Book Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

So, in keeping with the reviewing of books way too late, I’ve decided to review pretty much every book I read for the first time. I’ve just recently finished the second novel in Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series. I’d like to start off by saying that I absolutely loved The Lies of Locke Lamora. If you haven’t read Lynch’s debut novel and are a fan of incorrigible, yet lovable, rogues, you should do yourself a favor and purchase it from your retailer of choice in your format of choice immediately. That being said, I wasn’t as in love with Red Seas Under Red Skies.

I was really excited to read it. I had heard that its setting was mostly tropical, and hailing from Florida I’m a sucker for Florida kitsch and anything quasi-tropical related. Comparing Lynch’s second novel to his first, it just felt that the setting felt somewhat lacking. Whereas Camorr felt like a living, breathing city with its own idiosyncrasies, Tal Verrar just didn’t have the same life to it. The pirate boats felt more alive in the novel than the actual cities. I believe it may be because of the limited scope of the main characters actions in the city.

The other major issue I had with was the pacing. It got off to a slow start, continued at a slow crawl. And finished in a rush in the last hundred or so pages. Part of this is due to the fact that Locke and Jean are not really putting there own plans into effect like they did in the first book, but overall they are only reacting to plots put into effect by something they did in the initial novel. I kept waiting for Locke to unveil some brilliant plan, but nothing really ever came to fruition. Even the master plan that Locke and Jean are working on at the beginning of the book doesn’t truly conclude in favor of our heroes.

I think the only reason I really enjoyed the book is the fact that Lynch has crafted such wonderful characters. Jean Tannen and Locke Lamora are a couple of the most fully realized characters that I’ve read recently. So despite the slow moving pace and the lack of agency they exhibited over all in this book, I still wanted to read on to see how it all worked out for them. I kept turning the pages hoping for that big pay-off from Locke.

The final hundred pages did hold a lot of resolution for the multiple plot threads that Lynch peppered throughout the entire novel. On top of that, there was a particularly poignant character death that caused the room I was reading in to become extra-dusty and led to a dust-related bout of lacrimation. Lynch also expertly leaves one plot line open to ensure that the reader, assuming they enjoy the two main characters, will pick up the next book Republic of Thieves.

The takeaway from this is that you should read The Lies of Locke Lamora. If you grow attached to the characters, carry on with Red Seas Under Red Skies. The characters are strong, and the ending, when it finally arrives, has some punch to it.

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