The Gentlemen Bastards (what’s left of them) are back in Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second installment of Scott Lynch‘s fantasy/sci-fi series. Red Seas Under Red Skies finds Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen in the island-city of Tal Verrar 2 years after the events of the first book, with their biggest scheme yet.
Their experiences at the hands of the Grey King and the Bondsmagi were enough to test their characters and friendship, and after the tragic events of the first book that almost cost them their lives, Locke and Jean leave Camorr to lick their wounds and try to make a new life for themselves. After salvaging what was left of their group, and their pride, they set their eyes on Tal Verrar, specifically, the Sinspire, an entertainment tower which houses the strange vices and pleasures of the wealthy members of the city. Not just a gambling mecha for the wealthiest people in Tal Verrar, the Sinspire also acts as one big vault full of unimaginable amounts of gold for its owner, Requin, and with a grand scheme two years in the making, Locke and Jean set out to relieve Requin of his overabundance of wealth.
Hiding out in a city thousands of miles from Camorr where Locke and Jean wouldn’t be in danger of being recognized seemed like a good idea at the time, that is until their past, in the form of less than happy bondsmagi seeking revenge for one of their own, catches up with them and vow to make their lives just a little bit more complicated. Thanks to the bondsmagi, Locke and Jean attract the attention of the city’s Archon, Maxilan Stragos, a cunning, ruthless man who manipulates the two Gentlemen Bastards into working for him and carrying out a plan which was short of suicide for the both of them. The Archon’s plan has Locke and Jean sailing the high seas, foiling whatever plans they had of stealing from Requin by plundering the Sinspire.
In Red Seas Under Red Skies, Locke and Jean find their hands full trying to outsmart, con, and survive not one, but three (possibly four or five) groups of people whose main objectives are to get rid of them. Locke and Jean must survive the high seas in the company of pirates in order to do the Archon’s bidding to be able to return to Tal Verrar to steal from Requin…all that, plus dodging random assassins attacking them at every turn.
There are a lot of things going on in Red Seas Under Red Skies. There’s the main scheme, which is stealing from Requin by gambling and setting up elaborate cons to cheat their way up the Sinspire, then there is the problem of the Archon with his near impossible task, which seemed like a minor side story in the beginning but turned out to be the main story of the novel. The plot quickly changes from Casino/Oceans 13 to Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with peg-legged, foul-mouthed pirates. Oh, and there is also an abundance of emotional conflict between Locke and Jean, sometimes dangerously bordering on bromance.
Though not as good as the first book, and though I was a bit surprised that it evolved into a pirate-themed novel (even though the novel’s cover is of a burning ship….) Red Seas Under Red Skies does not lack for action, adventure, Locke’s usual cheeky wit and amusing banter, and even romance (the boy-girl kind), and fans of the series will surely gobble it up. Though I skipped a lot of parts – mostly descriptions of landscapes, cities, settings, etc. and sailing/pirate jargon, to get to the good stuff, one good thing I can say about this book is, it’s got me looking forward to the third installment of the series, The Republic of Thieves.
Red Seas Under Red Skies (2007) – Scott Lynch
Bantam Spectra / 760 pages (paperback)
Personal rating: 2.5/5