Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Our favorite Gentleman Bastards Locke and Jean resurrect their career from the smoking ashes of their last adventure (in The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I'm going to get around to reviewing one of these days). Leaving the city of Camorr, they set their thieving sights on the gambling empire of the Sinspire and begin setting in motion a clever plan to make off with outrageous sums of money.
Somewhere along they way their brilliance confounds trips them up into getting outmaneuvered by shady politicians of the realm. Somehow they end up stealing a pirate ship, pretending to be captains? And then losing it to actual pirates to foment a rebellion? All the while being hunted by an entire group of extremely pissed off Bondsmagi? Really, guys? 
Caught between the two scheming political powers in the city, plagued with poisons and pirate alliances, and trapped by far too many disguises to keep track of (not to mention their own fatal cleverness), there's never a dull moment for our intrepid bastards.

And no barrels of horse piss, this time.

Scott Lynch really outdoes himself in sealing Locke and Jean into my heart. I know it’s not the gig with the  best life expectancy record, but I want to be a Gentleman Bastard if it means I get to have these guys back me up no matter what. Locke is a delight wrapped in a package that's smooth and prickly at the same time. His cleverness often outmatches his own physical capabilities (and his incompetence with a sword thrills me to no end), but this little con man has the best luck ever witnessed in fiction. The book begins with him struggling to recover from his ghastly experiences in Camorr, and it’s truly painful to read, even when he regains his confidence. He's still so very human, though, and never more so than during his dealings with his best (rather, only) friend Jean.

Jean Tannen is dependable, solid, and really someone you just want to give a hug to because he's so delightful. His scholarly flirtation with Ezri was the cutest scene in the book (second only to Regal's constant harassment of Locke). Jean here becomes more than just the right hand man he was in the first book (though to call him “just” anything is a gross offense against Scott Lynch’s almost alchemical characterizations). Locke had previously been his whole world, but then he meets Ezri, who slowly begins to broaden the scope of his ambitions. The painful mutation of his bond with Locke is perhaps the core emotional conflict of the book, as he begins to want things that don’t fall in line with Locke’s schemes. The beauty of it is that their friendship and loyalty go both ways, and never has there been a better bromance in all of fiction.

And Captain Zamira Drakasha of the fearsome Black Orchid is simply the best, bar none. Never was there a more awe-inspiring pirate lady to strike fear into the hearts of everyone but her children. She is a fascinating mix of supreme confidence, sly brutality, and fierce protectiveness. Incidentally, it is Lynch’s famous defense of her character to a belligerent and shutter-brained fan that got me interested in his books in the first place. When she finally showed up in the book, I was amazed that anyone could ever find her to be anything less than FREAKING awesome.

Scott Lynch was brilliant enough already, but his vision of a world where the sexes were truly equal (female warriors and officers and characters of their own unique strengths, personalities, positions of power everywhere! And a great many of them straying from the hot, white, busty fantasy stereotype! Gasps all around! Pearls clutched! Smelling salts engaged!) put him in a league of his own. I've read a lot of fantasy books, but rarely has the playing field ever been this level, and unobtrusively so.

If I could give Scott Lynch all the stars, I would. Sorry, no stars left for anyone else, Scott Lynch has them all and is not about to share. Scott Lynch is giving himself a hard time, though, because my expectations for his next book The Thieves Republic make the towering Sinspire itself look like a thimble buried in the dirt.

5/5 stars, to be reread over and over again.


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