I wasn't a huge fan of The Lies of Locke Lamora and I remember writing in my review that I would probably only read Red Seas Under Red Skies when I had nothing better to do. I was given an ARC for The Republic of Thieves, book three in this series, and thought I better do the right thing and you know, read the series in order.
I'm happy to say that I am now sold on the Locke Lamora franchise.
It was a slow start however. I found that almost the first half of Red Seas featured the some of the same elements of Lies that turned me off - chiefly, that it just didn't make me care about anything or anyone. I was never able to empathise with or experience the humanity of Locke or Jean. Sure they're hilariously witty and fabulous characters in their own regard, but I could have walked away from the book at any moment and not felt a pang of regret or curiosity. The Spire heist also felt very familiar to the Salvara gig in Lies.
The 'flashback' storytelling makes a return in this installment, but it by and large more successful than in book one, where it was just darn frustrating. Luckily (for me) this was abandoned by half way through, leaving us with a clear, linear chronology, as I think the whole series should have been.
There's a point in the story when events take a swift turn left off the road and go careening into the sea, which let's face it was to be expected. There's an ocean on the cover after all. To begin with I'm not sure how I felt about this ... it seemed like Lynch was doing a cut and run on the story so far, getting bored with current events and taking a sudden interest in all things nautical. I found myself thinking, "Ugh, how long is this going to take?".
However, that's where things finally got interesting. Firstly, we got some great fresh characters that weren't absurdly rich or powerful pompous asses with targets on their foreheads. And females at that too! Locke and Jean's relationship really starts to develop and that in turn increases the depth of their characters ten-fold. There's even a love interest, which was a highlight for me in this book.
The last fifth of this book was sheer brilliance. Lynch masterfully combines an incredible and mind-boggling triumph with more than a few tragic moments for our protagonists that had me considering whether I was going to put the book down and have a 'moment'.
Lynch's wit shown vicariously through Locke is prodigious and definitely on par with authors like Terry Pratchett. I mentioned this in my review for Lies but I'll say it again, Locke really is a protagonist for the ages. He's like those naughty kids in class who you know you shouldn't laugh at, but you can't help yourself because they're so inappropriately hilarious.
Red Seas Under Red Skies was a big step up for me from The Lies of Locke Lamora, with definite growth evident in all areas of the story. It did take quite a while to warm up, but I guess I can say in the end it was worth it. This isn't a fantastically groundbreaking novel or series, especially if you're looking for something really fantastical to bite your teeth into, but it does offer excellent prose and intelligent humour abound. I'll be moving straight onto Republic of Thieves, which I must admit seems a luxury as some fans have been waiting six years since Red Seas was released ... sucks to be them!