Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
Published : Gollancz (2013)
Series : Book 3 of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence

This is the third book of a series, so there may be spoilers of the first two books below.

The Book :

“Through their work as conmen in Camorr and elsewhere, Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen have made more than their fair share of enemies.  The most dangerous may well be the Bondsmagi of Karthain, who jealously and violently control the use of magical abilities. However, when the Bondsmagi catch up with Locke and Jean, they don’t want to kill them—they want to hire them. 

A faction of the Bondsmagi want Jean and Locke to run a political party for the election of the non-magi authorities of Karthain, and Locke’s long-lost love Sabetha is going to run the opposition. Locke and Sabetha have a lot of intimate history together, but can they have a present or a future?  An election in Karthain may be a dangerous place to find out, since nothing is as simple as it seems when the Bondsmagi are involved!” ~Allie

This is the third installment of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, and I would strongly advise against reading it before the first two.  While the main plot may be fairly self-contained, the novel both relies on the knowledge of the previous two novels and sets up situations for the future of the series.  I read this with a read-along group, and the spoiler-filled posts are here, here, here,  here and here.  

My Thoughts:

A major purpose of The Republic of Thieves seemed to be to introduce the long-awaited character of Sabetha, Locke’s former girlfriend.  I have no doubt that reactions to her character have been very split among fans, based on the many discussions that centered on her in my read-along group.  From my perspective, Sabetha more than lived up to expectations.  She was clever and talented, like all Gentleman Bastards, but she also had a dedication and ambition to her trade that I felt trumped Locke’s own.  She usually planned carefully, while Locke often got by on luck and nerve, and that was one source of the tension  that came between them.  Sabetha could also be selfish, proud, impatient and unwilling to explain herself, but I felt that her flaws made her seem even more realistic and compelling.

The novel told the story of Sabetha and Locke’s relationship, both in the past and the present. In the past, the story covers Sabetha and Locke’s early days together, including the first adventure of the Gentleman Bastards, which involves a theatre troupe.  This storyline fills in the Sabetha-shaped gaps in the story of Locke’s early life from the previous novels.  I loved the realistically awkward and inexperienced back-and-forth between Sabetha and Locke, as they both struggled to figure out how to navigate their feelings for one another.  It was also extremely fun to see the two of them working on the same team; I think they could be a pretty unstoppable duo. 

The present-day story featured the election in Karthain, where Locke and Sabetha finally reunited.  They were still rivals, they still fought, and it seemed that they still loved one another.  Of course, that alone doesn’t mean that they would necessarily get right back together, and I appreciated that the obstacles between them seemed real, and not contrived. The election plot ultimately just felt like an excuse to get the surviving Gentleman Bastard team together in Karthain, though it also involved a pretty amusing prank war between Locke’s team and Sabetha.  Near the end of their time in Karthain, various events and revelations came about that seem likely to drastically change the direction of the series.  I expect that these revelations have had a polarizing effect on readers, but they left me really eager to find out what happens next.

I think the weaknesses of the novel could be summed up in the fact that it seems to me to be largely a transitional novel.  It introduces Sabetha, tells the story of her and Locke’s romance, and sets up a lot of potential developments for future novels.  The central plot of the novel risked feeling a little bit irrelevant next to these considerations.  Since there was a lot of setup for future books, this also means that there were many things that weren’t resolved in the conclusion.  The Republic of Thieves is much less of a standalone novel than the previous two, but it may just be because it is ramping up the major, overarching plot of the series.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book, The Thorn of Emberlain, hopefully coming this November!

My Rating: 4/5

The third novel of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Republic of Thieves, does not disappoint.  The mysterious Sabetha finally makes her entrance, and she met my high expectations—as a character in her own right, and as a match for Locke.  This novel is much less of a standalone story, since it focuses heavily on the relationships between the characters (especially Locke and Sabetha) and on setting the stage for developments in future books.  There were many unanswered questions at the end of the novel, which has left me incredibly impatient to get my hands on the next book!    

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