The Republic of Thieves
Well, given it only took five years to produce the third novel in a planned set of seven, we might be having to settle in for a long one here. At this rate it’ll be 2033 before we know what happens. I’d like the author to speed things up a little if he can. Maybe one a year?
Anyway, Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen are back after their escapades in ‘Red Seas under Red Skies’; Locke’s been poisoned and Jean can’t find anyone in Lashain able to cure him. As they are about to get beaten up for unceremoniously coercing the physician Zodesti to take a look, in steps Patience, one of the leaders of the Bondsmagi, mother to The Falconer (last seen without a tongue or hands) to cure our weaselly hero at the cost of having to participate in the quinquennial elections of Karthain who are about to elect the nineteen representatives of the Konseil. What’ll make it fun is that they are hired to represent the Deep Roots Party and get them past the winning post. Money, influence…all theirs for the asking. Winning is all that matters. Countering this is the Black Iris Party, whose Bondsmagi have hired Locke’s old flame, Sabetha. Complicated, huh? Might as well toss in a carriage full of snakes whilst they’re at it…oh wait….
Interwoven into this tale is the story of how Locke, Jean, Sabetha and the twins, Galdo and Calo, rose to become the Gentleman Bastards under the tutelage of Chains whilst in Camorr. This serves to fill in a great deal of Locke’s life from aged six or so; the narrative dealing with his crush on Sabetha to the troupe being sent to Lashain to join the Moncraine Company of actors.
These ‘Interludes’ form a separate story (and are what gives this novel is title) but are very much focused on Locke’s developing fumbling relationship with Sabetha. It’s all a touch disconcerting, given their ages; there’s even a “coming-of-age” sexual scene featuring Jean and the older Jenora which this reviewer found unnecessary. Woven into the theme of ‘young lust/love’ is the venture to put on a play under the patronage of Lord Boulidazi which comes to a somewhat sticky end. This again, whilst well written, seems to serve as the author’s attempt to craft a half-done Shakespearean play…we get long tracts of the play itself written in a manner that harks back to the sixteenth century. Skilfully done; but I feel I am applauding the author for something that’s forced into the wider narrative of Locke Lamora; that the play is not in there because it adds much to the plot. ‘Self-indulgent’ would be an erroneous and harsh label for it. Mr Lynch is clearly erudite but it doesn’t quite ‘fit’ the story as a whole.
We oscillate between the coarse language and teenage irresponsibility of the Gentlemen Bastards in the Interludes and harshly brutal vernacular with ‘present-day’ political savviness. The latter is full of High Seas shenanigans, puerile tricks played between Sabetha and Locke to win the elections, and the insidious presence of the Bondsmagi…all of which leads to a denouement that’s tidily expected in the elections and startling in the epilogue. I was reading the last few chapters with a sense of “maybe I won’t rush to pick up the next one’ until Lynch delivers a cliffhanger that’s worth the price of the novel. I now want to know what’ll happen in ‘The Thorn of Emberlain’ – I just don’t want to wait another six years.
The only minor irritation with the Kindle version is the constant misspelling of ‘storey’, ‘vigourous’, ‘invigourating’, and, somewhat amusingly, the author in his note at the end refers to the series as the ‘Gentleman Bastard’. I am assuming it’s a case of publisher-to-kindle failures, not actual spelling errors in the paper versions.
The novel can be summed up by one of the characters…
“‘Words are dead until you give them a context,’ said Moncraine. ‘Until you put a character behind them, and give him a reason to speak them in a certain fashion.'”
Very true, Mr Lynch. Let’s see what reasons you give us to read the next installment.