Having recently finished all the published books in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, I felt that I had to write something to summarize the 3 books, as well as to give my general opinion of the series.
Before deciding to take up this series sometime last month, I had never heard of Scott Lynch or anything about the Gentlemen Bastards. It’s probably not as huge or popular as George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and though not as complex or compelling as A Game of Thrones, the books in the Gentlemen Bastard series are interesting and highly entertaining.
A large part of the series’ entertainment factor is due to its main characters, namely Locke Lamora. Locke Lamora is introduced in the first book as a 5-year-old boy who steals too much. A survivor of plague outbreak that killed his parents and majority of the city district’s population, Locke Lamora survives by stealing on the streets of Camorr, and later joins a group of orphans destined for Shades Hill, underground catacombs home to a group of young thieves mentored and ruled over by the Thiefmaker. Very small for his age, Locke Lamora barely registers on the Thiefmaker’s radar, that is until he starts making a name for himself as an enthusiast in trickery, disguises, and all things thievery.
After a series of dangerous incidents, the Thiefmaker decides to get rid of Locke Lamora by selling him to Father Chains, a priest of one of the gods of Camorr, the Nameless Thirteenth. In joining Father Chains group, Locke is surprised to find that though he is still essentially a thief, Father Chains has a whole different approach when it comes to relieving the well-to-do of their excess riches.
Father Chains hopes to train his young group of Gentlemen Bastards, Locke Lamora, Calo and Galdo Sanza, Sabetha Belacoros, and later, Jean Tannen, in all the skills they will need to blend in to, infiltrate, and con any group in society. The Gentlemen Bastards are schooled in literature, history, mathematics, not to mention languages, religion, arts, music, and culture. They are also skilled in the culinary arts, and serving, cleaning, farming and winery. Being first and foremost, thieves, they are also trained fighters in different techniques and with different weapons. All are eventually sent out to receive training with different groups, and each have their own special talents and strengths; Jean Tannen, a huge but quiet and sensitive boy who loves reading, is groomed to be a fighter; Calo and Galdo are naturals at following orders and carrying out planned schemes, Sabetha, the only girl in the group is intelligent, highly ambitious, and a master at stealth, and Locke Lamora a small boy who grew up to be a medium-sized man, though not much of a fighter, is a natural born leader, with a penchant for disguises and a genius at cooking up plans and schemes. Together they form a unique group whose main objective is to steal from the wealthy members of society despite the secret peace agreement between the thieves and nobles of Camorr.
Though a fantasy / somewhat sci-fi, The Gentleman Bastard series dispenses with fancy and complicated languages and settings, favoring common English (with all its vulgarities and curses) and cities which, though obviously not on Earth, are very familiar-sounding/looking.
The first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, introduces Locke Lamora, Father Chains, and all the members of the Gentlemen Bastards, except Sabetha, who is only mentioned in passing. The first novel also gives the background of all the main characters, including the objectives of the Gentlemen Bastards. It introduces readers to Camorr and the other cities making up the Therin World. The Lies of Locke Lamora is told in the present, as well as from the past. The plot in the present has the Gentlemen Bastards carrying out a scheme to steal from a minor noble of Camorr. However, their schemes are foiled by the appearance of a man who styles himself as The Gray King, who kills the garristas or leaders of the different gangs, hoping to ultimately unseat the leader of all the gangs of theives of Camorr, Capa Barsavi. The Gray King and his hired bondsmage, a magician/wizard, manipulate Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards to carry out a seemingly harmless plan on their behalf, only to betray them, ultimately incurring the wrath of Locke Lamora.
The second novel, Red Seas Under Red Skies takes place 2 years after the events of the first book, in Tal Verrar, a city-state in the westernmost part of the Therin world. The second novel has Locke and Jean planning to rob the Sinspire, a tower of gambling and vices frequented by the elite members of Tal Verrar and neighboring cities. Unfortunately, thanks to the vengeful bondsmage, who alerted the city’s Archon, Maxilan Stragos to their existence, Locke and Jean find themselves being manipulated and forced to do the Archon’s bidding. To win back the favor of the city’s council, Stragos orders Jean and Locke to take to the high seas in search of pirates. Friendships and characters are tested again and again in Red Seas Under Red Skies as Locke and Jean barely survive different misfortunes. Despite the many setbacks and misadventures in Tal Verrar, Jean Tannen find an unlikely love interest in the form of a spirited pirate.
The Repulic of Thieves, the third and latest available installation of the series, has Jean and Locke recovering from their Tal Verrar mishaps in Lashain. With Locke on the verge of death caused by the poison forced on them by Maxilan Stragos, Jean seeks the help of everyone in the city to provide an antidote to save his life. Desperate and without hope, Jean and Locke agree to the terms of a mysterious bondsmage who seek them out asking for their assistance in rigging an upcoming election in Karthian. Unbeknownst to them at the time, their opponent in the elections game was none other than their fellow Bastard and Locke’s love, Sabetha Belacoros. More of a romance than anything, The Republic of Thieves moves back and forth between the present plot and flashbacks of the young Gentlement Bastards (including Calo and Galdo), and the start of Locke and Sabetha’s rocky courtship. The Republic of Thieves reveal more information about the lives of the young Gentlemen Bastards, as well as the true origins of Locke Lamora. The sudden appearance a most dangerous foe at the end of the novel promises more intriguing and bloodier plots for the future books in the series.
Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it great, I did enjoy the fast-paced, action-packed, funny, and sometimes romantic stories the series has to offer. I think one of the things I really like about it is though the characters are adept at stealing, disguises, and fighting, they are far from invincible. Despite their immense skills and genius at their trade, they are vulnerable, and oftentimes, their schemes deemed infallible are greatly flawed.
It’s only been a few days since I finished The Republic of Thieves, but already I’m sort of missing Locke and Jean and reading about their next big though probably disastrous adventures. I’ve heard positive rumors about the release date of the next book, The Thorn of Emberlain, being early 2015, and another rumor about the adaptation of The Lies of Locke Lamora for tv and even the big screen (Milo Ventimiglia or David Guintoli from Grimm come to mind when I imagine a tv version of Locke Lamora).
All things considered, I recommend this series for anyone looking for a fun, fast-paced adventure with interesting characters that one can easily relate to, to read while on vacation, in transit, or just to pass the time, regardless of whether or not they are fans of the fantasy genre.
The Gentleman Bastard Series (2006) – Scott Lynch
#1 – The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)
#2 – Red Seas Under Red Skies (2007)
#3 – The Republic of Thieves (2013)
#4 – The Thorn of Emberlain
#5 – The Ministry of Necessity
#6 – The Mage and the Master
#7 – Inherit the Night
Personal rating – 3/5