BOOK REVIEW: The Republic Of Thieves

The Republic Of Thieves by Scott Lynch, pub. Gollancz (ISBN 9780575077010)

It’s here at last! The Republic of Thieves is the long-awaited and hotly-anticipated third book in Scott Lynch’s acclaimed Gentleman Bastards series. It is difficult to review this book without giving away some spoilers from earlier in the series, so if you haven’t already read the first two books go and do so, right now. I’ll wait.

That was quick, well done! Now, on with business.

Republic of Thieves picks up not long after the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies. Locke Lamora is slowly dying of poison, and Jean Tannen is desperately looking for a way save his friend’s life. In the end salvation comes from the most unlikely source. The Bondsmagi, who made life so difficult for our heroes in the first two books, suddenly appear on the scene and offer to use their magical powers to cure Locke. Of course, this assistance comes at a price. The Bondsmagi want Locke and Jean to rig an election in their home city. After reluctantly agreeing to this our heroes learn that there is a further complication. There are other Bondsmagi supporting the opposing side and they have employed their own ‘expert help’. This is revealed to be none other than Sabetha, the only other surviving member of the Gentleman Bastards, and the greatest love of Locke Lamora’s life…

Scott Lynch has been teasing us with the character of Sabetha throughout the first two books. Locke’s lost love has been mentioned many times but never featured directly either in the ‘present’ or in the many flashbacks to his childhood. Now she finally gets to make an appearances and, as might be expected, she is clever, complicated and more than a match for our devious hero.

A great deal of the book is focused on Locke and Sabetha’s relationship both in the past and present. The flashback chapters relate to a period when the young Gentleman Bastards were packed off to join an acting troop by their mentor Father Chains (mainly because he has had enough of a having a house full of teenagers). This means we get to spend some more time in the lively company of the late lamented Carlo and Galdo. We missed you boys! However, it is primarily Locke and Sabetha that hold our attention, as they begin to explore their feelings for each other. Naturally there are many complications in store for them in both timelines.

Whilst The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies were more or less stand-alone stories, Republic of Thieves is very much an intermediary book. It wraps up the loose ends from the last book and sets some intriguing things up for the future. Unfortunately, in its own right, it is easily the weakest of the series so far. There is still plenty to enjoy, so don’t despair. Scott Lynch’s writing style is as effortless and addictive as ever for the reader. There are plenty of colourful characters, entertaining trickery and, of course, a wonderfully inventive line in personal insults. However, the stakes never feel particularly high in either the past or present story-lines (nobody seems to care that much about the results of the election – they just want a good show). The romance angle is well-handled but given a bit too much prominence, leaving the rest of the plot somewhat thin. To my mind, Locke’s obsession with Sabetha gets a bit irritating after a while and Jean isn’t really given enough to do.

On the positive side, the hints we are given of the ‘bigger picture’ are highly intriguing, the ending packs one hell of a punch and, ultimately, leaves the reader hungry for more. Let’s just hope we don’t have so long to wait this time!

[Ed. According to Scott Lynch himself, the next book is due out in the third quarter of this year, as well as a couple of novellas. The countdown begins!]

GS Rating: 3.5/5

GS Reviewer: Clover Winton-Polak

 

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