Saturday, August 31, 2013

REVIEW: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Firstly, to anyone out there who has been waiting to read The Republic of Thieves since finishing Red Seas Under Red Skies in 2007 ... my sincerest apologies to you. I on the other hand, read them both in the last two weeks. I mention this only partly as a glib taunt, but also because the lack of wait and anticipation colours my view in much the same way it did for my reviews of A Song of Ice and Fire, compared to those who waiting years between installments.

This is a series that has definitely been slow to grow on me. I found The Lies of Locke Lamora somewhat unremarkable and it took more than half of Red Seas to really start getting into a position of favour. I hit the ground running with Thieves, which picks up seamlessly from the events of book two, which was great for me, in much the same way as an accelerating getaway car avoids the long arm of the law.

But to the actual review! Thieves follows an almost identical formula from it's two predecessors, alternating between past and present. In this case, the past returns us to a time when the Gentlemen Bastards are still under the tutelage of Father Chains except that this time, lo and behold, we finally learn all about the mysterious Sabetha. It is not surprising in fact, that this whole book, in both timelines, revolves around Sabetha, or rather, her relationship with Locke.

All things considered, the choice to put off this part of the story until now worked quite well. The mystery of Sabetha was only referenced lightly in previous books; enough to create some suspense, but not nearly enough to frustrate or impede the story at hand. What I really loved was being able to go back and once again experience the characters (such as Calo and Galdo) that have since departed the story - there's nothing better than the joy of experiencing something that you thought lost. My only issue with Lynch's formula for each novel is that I feel that these 'past' events should have affected or at least have been referenced in 'present' events of previous books. While there are no major oversights, it still does feel a little bit like Lynch is creating or adding history retroactively.

The present day arc is equally as entertaining and flows smoothly alongside its past counterpart. Lynch cleverly mirrors both storylines; both telling of the kindling and rekindling of Locke and Sabetha's relationship respectively.

Locke Lamora continues to shine as the golden boy of this series and more and more brings to mind a younger and perhaps more adventurous Tyrion Lannister. Locke's unfailing wit reaches new heights in this installment and as things go from bad to worse, so too does his regard for his own well-being. This translates directly for us as the reader, to some downright laugh out loud moments. Even in his exposition, Lynch doesn't hold back on the colourful language.

Sabetha still remains a bit of a mystery to me and I can't help but feel only some of it can be put down to 'it's because she's a woman OoOoOoO.' Her and Locke obviously have a complicated relationship, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, I still can't figure out why. She seems to be incapable of handling even the slightest argument, instead choosing to flee the continent at any given moment. It all seems a bit too convenient for me.

The standalone highlight of this book is Lynch's masterful use of prose and vocabulary, making for a thoroughly crafted and intelligent read. I can't really elaborate more or give it higher praise than that, other than by saying he has the writer's equivalent of the comic timing of the world's best comedian. When the character's pause, you pause, when the action is happening, your adrenaline starts going and you read god damn faster!

The world of Locke Lamora continues to expand within the new settings of Karthain and Espara. While Lynch has never been one to spend copious amount of time describing the environment in detail, a colourful and unique world is built nonetheless. I think that by the end of the series the protagonists will have taken us through every city, one by one, book by book.

The tone of Thieves really surprised me and I actually found it very light on, especially compared to book two. Red Seas had us in dire straits (see what I did there) and managed to get some real emotional hooks in. This book not only felt briefer, but a lot safer. Although it could be seen as a nice respite it certainly makes Thieves stand out as a transitional book in a larger series, rather than a milestone in it's own right - a shame considering the six-year wait fans have endured.

I don't know how or why, but I was under the impression that Thieves was the last of a trilogy. Imagine my surprise when I encountered a shock ending, riddled with foreshadowing and catastrophic potential and then ask my good friend Google who tells me there are in fact seven books. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in for the long haul. And in that case, Lynch definitely needs to shake up the formula before things get downright repetitive and boring.

Which brings me to my biggest criticism of not only this book, but the series in general and certainly it's biggest downfall. Lynch ticks all the right boxes as I have mentioned above but somehow I'm still not hooked; there is no fire. I am definitely not aching to read the next book. Don't get me wrong, I will be sure to read it to get my next dose of scathing Lamora humour, but not because I care about the fate of the characters or story. I can't put my finger on why exactly this is the case, but it's a pretty major drawback. It's certainly a combination of feelings I have not experienced before.

I think if you have enjoyed the series so far then it is worth continuing with it; The Republic of Thieves maintains the elements that you have grown to love and gives you another shot of Lamora goodness (or wickedness). I'll be looking out for book four, The Thorn of Emberlain!

This is a review of an advanced reading copy supplied by the publisher. The Republic of Thieves is expected to be published on October 8th, 2013.


  1. Reading the reviews, I have the feeling it's overwritten. Maybe like Wise Man's Fear, but not quite as bad and tepid.

  2. I can't really disagree more about Sabetha. I thought he managed to avoid the WoOoOoO she's a woman problem that plagues so many sci-fi/fantasy novels. She seemed like a real person to me, with legitimate fears and concerns, and most of the time, she was /right/.

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  4. I found it a fun read. More of what I wanted to read about the main characters. Colourfull plots and language.