheme.  She knew when he was going left, knew that he knew that she knew, and caught him the act of faking right and going left anyway.  It is perfectly clear why Locke has pined for this woman for five years, their battles of schemes and wits rarely tip to far in one or the others favor, and Sabetha seems to be the only one who gets the better of Locke time and again.

As a competitor Sabetha was everything hoped for.  As the love of Locke’s life, maybe a little less.  She is hard to pin down.  One true love, foretold by destiny?  Lynch plays with the trope a bit, specifically showing Sabetha’s reluctance to let it decide for her.  Almost opposite of a pixie dream girl, she isn’t there to give Locke everything he wants, but often will give him just what he needs.  It is easy to foresee a portion of the fandom turning on her; calls of whiney and bitch will be common for her sometimes treatment of Locke.  Admittedly at times her extreme mood changes into anger seemed directed at the wrong source.  But be clear, it is just one more way she is the perfect counterpart to Locke, no stranger to sudden mood shifts, brooding, and anger himself.

Yes, Sabetha will be a nice addition to future books, as long as the formulaic nature of their interactions is changed up a bit next time around.  Locke already had a perfect friend in Jean, now he has a perfect foil in Sabetha.  She was fun, witty, and razor sharp.

4

Fans of Lynch shouldn’t be disappointed.  Closer in style to Lies of Locke Lamora than its sequel, the book moved at the same brisk speed, wove the story between two timelines beautifully, and provided plenty of excitement.  Ending on less of a cliff hanger was a plus, though of course there are plenty of open questions to provide fodder for the rest of the series.  The flashbacks are interesting, and provide a chance to bring back old friends to the story.  The main storyline was fun and exciting, though a bit shallower.  Sabetha was worth the wait and Locke and Jean are still an awesome pair. 

4 stars.  Some areas may not pass the logic test, but it is too entertaining to rate lower and was well worth the wait.

Epilog

“Ya, hello.”
“Hey Sis, what you doing? Nothing, just driving home”
“Oh, you finished it?  What did you think?”
“What the hell do you mean you didn’t like it?  It’s one of my favorites!”

Review copy acquired from NetGalley.

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