Book Review- Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

So, remember that time I said I was going to write this book review last Wednesday? Well, what had happened was….

I cleaned out my car, entirely, bathed it, and then the battery died. Which turns out, I did not own jumper cables.

Suffice it to say there were shenanigans of the not-so-fun variety. But, silver-lining? My car is basically brand new.

Then there was video-gaming to fully enjoy my week off from school. A solid 13ish hours of Kingdom Hearts time. I have no regrets.

Today has been wildly productive. Started school by reading lectures and posting in discussions. I have to read The Great Gatsby again, which is a bummer, but I’ll live. And then I finished writing the rough draft of my newest Caladria story. I like it.

I always get so attached to my characters, and I just want to continue their stories. Which I have some ideas about, but maybe more on that later.

For now, I’m here to talk about my last adventure with The Gentlemen Bastards!

Of course, there are spoilers ahead.
Red Seas Under Red Skies

So, we last left Locke and Jean getting on a boat, with Locke nearly dead thanks to their epic battle with the Falconer and the Grey King. The second book picks up two years later, with the duo part way through another “game”. This time they’re plotting against one of the most powerful people in Tal Verrar, the owner of the Sinspire, the largest, most popular Casino in Tal Verrar. This book feels much more like Ocean’s Eleven set in Renaissance-era Italy with pirates and magic.

If that doesn’t make you want to read it, you’re broken.

Anyway, their “game” is going well, until some Bondsmagi show up and try to kill them for what they did to the Falconer. Of course, they don’t die, and are actually rescued by yet another mysterious group.

The Eyes of Maxilan Stragos, the Archon of Tal Verrar. AKA, he rules that particular nation. AKA, this can’t be good.

Stragos has figured out who they are, and has poisoned them with some alchemically latent poison. Meaning that they have a two month window before they need a dose of antidote.


So they can become pirates, of course!

No, really. You see, the Archon is in a bad way, and tensions are high in Tal Verrar. The Archon’s solution? Start a war, so that people rely on the military again. Not a terrible idea really, except that he wants Locke and Jean to pretend to be pirates and start said war.

Now, Locke and Jean are damned good false-facers, but they don’t know the first thing about sailing. Which becomes evident as the story continues.

They have no choice but to accept the Archon’s terms, but that doesn’t mean Locke is nice about it. He’s at least got the cursing bit of his pirate act down, and he slings insults and curses at the Archon every chance he gets. I love that about the guy.
Map_Tal Verrar

You’d think that, since they have to disappear to become false pirates, they’d give up the Sinspire vault game, except the Gentlemen Bastards don’t quit part way. In fact, Locke spins so many lies to keep both the Sinspire game and the Archon’s plans running smoothly, that both he and the reader get a little confused.

This story hinges on a tiny thread of doubt that runs between Locke and Jean. They’re brothers, in every sense but blood, but what they’ve been through has taken its toll. Locke spent a huge amount of time after they left Camorr in a drunken, depressed, invalid state. He wasn’t taking care of himself, and barely let Jean take care of him. They fought a lot.

And it’s this tension that remains between them, even after they’ve supposedly moved on from those dark months. Locke, for all his bravado, fears that Jean will finally realize that he’s not worth the effort. And Locke’s constant doubt gnaws away at Jean, leaving him frustrated, and fueling Locke’s doubt. It’s stupid, and all too realistic. Relationships depend on trust and faith, and Locke’s in himself is shattered. We see him far less optimistic, and often fatalistic, in this story. Which is good. If he’d come away from the events in Camorr without being affected, I probably would have given up on the series.

Anyway, they do piratey things poorly, and nearly die again, this time to be rescued by real pirates. Jean promptly falls in love with one of them, and she’s a delight. I love Ezri, and she’s so damned perfect for Jean it’s nauseating.

That adds to the tension between Locke and Jean. Mainly because Locke still pines after the ever not-present Sabetha.

So, more piratey stuff. Ships and larboard, and “ahoy the boat”. Yadda yadda. They convince the pirates to help them do the Archon’s bidding, which is a hell of a bad paraphrase job on my part. There’s a lot more to it, but basically, the Captain, Zamira Drakasha, agrees to head back to Tal Verrar and start pillaging.

Well, the other pirates aren’t too keen on that, and they ambush Drakasha’s ship. There’s a bloody battle, that Locke miraculously lives through, since we all know he’s no fighter. But, Ezri sacrifices herself to save the ship.

It is an incredibly painful death, and Jean’s grief is profound. I cried. I still get teary whenever I see fan art or quotes from them. It’s awful. Which means it was really great writing.

So, the ship survives, and they head toward Tal Verrar with a will. Because Jean and Locke are going to make Maxilan Stragos pay. Which they do, right after they finish the Sinspire game, which wasn’t about the Casino’s vault at all, but about the artwork lining the owner’s office. They get away with the art, and then pay a fatal visit to the Archon.

But, what about the poison?

Well, there was an antidote, but only enough for one. Locke tricks Jean into drinking it, saving his best, and only friend from a very painful, drawn out death.

Which you get to see first hand in the next book, The Republic of Theives, as Locke succumbs to the poison.

I will say that this book wasn’t as good as the first one. But, the first one was fantastic. It’s just hard to follow that up. What I liked about this book was the realistic dynamics between Locke and Jean. This story is told so that we can see them on their own, without the other Gentlemen Bastards. They struggle with the new dynamic, and with their grief.

But, this book suffers from a lot of strenuous world building, mainly because of the piracy. Locke and Jean don’t know shit about sailing, and neither do I, which made the 200+ pages of sailing terminology a bit… boring.

If it hadn’t been for Jean and Locke’s humor through the whole thing, I might have put the book aside.

But, now that I’m 200 pages into the third book, I’m glad I didn’t.

My summer reading list, as I’ve discussed, is pretty intense. I will do my damnedest to keep reading for pleasure, but it’s going to be at a much slower clip. Much.

Tomorrow is book club, so hopefully you’ll see a book review for Stardust up soon!

I’ll be around Blogland, I promise.


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