Finally, I read and finished one of my most anticipated books of the year – Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book of seven in the Gentleman Bastards sequence by Scott Lynch. Although it was enjoyable and certainly well-worth reading, I didn’t think it quite lived up to The Lies of Locke Lamora.
Red Seas Under Red Skies takes place approximately two years after the end of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Locke and Jean are now in Tal Verrar, attempting to scheme the owner of a successful gambling house out of his money. Soon the two Gentleman Bastards are caught up between balances of power and trying to stay afloat in their web of convoluted half-truths. I’ll let you read the rest for yourself since this is definitely one of those books that is very plot-oriented and more fun to read if you don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.
Technically, Red Seas Under Red Skies is an improvement over The Lies of Locke Lamora. It is better written, for the most part – I did think the prologue in Lies was better done. The writing is much smoother, though, and there are fewer flashbacks, although there are some interludes in the beginning that cover some of the gaps in the two years between the first book and this one.
The dialogue is still clever and witty and not quite as overdone as it was at times in Lies, so this is also an improvement. Some of the lines definitely made me laugh out loud.
The characters still have roguish tendencies, but also possess a loyalty to each other that can be quite touching. There is not deep characterization in these books, but I have to say, Locke is probably my favorite character I’ve read about who is not a fully fleshed out character with a lot of depth. I’m a sucker for clever, roguish characters with a bit of a soft side. Plus these characters are portrayed as being highly clever, yet they do not always come out on top, which gives this series a bit more of a realistic feel than a lot of books that try to do the same type of thing.
The story was still interesting and fun, although sometimes it seemed a little bit like Lynch was using some of the same techniques as the first book. This did not happen enough to bother me that much, but I found this book a bit more predictable than the first in some ways, although there was a twist at the end that I rather enjoyed. The ending was very rushed, which may be in part because Lynch had to cut out some parts of the book and try to keep it to close to the same length as the first, according to an interview with the author on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.
One of the strengths in the first book, in addition to the characters, witty dialogue, and purely entertaining story, was some scenes that portrayed very emotional, heart-wrenching moments. There were some scenes in this book I felt were supposed to have the same impact, yet somehow they didn’t. It lacked some of the little everyday human touches that were in the first book, such as all the Gentleman Bastards sitting down to dinner together and bantering with each other.
This doesn’t influence my opinion of the book in any way, but for once, the American version of the cover is far superior to the UK cover. It is actually absolutely gorgeous and would win my favorite cover art of the year award, if I had one.
Although it didn’t quite live up to the standards set by the first book in the series, I found Red Seas Under Red Skies to be a very entertaining book, and I wish the next book, Republic of Thieves, was out already.