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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Red Seas Under Red Skies" by Scott Lynch

Order “Red Seas Under Red SkiesHERE (US Version)
Read An Excerpt HERE

In 2006 author Scott Lynch dazzled readers with his debut novel “The Lies of Locke Lamora”, one of the most publicized fantasies of the year, and one that actually lived up to the hype, becoming both a fan favorite and critically-acclaimed. A little over a year later and Mr. Lynch is back with “Red Seas Under Red Skies”, the second book in his projected seven-volume series starring the Gentlemen Bastards. The obvious question regarding the book of course is—can Scott Lynch do it again?

Well, “Red Seas Under Red Skies” definitely starts out with a bang opening with a shocking cliffhanger. From there, the book goes back in time a little bit to when our heroes, Locke Lamora & Jean Tannen, are in the city of Tal Verrar in the midst of their latest madcap scheme involving the Sinspire, “the most exclusive, most notorious, and most heavily guarded chance house in the world”. At this point, the chapters start alternating between flashbacks and the present—a device also used in “The Lies of Locke Lamora”—for about the first third of the book. While the chapters styled “Reminiscence” deal with the events following Locke & Jean’s flight from Camorr at the end of the first book, including Lamora’s bout with depression, the Gentlemen Bastards’ putting together their plan for the Sinspire job, and the very interesting Salon Corbeau with its Amusement Wars, the other chapters follow current events as the duo’s con comes to a close after two years of preparation. Of course, if you read “The Lies of Locke Lamora” then you know that nothing ever comes easy for the Gentlemen Bastards and before long Locke & Jean are ensnared in a deadly web spun by two of Tal Verrar’s most powerful men—archon Maxilan Stragos the city’s master of arms and the Sinspire’s master Requin—while lurking in the shadows are Karthani Bondsmagi and assassins serving an unknown faction. And as if that isn’t enough, circumstances conspire to send the two out to sea where piracy, love, betrayal and much more awaits…

All in all, the plot behind “Red Seas Under Red Skies” is quite impressive. With all of the elaborate scheming, sleight of hand, double/triple-crossing, false personas, political intrigue and so forth, things can get a bit convoluted, but the author has a pretty good handle on where and how he wants to take the story, and the result is an adventure that is as clever as it is entertaining. Compared to “The Lies of Locke Lamora” I thought “Red Seas Under Red Skies” was better written, more complicated and more ambitious than its predecessor, though personally I enjoyed Scott Lynch’s debut just a bit more, especially the latter half of the novel where things got downright dark & dirty. With “Red Seas Under Red Skies”, the book starts out in excellent fashion, much stronger than “The Lies of Locke Lamora” in fact, but once the story shifts to the high seas, things just seemed to slow down a little, at least for me. The story definitely picks up again towards the end when all of the storylines start converging, but I thought the finale felt a bit rushed and wasn’t as intense emotionally as the first book. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the way “Red Seas Under Red Skies” ended. On the contrary, I very much enjoyed seeing how the Sinspire heist was finally pulled off, how Locke & Jean were able to solve their other problems, all of the little subplots that were being set up for future installments, a very humorous turn of events, and quite a dramatic little cliffhanger that makes me wonder how in the hell they’re going to get out of this one ;)

Let’s be honest, “The Lies of Locke Lamora” was a tough act to follow, but Scott Lynch handled the pressure admirably, delivering a follow-up in “Red Seas Under Red Skies” that was just as good, if not better than the first book. The story for sure was much more grandiose, the worldbuilding still rich & creative, though personally I liked Camorr better ;), and the characters were once again fun & compelling to follow, even if the witty banter gets a bit out of hand and I didn’t think the villains were quite on the same level as The Gray King, Capa Barsavi or the Falconer. Overall, “Red Seas Under Red Skies” firmly proves that Scott Lynch isn’t a one-hit wonder, and if the author is able to maintain this level of competence in resulting volumes, while also continuing to up his game, then it’ll only be a matter of time before Scott Lynch is mentioned in the same breath as George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson

3 comments:

Paul said...


Overall, “Red Seas Under Red Skies” firmly proves that Scott Lynch isn’t a one-hit wonder, and if the author is able to maintain this level of competence in resulting volumes, while also continuing to up his game, then it’ll only be a matter of time before Scott Lynch is mentioned in the same breath as George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson…


That's some heady company. Perhaps he will rise to the challenge. There are an awful lot of fantasy novels and series coming out these days.

Too often, too, good stuff gets lost and series die and authors depart the field. It's a brutal profession.

I will have to try the Lies of Locke Lamora, since I've heard good things about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm about 2/3 of the way thru The Lies of Locke Lamora and it is everything that has been promised and I simply cannot wait for the sequels........

Troy

Robert said...

Paul, I truly hope he rises to the challenge. I think the characters/plots set the books apart from other fantasy series, and I really think it has the potential to be ranked among the best. I would definitely give it a spin ;)

Troy, glad you're enjoying "The Lies of Locke Lamora". I think you should enjoy the sequel as well :)

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