The Republic of Thieves, Book 3 In the "Gentlemen Bastard" Series
I wanted another fantasty series to read whilst I wait God knows how long for GRRM's next installment. I first picked up 'The Lies of Locke Lamora' because GRRM basically said it was decent on the cover of it. It sounded fairly decent as well, steampunky world, pseudo-Venician, gang of thieves doing big operations. Here are my thoughts, and it's relatively spoiler-free.
I've read the first three books here. At the time of writing, that's:
1. The Lies of Locke Lamora
2. Red Seas Under Red Skies
3. The Republic of Thieves
4. The Thorn of Emberlain (still got until September 2018 to get it).
Apparently, there's going to be seven of the 'Bastards'. Lynch, I don't think that's wise. Look at GRRM, trying to do seven as well... Whatever happened to good old trilogies? Haven't so many publishers forced authors of trilogies to try this seven installment thing before and it's gone horrible? Look at Herbert's Dune. Read the first three of them and then stop, they say. Surely you'd find it a bit stale, a bit of a chore churning out seven novels based on the same world - and same story? They do, as well. I'd love to just call GRRM a lazy fella, kicking back and enjoying his HBO money and not caring about his book series anymore. Fact of the matter is, he's having to write for TV, write other side projects, write fake history books for Westeros. No one cares about any side project you have.
Maybe this series is feeling the same exhaustion, and only on book three of seven.
Either way, the first book was fantastic, and the best so far. It was fun. The writing itself was professional, and drew the world of Camorr into what the fancy covers of the novels depicted, a grandiose Renaissance Italian state, perhaps Austrian, with old smokey coffee houses and alchemical huts of mystery, packed into a bustling city the scale of London. Ther was the poverty of the thieves, the punishments for those caught, even the religion the best thieves would have. The world building wasn't on the scale of some authors. You wouldn't consult the map, it was there powerful enough to aid the setting and plot of the story. It was fairly straight forward. At the end, it all went tits up.
This is where the second books comes in, a sort of escape book - out on the open sea. A lot of folk give the second a bit of stick, but I really enjoyed it, and kept those pages turning. Again, it went tits up at the end, with the third begging to be read so you'd know the fate of the characters you'd become to attached to.
The third: started off well, had that suspense and page-turning goodness I liked, but then fizzled out as soon as the problem that occured in the second had been solved. Lynch has been banging on about this bloody "Sabetha" character since the first book. You see, we have Locke, the main bloke, Jean (which I've tried pronouncing as if he were French, and just gave up on), the twins Callo and Galdo, and Bug. Now, apart from Locke and Jean, you only really get more of Callo and Galdo via flashbacks. Whilst this series is written from the perspective of just Locke (occassionally a little bit of Jean), Lynch utilises the present story, and one that's set in the past to create back story. Usually, these are when Locke was a child, growing up under his thief master Chains, and most of the time they've always been welcome additions. In this third book, "The Republic of Thieves" is actually a play that these lot are performing in the story from the past.
We'd had snippets of this bloody Sabetha since book one, some long lost love interest of Locke's. Now the thing is, the present storyline actually involved her, and the storyline in set in the past, around this play, involved her more than we'd ever had before. Both stories kept disappointing with every interaction Locke had with this character. It just wasn't believable, it was repetitive. This whole Sabetha character we'd been teased about for so long turns out to be a one dimensional bore. An annoyance. Every time you get a bit closer to a tad more characterisation you'd then be brought back to the other timeline story. Then you'd get into that story a bit, then dragged back. Overall, still very well written, but not an interesting storyline to be found in either.
Each book has a certain sort of theme. The first was a big heist job, amongst dodgy gangsters. The second was nautical, on the sea, a sort of escape. This third was politics (and the past timeline story set during a performance of a play).
The 'present' timeline story basically put Locke, Jean and Sabetha together. Go out there, cheat and swindle and do your mischief and get an election sorted for your employer. Didn't really work. No anticipation, no risk of being caught, no excitment. Some of the mischief they all got up to was fairly "oh, that's interesting" but you'd gladly put the book down without much care as to what's on the next few pages. You were just a spectator watching some of the characters you'd grew to love from their previous works hang around and not really do much.
I was glad to finish the book in all honesty. We've had thief, con-man, pirate, political. What's next in the fourth installment, The Thorn of Emberlain? Soldiering and war. Definitely sounds more exciting. The thing is, in this third installment... nothing went "tits up" at the end. It was a mild ending for a mild book. A very long, slow, drawn out process. This was Lynch drawing the poison from a wound. He's got great writing talent, and so I'm going to stick by him and I will continue with the series.
With the delays between the books, I know Lynch has struggled with depression, but I'm hoping that this fourth book can rekindle some of that fire the first two books had.