4 out of 5 stars
My faith in literature is restored.
This is the second in a series of novels that I have publicly declared my adoration for to the point where it might be bordering on obsessive. The first, the Lies of Locke Lamora, I have waxed poetics about to anyone who would listen. The characters are beautifully done and, lets face it, any story where you give me thieves or pirates, I'm pretty much going to squee like the little fangril that I am. These novels fit under the criteria I have for fantastic books by causing that horrible moment of not enjoying any novel read directly after finishing these ones, because nothing else compares.
In Scott Lynch's sequel, Red Sea's Under Red Skies, we pick up where we left off in the last book. Now, I won't give anything away in case you've had the misfortune of not picking this series up yet, but lets just say, that when we last saw our antihero's, they were pretty much up the creek, without a paddle, while trying to heal gaping wounds and knowing that the gods and anything else remotely powerful, had a price on their head. It was good times for all.
So of course, Red Sea's jumps right into the character trying to rebuild what they have lost and trying to adjust to a new city. And by adjusting, I mean that they get caught up in gambling rings, political upheaval, a secret society that wants their heads on a platter, and a whole slew of misunderstood moments because Locke has issues but we love him to death because he's the embodiment of what a rogue should be. Also, Pirates.
They are female and can hold their own and you don't want to shove them off a cliff for being a stereotypical ice cold bitch because apparently us females can only be written three different ways... I may have some issues with female characterization lately....
Anyway! Fully realized, kick ass, women who actually still feel like they are women! Huzzah!
Alright, now for the serious portion.
Lynch is what I would consider a good writer. He strings words together to form these beautiful moments that I have to stop and say out loud because they are simply the type of words you want to feel roll of your tongue. Then, in the next paragraph, he is crass and vulgar because his main characters are vagrants who are cheating, lying and drinking their way through a city and a job. I love this about him. He knows when certain dialogue is appropriate and he knows how to tug on romantic heartstrings and send his reader into a brief love affair with words.
That being said, he can be long winded. One of the things that I've noticed about him in the last two novels is that he spends a lot of time developing his world. While normally that wouldn't be an issue for me because I am all about development, I feel like there are moment that Lynch dives too far into his description. I'm not sure if I want to consider this a slight on him however because I know a lot of people who love description. Blocks of text work for some people. I'm the type of reader that wants dialogue, however, and don't care so much about what the city looks like when we first enter the scene or the political structure that is controlling this society. I want to find all that out as the story goes. But, I am aware that this is more of a personal choice than anything else. I also think that part of my irritation about these blocks of text stems from the fact that I wanted to know what was happening next. Lynch writes such an intriguing story that I don't really care what the city looks like or about the aqueducts that were laid when it was first built. I want to know if Locke is going to make it out of the situation without being beaten to death and if he has another trick up his sleeve to do so.
My other issue I would like to bring up isn't so much of a complaint but more of a warning. Do not read this book if you are someone that wants to sit down and check out for a while. If your mind is prone to wandering during novels, this is not your tale. Lynch loves to write with intricacy and he snuggles up to convoluted ideas at night with a warm mug of cocoa. There were moments that I found myself having to go back and fact check things because he throws so much at you that at times, you struggle to remember who is good and who is bad and who it is they are supposed to be trusting. Which, now that I think about it, is probably the point. However, it is not a novel you can sit down and passively read. Get yourself immersed in this world and learn these characters because if you don't, you are missing out on the genius of this story.
And finally, I love these characters; The Gentlemen Bastards. Their names and titles fit them perfectly (both their real names and their false ones). Jean has become much more developed in this book and has moved passed the muscle of the group and Locke, and I don't think I can stress this enough, is what a rogue should be. He can't fight. He's not someone that you should be entrusting with an army or even with your life. But he can talk his way out of a situation and rob you blind, all with a smile on his face. The fact that the author did not make him strong or even all that competent in fights, the fact that he is somewhat of a coward, makes this character real. He has flaws and he has many. I have a feeling we will be learning more about these flaws in the next novel when a certain redheaded woman who we've been hearing about for two books, finally makes her appearance.
If you are a fantasy reader, buy this book. It is intelligent, funny, and all the things that a woman looks for in a man but has the added benefit of not whining at you while they are sick with the common cold or a leg cramp.
To see more of what I was reading this month go here: http://papertales4u.blogspot.com/2013/07/july-book-reads.html
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