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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch I read the blockbusting [b: The Lies of Locke Lamora|127455|The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1)|Scott Lynch|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924569s/127455.jpg|2116675] in July 2014 and I just read this second volume of the Gentleman Bastard series today May 9, 2015, almost a year apart. I tend to do that with second volumes in most series I read for some reason. (I am only sharing this mind numbingly uninteresting fact with you because I have no idea what to write for the opening paragraph of this review!)

Red Seas Under Red Skies is a worthy follow up to [b: The Lies of Locke Lamora|127455|The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1)|Scott Lynch|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924569s/127455.jpg|2116675] which made Scott Lynch one of the elite fantasy authors working today. The story feels more like a “further adventure of Locke and Jean” than a direct continuation, making each of these two books almost standalones though I do not recommend reading them out of order, and there really is no need to as the first book is a great read.

As with the previous book Lynch likes to use the literary device of scrambling the timeline with flashbacks and flashforwards, probably to create tension or anticipation and – of course – to tease. I personally prefer a straight timeline but novels are works of art and authors generally know best how they should be presented. In any case Lynch is too skillful to make a mess of the narrative, there is never any confusion in reading the book.

I think the main appeal of Lynch’s writing is the vivid and lively characters he is able to create, be they heroes or villains. With Red Seas Under Red Skies he has outdone his accomplishment in the previous book. Locke Lamora is still the same lovable rogue we are already familiar with but his partner/BFF Jean Tannen is very well fleshed out in this book in spite of not having the story told from his point of view, we only see him through Locke’s eyes in this book. I tend to find that the secondary character in fantasy novels are more interesting and likeable than the protagonist, in the way that Ron Weasley is more interesting than Harry Potter or Samwise Gamgee is much more likeable and capable than Frodo. The same applies for this Gentleman Bastard series (so far) but the dynamic between Locke and Jean works very well where Locke is the brains of the operation and Jean is usually the brawn, not that Jean is unintelligent or even uneducated, he is just more honest and less devious. While I enjoyed the witty repartees of [b: The Lies of Locke Lamora|127455|The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1)|Scott Lynch|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924569s/127455.jpg|2116675] I did find it a little overdone in that every single character major and minor seem to always be ready with the quips, even incidental characters who only appear in the book for a few paragraphs. The dialog of Red Seas Under Red Skies is better, more balanced and more believable. Characters seem to have more distinctive voices this time around.

As the title suggests Red Seas Under Red Skies is mostly a nautical adventure as complicated circumstances lead our heroes find themselves joining a pirate ship. In this book we meet wonderful lady pirate captain Zamira Drakasha* and her equally badass Lieutenant Ezri Delmastro. Tough, fighting women in fiction seem to be based on Ellen Ripley (from Alien) most of the time but these two ladies show more feminine and even maternal sides in certain situations making them more believable and likeable.

The pacing of the book is a little slow to begin with while Lynch is setting up his pieces through pages of dialogues. Once we get to the high seas adventure part the narrative shifts to higher gear and become something of a romp. The book is densely plotted and our heroes and their allies seldom have a moment to unwind as the odds are stacked against them. The language is deliberately flowery at times as it is Locke’s stock in trade as a con artist. There is even a little romance and some lump-in-the-throat poignant moments. Magic is not much in evidence in this book and weird monstrosities are only glimpsed from time to time, though there is quite a lot of alchemy and numerous steampunk-ish clockwork devices. I much prefer this kind of “low fantasy” to the traditional ones with wizards conjuring entire houses or turning people into newts, my suspension of disbelief can only stretch so far.

If you like [b: The Lies of Locke Lamora|127455|The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1)|Scott Lynch|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924569s/127455.jpg|2116675] as most people seem to do you probably don’t need me to recommend this book to you. I already have the next volume [b: The Republic of Thieves|2890090|The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard, #3)|Scott Lynch|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1406961069s/2890090.jpg|2916344] so I doubt I will wait almost a year before getting to it.
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* A reader has foolishly taken Scott Lynch to task about this female pirate character, his reply is epic!