Yesterday I finished reading The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads…
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch’s third (and long-awaited) book in his Gentleman Bastard series, is a more than worthwhile read for anyone who enjoyed the first two books. Locke and Jean are back, fresh on the heels of the terminal situation Locke found himself staring into at the close of Red Seas Under Red Skies. More compelling is the promise of finally meeting the oft-mentioned but always previously absent female member of the Gentleman Bastards, Sabetha.
Yeah, minor spoilers, but she’s mentioned right in the book description, so I’m not sweating it.
Normally I hate ranking things in any sort of ordered list, but in this case it’s easy for me to rate this book as the one in the series I enjoyed the least. Note that I still enjoyed it—Lynch writes great characters, and it was great to see everyone plying their con skills in the arena of a political contest rather than a heist.
But that’s a double-edged sword. The Republic of Thieves‘ primary flaw is that the stakes don’t really rise much as the book progresses. Previous books knew just how to ratchet up the tension. Schemes would meet with counter-schemes, plans would fall apart and hopes dashed only to twist around again to rebound in some new form like a contest of battling acrobats. Yet with The Republic of Thieves, the tension plateaus for much of the second half of the book.
As with Lynch’s other books, the story dances in time between the present and the past, forming two complementary storylines. The one in the past is the more dangerous of the two. It truly does raise the stakes as it progresses, but the effect is undercut by the knowledge that everyone makes it out okay by sheer virtue of knowing that the characters obviously have a future. As for the political contest in the present, we’re never really given much to latch onto. If you’ll pardon the analogy, we’re shown little skirmishes without being given a sense of how they fit into the war, and as we’re told that there’s really nothing riding on the outcome, we really don’t have a reason to care. (It’s a bit like the green/purple Drazi thing from Babylon 5—Deep Roots and Black Iris are two indistinguishable parties.)
This is not to say that other things aren’t going on. The story does take place in Karthain, home of the Bondsmagi, the setting’s one and only collection of mages, of whom Locke and Jean have already made deadly enemies. Something is happening between the mages, but it’s primarily treated as a peripheral thing.
Sabetha is another element, and one I really enjoyed. After everyone mentioning her in absentia for so long, it’s great to finally see her—and we do see a lot of her, in both the past and the present. In some ways, The Republic of Thieves is a romance between Locke and Sabetha, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory fashion. The interplay between the two characters is always interesting, if occasionally maddening, as is Sabetha’s interaction with the other Gentleman Bastards (Jean in the present, and the twins and Chains in flashback. It was good to see them again, too—I missed those guys. I only wish Bug were included. Poor Bug.)
I feel I’ve been speaking more of the book’s negatives than positives, which isn’t fair. Please do note the four-star rating up there. I’ll still be picking up book 4 as soon as it’s out. This book hints of larger things on the horizon, lurking.
I want to know what’s up with those Eldren…