The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch

Gentlemen Bastard

Normally I would make three posts for these three books, but I crash read them so I didn’t want to separate them as my reading experience was as if they were one book. It all started when one of my very good friends, Ally, gave me Red Seas Under Red Skies as a Christmas present. I started reading it on the plane to Hawaii in February and was extremely confused. It seemed to presume a lot of knowledge about past events, and I got really frustrated. So I put the book down and started rifling through it, and eventually found the author information at the back. Turns out it was the second in the Gentleman Bastard series, so I put it down and didn’t go back to the series until this summer. Then I found The Lies of Locke Lamora in my local Chapters, read it, loved it, and needed to read more. So read I did. And boy was I happy that I did.

It all starts with The Lies of Locke Lamora, a swashbuckling tale of a brotherhood of Robinhood like thieves who steal from the rich and keep it all for themselves. I say swashbuckling, but this isn’t a pirate story. It just has a very swashbuckling vibe. Also I like the way swashbuckling sounds. Seriously, say it five times. You don’t even have to do it fast. Let it roll over your tongue. Swashbuckling…

If my sister were here reading this she’d say “Focus, Lindsey” and “I’d say go away you’re distracting me” to which she’d retort “you’re distracting yourself” and I’d have to admit she was right.

Anyway, I was sucked right in to The Lies of Locke Lamora. It is a fantasy book, which didn’t seem obvious when I read it. The description of the setting reminded me of Venice or another Italian city with canals, but it is held in a city called Camorr, in a world that was once occupied by a people called the Eldrens, who left behind indestructible Elderglass buildings, bridges, and other structures. There are other cities/nations/city-states on this fantasy world, including Emberlain, Tal Verrar, and others. The fact that it was on a planet that seemed to be other than Earth didn’t really play a big part of the story, other than to alter the image of the setting and allowing Lynch to invent new building materials. It really does make an interesting image though, I can only imagine how beautiful Elderglass towers would be. I’d love to see a movie series about these books, if only to see what they do with the setting.

Locke himself is an arrogant, clever, ingenious bastard with seemingly no morals or principles. We soon learn though that he is loyal to a fault, he is reckless but cautious, he is kind but malicious, he is the definition of contradiction. What we know for certain is that he loves his friends, he is incredibly creative, and he is willing to defend those he perceives as weak or powerless.

Locke and his fellow Gentleman Bastards were taken in as orphaned children by a priest of the widely unknown thirteenth god in a deity system of twelve gods. The thirteenth god is the god of thieves, who watches over those thieves with intelligence and integrity, not just common criminals. Father Chains, as he was known, was a criminal mastermind who raised the Gentleman Bastards as a new kind of criminal. Locke, Jean, twins Calo and Galo, and Sabetha (the only girl) were taught languages, arithmetic, the art of disguise, and strategy. Locke and Sabetha grew up competing as the leaders of the group, the criminal masterminds. Calo and Galo were everymen, trained to be capable at everything and in every situation. And giant Jean was raised to be the protector, enforcer, and general muscle. Father Chains often sent the kids away on apprenticeships of sorts in order to learn new skills and how to live the life of people of assorted classes and occupations in order to be able to blend in all situations. His philosophy was the better his prodigies could accurately act in situations, the better they could pull of schemes without raising suspicions. He raises them as a family, teaching them not only thieving related skills but also household skills like how to cook, clean, and take care of clothes.

When Chains dies, the Gentleman Bastards take in an apprentice, a young boy named Bug. Bug is raised by the GBs in a similar way that the GBs were raised by Father Chains. Bug is eager to learn and does his best to contribute to the schemes.

The Lies of Locke Lamora gives us the story of Locke’s childhood as well as the present day situation. Locke and the boys (Sabetha is away, we learn that a relationship between her and Locke didn’t end well and she took an extended vacation from the GBs) are planning a heist, pretending to be businessmen from another city/nation/city-state thing looking to make a deal with a Camorri aristocratic couple. They agree to the deal with Locke in disguise and the game is on. The imagination required to come up with the intricate schemes Locke and his fellow Bastards pull is really remarkable. Lynch must have had a lot of fun putting together the story line. I wanted more and more, I loved seeing how seemingly random plans came together.

