Red Seas Under Red Skies

This is the second book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora.  The first book was interesting, kind of a mix of Ocean’s 11 with Fantasy.  This book had a similar premise.  There were some good things about this book, and some that really annoyed me.  Anyway, on with the review.

Book Stats

760 pages

Fantasy

Sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora

Characters

Locke and Jean are back in this book, and they’re much the same as they were in the first book.  They’re pretty stable in their overall personalities, and the book really isn’t about watching them grow as much as it’s about watching them try to pull off their crazy schemes.  That said, the side characters in this book were interesting as well, they were all well written and consistent in their overall personalities.

Setting

The world is obviously the same as the first book, but it takes place in the city of Tal Verrar instead of Camorr.

Plot

The description on the back of this book is a bit deceiving.  It’s described as Locke and Jean trying to pull off a heist from a heavily guarded casino called the Sinspire.  While this is the opening premise of the book, the vast majority of the story involves Locke and Jean being coerced into imitating pirates and trying to help the Archon of Tal Verrar (military leader) seize control of the city.  The two plots were both interesting, but I really don’t think that they played together very well.

Enjoyment

The first comment that I have to make on this book is that it took me a week to read it.  The beginning of this book was horrifically slow and contained a lot of unnecessary descriptions as well as a lot of scenes that I don’t think really needed to be there.  For about half of the first section of the book the main story chapters are separated by reminiscence chapters.  About half of these had no reason to be there, and even the ones that were useful to the story could have been done other ways.  I almost think that they were a callback to the structure of the first book where we were constantly getting a look at Locke’s childhood through the flashbacks.  I think you could get through this book just fine without even reading the reminiscence chapters, it would make it a much faster read.

In some of the regular chapters, Lynch also has a very strange habit of structuring the scenes within the chapters.  (Every chapter is separated into smaller numbered sections.)  He would show what was happening to Locke and Jean (or whoever else he was writing from at that time) and then skip ahead in the next section.  But then in the third section he would go back and write the part that he skipped going from section one to section two.  This ends up having the chronology of the sections going in this order: section 1, then section 3, then section 2.  In terms of reading the story, it brings all of the progress to a screeching halt that was really annoying to read about.  He’s better about this in the second half of the book, but it’s very annoying in the first half.  I really think that this book would have been stronger if the reminiscence chapters as well as some of these scenes were cut out.  The first 300 pages of the book could probably be reduced to about 60 pages without losing any of the story.  In the early sections it felt like Lynch had to describe everything that he had built into the world regardless of what it did to the pacing of the story.

The first half of this book is a lot of unnecessary filler and the book would have been much stronger if it were streamlined down to about 400 pages.  The ending left me intrigued in the promised third book, but if it’s as long as this book I’m going to be wary of reading it.

Overall Grade

The horribly slow first half of the book is rescued by a strong ending, but I have to grade the entire book, not just the second half.

5/10

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7 Comments

  1. Hi,
    It’s a shame you didn’t enjoy this one so much. It took me a while to pick it up (not sure why) but I must admit that I did like it when I finally did so – and I would like to think that’s not just because I’m a fan of Scott Lynch but because the book was good. The devil is in the detail but it’s not to everyone’s liking after all.
    Lynn 😀

    Reply
    • It was good once he actually got to the main story, but in the first part of the book I really thought about putting the book away and reading something else.

      I thought about putting this in the review but it slipped my mind when I was writing it. The last book I read before this was Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card. If you’ve read that book, there is very little emphasis on description of the setting, it’s entirely focused on the story and characters. I think if there wasn’t such a great contrast between the two books I might have enjoyed this one more, but coming from a book that had almost no setting detail to one that was very heavy in setting detail (especially in the early chapters) was quite a shock.

      Reply
      • I know what you mean. I recently read Asimov’s Foundation series as part of a readalong – absolutely no descriptions or world building. It was pretty much just dialogue. I didn’t think I would like it at first but the maneouverings and intrigue were just brilliant and so you didn’t need anything else really – in fact it would have just been unnecessary. Very quick reads but quite gripping. I think if I’d read, say, Tolkien, directly after reading it would have felt like hard work!
        Lynn 😀
        will you still pick up No.3??

      • I’ll probably get it eventually, but it won’t be one of the books that I watch the release date for and pick up the week it comes out. It’ll more likely fall into the “whenever I happen to see it at B&N” category.

  2. Ashley (futurewriter13)

     /  March 18, 2012

    hi! i don’t know if you remember me or not, but you commented on my blog entry about patti smith’s autobiography “just kids” last year. i just wanted to say that i switched my blog to http://aekfuturewriter013.wordpress.com if you wanted to check it out. i really enjoy reading your book blog!

    Reply
  1. March 2012 Month in Review « Reviews and Ramblings
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