03 April 2011

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

After I read the Lies of Locke Lamora, I knew I wanted to read its sequal… and I just got around to it now 2.5 years later. I’ll share that this is one of those books you don’t need to go back and read the first one so you know what is going on. Why the delay? Because I am a bad supporter of literature and don’t buy a lot of books. But I lent a friend Lies and then he went out and bought Red Seas and lent it to me in turn. Everything works out in the end.

But I’m blathering… I’m struggling to write a review of this book and I know why. I loved reading this book, and SPOILER it did not have a happy ending. It had a “reality sucks” ending. I hate that. To top it off, the third volume of the Gentlemen Bastards Sequence is still forthcoming-November 2011, just in time for my Birthday! So I can’t just go and find out what happens. Damned cliff hanger endings.

But anyway, Lynch did not disappoint in the middle volume of the Gentlemen Bastards. Jean and Locke ran amok and caused trouble, witty and clever as ever, though quite a bit darker in tone than before. I see it as their recovery from the ending of Lies. And in recovery, one must grieve and heal one’s ugly scars.

Through alternating between the present and the recent past, Lynch slowly exposes the Gentlemen in their preparation of their plans leading up to the present. But in his standard form, Lynch doesn’t reveal too much. He leaves out just enough, so we don’t suspect anything (unless we know better), but when the plan comes to fruition it came out of left field. Lynch is adept at this. I envy his tricksy plotting mind. This structure not only added to the suspense and impact of the end, but it also served to keep most of the story in the present, and not have to recap a long period of time--only the bits and pieces needed to lead us by the nose to the end.

Plotwise, Red Seas only has one tie to Lies, and that very tie didn’t get resolved here and will undoubtedly show up in the third volume. That being said, this feels like the kind of story that they will reference in the future, “Hey remember that time in Tal Verrar…” But to say that this 600 some odd page book was just filler content for a 7 volume series doesn’t seem right either, especially knowing Lynch’s plotting style.

As I said before, Jean and Locke were licking their wounds as they faced the tribulations brought to them this time around. We watched them try to distract themselves, and do a fine job of it, yet as they walked though this madness, I could only watch the desire for reprisal set more deeply in the brilliantly strategic mind of Locke. His gears are turning and the longer they turn the scarier the outcome will be down the road.

I admire Lynch’s work for more reasons than just his plotting. The voice, for one, is hilarious and gripping. No matter how dark the situation gets, the characters are sarcastic as ever. Beyond that, Lynch skillfully employs many craft techniques. He describes new places in ways that appeal to the senses via the characters. He uses the “swoop” when introducing something important to set it apart from the characters own experiences. His pacing is break-neck and he never slows it down, though sometimes I wish he would for some moments. Somehow, somehow he can make the plot and characters complex yet keep the story easy to read.

So I will be eagerly awaiting the release of book number three in the Gentlemen Bastards Sequence and the four following it as well.

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