Book Review- The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch


I did it! I finally finished this book! And now I am so sad, because I have to wait until September-ish to hear from Locke and Jean again.

Of course, if you follow me on Goodreads, you knew this already.

You may be wondering what in all hells I’m doing posting on a Friday night? Don’t I have homework? No? Well, then, surely I have friends to spend the evening with. You know, beer to drink, karaoke to sing, some sort of pass-time that doesn’t involve reading.

To you, dear reader, I laugh. Why should any of those things be mutually exclusive?

If I’m being perfectly honest, I thought I had homework due tonight, but it’s actually not due until next Friday, so my evening’s opened up considerably. So, what do I do with my freetime?

Book Review!

Please take this as warning of potential spoilers. Thank you.

So, The Republic of Thieves opens with Locke pretty much dying. Not even pretty much. The dude is bleeding from his damn fingernails thanks to the Archon’s clever latent poison. And no matter how many physickers, black alchemists, and dog-leeches Jean beats to a pulp, none of them can do a damn thing for Locke.

Until a mysterious woman flourishes into their meager room, and promises to expel the poison from Locke’s body. But, of course, there’s a catch. She has a Game for them. She calls it the Five Year Game, and it involves the politics of Karthain. And that means she’s a Bondsmage.

Now, here’s a quick refresher.

Bondsmagi are ridiculously powerful. If they were a boss in a video game, players would call them “broken”. They’re that overpowered compared to normal saps like Locke and Jean. If you’ll recall, they had a less than pleasant run-in with a Bondsmage in Camorr, one called the Falconer.

This is an actual costume designed by Kathryn Sutcliffe. She was so inspired by the novels that she created several costumes as if a film were being produced! How badass is that?
This is an actual costume designed by Kathryn Sutcliffe. She was so inspired by the novels that she created several costumes as if a film were being produced! How badass is that?

Yeah, Locke maimed him so bad that he went comatose, unable to handle the pain and the inability to wield his magic. Since then, Bondsmagi have been stalking the two remaining Gentlemen Bastards at every turn.

And this woman promising to deliver Locke from certain death? Well, she’s one of the leaders of the Bondsmagi, Archedama Patience.

Oh, and she’s the Falconer’s mother.

So, we know right away that Patience is not to be trusted. She’s got too many mixed emotions regarding Locke and Jean to be as cool and collected as she seems. Keep that thought tucked away.

So, mainly because they literally have no other options, Jean carries Locke to Patience’s ship, where she promptly performs an incredibly painful and dangerous magic on Locke, physically removing the poison from his flesh.

And, despite misgivings, he lives. Barely. As he recovers from the ordeal, Patience tells them about the Game. They will be given an exorbitant amount of money to help Patience’s chosen political faction in the upcoming election. They have six weeks to rally the Deep Roots faction, and win the election. Sounds easy enough.

Except that the opposition, the Black Iris party, has their own Gentleman Bastard. The long alluded to Sabetha.

She finally makes her appearance in the present, and I loved her. Although she was a bit mercurial for my tastes, she’s perfect for Locke, and he is utterly ruined by her. She’s indomitable. She’s all power and sexual intrigue, but with a pleasant mixture of romance and vulnerability where Locke is concerned. He’s been a sucker for her since he was a child, when he first met her in Shade’s Hill. One of his earliest memories is of her beautiful and vibrant red hair. She’s magnificent, and I loved every moment of her time in scene.

From here the novel becomes an intricate twist of politics and sabotage. The Gentleman Bastards compete with increasingly complicated tricks and ploys, the tension between Locke and Sabetha grows. Despite warnings from the Bondsmagi, neither of them can ignore the presence of the other, and soon their pranks and sleight of hand become a part of a teasing and competitive courtship.

And every moment of alone time between them is a triumph. As a reader you cheer when they sneak kisses, and plan clandestine rendezvous on the balconies of abandoned castles. Truly, their furtive romance is one of the more electrically charged I’ve read in a long time.

But, the Bondsmagi see all, and Patience cannot let them stray from their goals. So, she interrupts one such meeting, and drops a bombshell.

She tells a tale of a Bondsmage named Lamor Acanthus. Yes, Lamor. You see, this particular Bondsmage was obsessed with the study of transmuting life. He felt that, if he studied hard enough, he could discover a sort of immortality, by transporting his soul into another body. His studies we frowned upon in Karthain, and so he fled the nation. His last known whereabouts? Camorr, in the Catchfire district.