Soon enough though, things start to go wrong for the GBs. The underworld they belong to is falling apart, the Capa (the leader of the criminal underworld of Camorr) is being threatened by a rival, but no one knows who the rival capa, known as the Gray King, is. It ends up being Locke and the GBs that are relied on to save their world, but at what cost? I’m not going to tell you! You’ll just have to read it.

Now, I won’t be able to give you a run down because it will give away way too much of the plot. But I can tell you that it only gets better from the first book. The first was my favourite of the three simply because of the relationship between the GBs, but The Republic of Thieves gives you a lot of the relationship stuff as well. Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves build on the foundations laid in The Lies of Locke Lamora, and I can’t wait for the fourth book to come out hopefully this fall.

One of my favourite things about this series is the humour in the dialogue between the characters, especially the GBs. Some of my favourite quips are going to be listed below this paragraph. I’ll do my best that are funny even out of context, but having read the books I obviously know the context and find it all funny.

““… It’s perfect! Locke would appreciate it.”
“Bug,” Calo said, “Locke is our brother and our love for him knows no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are ‘Locke would appreciate it.'”
“Rivalled only by ‘Locke taught me a new trick,'” added Galo.
“The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games …”
“… is Locke …”
“… because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons …”
“… and fifty thousand cheering spectators.””

“There are only three people in life you can never fool–pawnbrokers, whores, and your mother. Since your mother’s dead, I’ve taken her place. Hence, I’m bullshit-proof.”

“Throwing blondes at Locke Lamora was not unlike throwing lettuce at sharks.” (He prefers redheads, by the way. This becomes significant later.)

“Some day, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee.”

“Know something? I’d lay even odds that between the people following us and the people hunting us, we’ve become this city’s principle means of employment. Tal Verrar’s entire economy is now based on fucking with us.”

“ I want to hug you. And I want to tear your gods-damned head off. Both at once.”
“Ah,” said Locke. “Near as I can tell, that’s the definition of ‘family’ right there.”

“You’re ten pints of crazy in a one-pint glass.”

“We may need to ready ourselves to repel boarders.” “With what? One stiletto and hurtful insinuations about their mothers?”

“Stand aside, and try not to catch fire if I shed sparks of genius.”

Even out of context some of these are pretty giggle inducing.

One of the most interesting things I noticed in the GB series was the gender equality. Now, I’m absolutely positive there are people out there who will read these books and come to a completely different conclusion, and denounce me for seeing gender equality in what they see as a misogynistic society or whatever else they may come up with. But I was really impressed. Even when women were being objectified for their looks, men were equally objectified. And in a society where men can do anything they want, so can women. In the first book, one of the most important members of society is a woman. In the second, some of the most powerful characters are women. And in the third, we are really introduced to Sabetha for the first time, and if anyone is a bad ass, it’s her. She is just a big a liar, schemer, and cheat as Locke is, sometimes even more so. But she also shares many of his qualities such as love for her friends, extreme intelligence, creativity, and respect for those who earn her respect. When I dug a little deeper into the gender equality in this series, I found a great quote from Scott Lynch about feminism. It has a lot of swears and it’s a little rough around the edges, so if you’re not okay with that, don’t read it. Actually all of the books have a lot of swears and other vulgarity, so if you’re really against that then these books are not for you.

Here’s the quote: “The word feminist is stigmatized by people who are the forces of fucking darkness. They stigmatized this word because they are the forces of fucking darkness. You can call yourself whatever you want: “I’m an equalitarian. I’m a humanitarian.” Bullshit. You’re a feminist. Words like equalitarian or humanitarian imply that there’s some sort of existing balance that needs to be preserved. Whereas what you’re looking at, is essentially one half of the human race is already in the negative and needs to be brought to that state of equality. So if you are FOR equality you’re a fucking feminist. Whether you know it or not.”

I love it.

One last reason for me to love love love these books is that The Republic of Thieves introduced me to one of my new favourite poems. Each chapter has a quote on the title page, and one of the chapters in the third book started with a quote from The Great Hunt by Carl Sandburg.

“I have never knew any more beautiful than you: I have hunted you under my thoughts, I have broken down under the wind And into the roses looking for you, I shall never find any greater than you.”

Something about it just spoke to me, I think it’s just beautiful. And it is with that stunningly intelligent analysis of the last few stanzas of a poem completely unrelated to the books that I shall leave you for now. TTFN!

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