I'm well aware that many of you have been eagerly awaiting this book review. As was the case with me, I'm persuaded that most of you are curious to see if this one lives up to the expectations generated by its predecessor, The Lies of Locke Lamora. Hence, let me put your mind at ease. With Red Seas under Red Skies, Scott Lynch lives up to readers' high expectations!
And by that I mean that if you enjoyed Lynch's debut, you'll undoubtedly like this second volume in The Gentleman Bastard sequence. To me, Lynch's books are like summer blockbuster movies. They're big productions with plenty of action, all in all quite the roller-coaster ride. They'll never win an Oscar, but in terms of fun and entertainment they pack a sure KO punch! If you're looking for a grand fantasy epic, don't bother. But if another imaginative and convoluted caper is your cup of tea, then buckle up and enjoy the ride! Think of it as an original cross between Ocean's Eleven and Pirates of the Carribean.
Locke and Jean's newest set of misadventures are sure to thrill fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Having screwed up things as bad as humanly possible in Camorr, both were forced to flee and eventually settled in Tal Verrar. Interestingly enough, that's where the Sinspire, the most exclusive and notorious gambling house, can be found. Orchestrating their most perfect crime, Locke has his sight set on the Sinspire's fortune. Unfortunately, Locke's plans have a tendency to go awry, and both he and Jean somehow find themselves among pirates on the Sea of Brass. Mix the Gentlemen Bastards and piracy on the high seas, and you find yourself with a recipe for one fun-filled adventure!
As was the case with the author's debut, worldbuilding doesn't play much of a role in Red Seas under Red Skies. Even less so than in The Lies of Locke Lamora, truth be told. Although the action was more or less restricted to the city of Camorr in the first volume, Lynch created a veritable living and breathing locale as the backdrop for his story. Camorr sort of became a character in and of itself. The imagery wasn't quite the same with Tal Verrar, Port Prodigal and the other locations where the action takes place in this sequel.
The aspect which elevates this novel to another level is the characterization. Red Seas under Red Skies is a character-driven book, and Locke is once again the heart and soul of the tale (though Jean ups his game considerably in this one). The relationship between both characters is further fleshed out, making them even more endearing. Although he can craft an exciting, action-packed story, with witty dialogues throughout, I feel the characterizations remain Scott Lynch's bread and butter. He truly excels in that department. Which is why, I believe, I was a bit disappointed by the supporting cast. There are too many clichéd "tough chicks" for my taste, and what feels like an inordinate amount of female pirates (ferocious, every last one of them, of course). Somehow, that rang a little false. I'm all for strong female characters, but other than Ezri Delmastro I found the rest too clichéd in comparison.
The pace is brisk for the better part of the novel, though the rhythm becomes a bit sluggish in certain instances while the boys are at sea.
Kudos go out to Lynch for closing the show in unexpected fashion! Once more, Red Seas under Red Skies is an extremely entertaining adventure. Conventional wisdom says that the author will likely not be able to maintain this level of interest with a different caper in every volume of this seven-book cycle. And yet, conventional wisdom said that the James Bond franchise couldn't last. Still, Lynch's style ensures that this tale remains fresh in a genre that is too often known for its stagnancy. In any event, there are some hints of an overall and more ambitious story arc, so I'm curious to see what Lynch has in store for us in the forthcoming Republic of Thieves.
You can safely pre-order this one!:-) Red Seas under Red Skies may not be the best fantasy novel you'll read this year, but I doubt you'll have more fun reading anything else!
The final verdict: 8/10