The same district that Locke Lamora, a child of unknown age, walked out of, the sole survivor of a violent plague.

According to Patience, Locke is the soul of Lamor Acanthus, transported to the nearest living body. He has no memories, and effectively trapped himself, because the child had no magical ability. Sabetha didn’t take it too well, since Locke lied to her about how he came by his name. He told her, as he did many others, that a friendly sailor named him. Which, after hearing Patience’s story, he admits is false. He doesn’t know how he got his name.

But, the name Lamor Acanthus means something to him. If you’ll recall, in Red Seas Under Red Skies, the crew of the Poison Orchid sail through a terrifying night, where the fog calls to the sailors in their minds. Locke tells Jean that the fog knows his name, his true name. And that takes the color from both of their faces.

This is the name Locke knows himself as, deep down. But, Patience tells him that that wasn’t Acanthus’s real name. No Bondsmage tells their true name, because true names carry power. Though Locke knows there’s a shadowy memory, a hint, he doesn’t know what that true name might be.

But, his doubt is enough for Sabetha to flee.

Yet another fantastic French cover!
Yet another fantastic French cover!

She won’t see him, although they exchange rather lovely letters, until the election. So, they meet up in a private box to watch the voting unfold. Though Sabetha is clever, and pretty cutthroat, Locke thwarts her. But, not with a victory for the Deep Roots. With a tie. Neither party wins, which has never happened before in Karthaini history. So, the three Gentleman Bastards make a quick exit, to Sabetha’s rented house outside town.

When Locke awakes, flush with the taste and smell of Sabetha, she’s gone. And Patience is waiting for him. She promises him none of the agreed upon money and safe travel. In fact, the Bondsmagi are leaving Karthain, and going to ground. They fear the fate of the Eldren, the mysterious race before history who left behind all the glass architecture. And this was their plan all along. The Five Year Game was a diversion. But, before she leaves, she gives Locke a gift.

A painting, by Lamor Acanthus, of himself and his wife. A beautiful redhead, who Lamor apparently worshiped. It wasn’t until after her death that he started his obsession with soul transportation.

And it wasn’t until she saw the painting that Sabetha decided to flee.

As the novel closes, Patience gives Locke a warning, a prophecy. “‘I shall give you a little prophecy, Locke Lamora, as best as I have seen it. Three things you must take up and three things you must lose before you die: a key, a crown, a child.’ Patience pushed her hood up over her head. ‘You will die when a silver rain falls.’”

So, Karthain is set up for failure, as the only government it’s known for centuries has fled in the night. And The Marrows have finally fallen into Civil War. Locke was briefly reunited with Sabetha, but now he and Jean are left penniless and alone, yet again.

Oh! And The Falconer, who’s been comatose for three years? Yeah, he woke up. And despite is crippling injuries, he can still wield impressive magic. He kills his mother à la Hitchcock, with a flock of crows bent to his will. And he’s hell bent on revenge.

I feel I should mention that the Interludes are back in this novel. In that plot line, 16ish Lamora and company travel to Espara to take parts in a troupe of actors. They must overcome all kinds of trouble to get the play off without a hitch, working together after a stressful and overly competitive summer with Chains. It’s during this plot line that we see Locke and Sabetha’s relationship bloom, and it parallels their present day courtship brilliantly.  Also, Calo and Galdo are in fine form in these Interludes, and they made me laugh out loud, and then want to cry because I miss them so much.

Anyway, it’s the Interludes that gives the novel the title, since the troupe performs Lucarno’s The Republic of Thieves. And it’s the Interludes that bring much needed levity and life to the political intrigue of the main plot line.

As usual with my lengthier reviews, I loved this book. It was a much more psychologically interesting tale. Physical danger wasn’t as prevalent as in Red Seas Under Red Skies, but I enjoyed the change of pace. Sabetha really upped the ante for Locke, but I did feel like Jean sort of took a back burner to her. And I love Jean, and that’s just not fair.

Now I have to wait until the Thorn of Emberlain is released. Amazon is touting a mid-September release date, but other sources are saying December. Scott Lynch and his publisher have said nothing. Which makes me nervous. I NEED IT!

And either of those months are already so busy! September is the release of Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and the week after that is Sanderson’s Shadows of Self. December is Christmas time, and then January is Sanderson’s Bands of Mourning. TOO MANY BOOKS!

I’m not sure I’ve ever said that before…

Anyway, 1700+ words is more than enough. I’ll see you around Blogland!


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