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Fiction Reviews

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Red Seas Under Red Skies (2007), Scott Lynch, Gollancz, 18.99, hrdbk, 608pp. ISBN 978-0-575-0-7695-2


This is the sequel to the Lies of Locke Lamora and picks up from where it left off. So we join Locke and his companion, Jean Tannen, fleeing Camorr with little more than their teamwork and wits as assets before arriving in a new land, Tal Verrar. Things do not start off too promisingly as Jean ends up tending to both his and Locke's needs as they start afresh - Locke is finding his recovery after a near fatal encounter in Camorr hard to get over until Jean takes him to task.

From there, the pair struggle to get back on their feet and find themselves looking for a fitting target for their next venture - a lavish gambling house by the name of the Sinspire boasting rich patrons and a secure vault to boot. However, before they are able to put their plan in motion, a distraction comes their way that leads to them undertaking an entirely different venture as they set sail on the high seas - in some ways an even greater challenge than the Sinspire as they start off with absolutely no knowledge of the sea or ocean going vessels.

As I mentioned in my review of the first book, I very much enjoyed the first offering and keenly awaited the release of this next. The change of scenery and slow start causes the overall story to lose its momentum but this is soon built up by the events that unfold. The characters of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen are, once again, portrayed as flawed characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and these are played on well throughout the book but with their friendship playing an integral part in the unfolding tale. This is put to the test on many an occasion and even used against them but ultimately proven to be an asset when it seems as though all is lost.

Once again, Scott Lynch has utilised flashbacks to add tension to the story and set the scene for his characters in a new land. This works effectively in not only allowing the reader to visualise the land, culture and characters, but also providing a means of all these elements' development. It is Jean's character that comes to the fore in several incidents. I will not give too much away but it is interesting to see different sides of his personality revealed. There are a satisfying number of plot twists throughout the novel - some being predictable and others surprising the reader as they go along. I was unsure of how well Locke and Jean's antics would transfer from their day job of pulling off all manner of heists on land to their ending up on the high seas, however the author has utilised his characters' unfamiliarity with the ocean, coupled with a dilemma they find themselves in, in an entertaining and interesting fashion. Not everything goes their way and they are forced to resort to quick thinking and past experience to get out of some seemingly inescapable situations.

I was impressed with the various and varied background characters: the couple running the Sinspire and their past history stand out in my mind, as does the captain of the ship Jean and Locke find themselves on. Once again, there is a fantasy and sorcery element in the mix, but this is not overplayed though it decidedly adds to the ensemble the author constructs.

I would imagine you could enjoy this book without having read the Lies of Locke Lamora but would advise against it as the pasts of both Locke and Jean are worked into this sequel in a reasonably integral way.. This is the second in the Gentlemen Bastards sequence, and the reader is left on a cliff-hanger and anticipating the next novel. I for one can't wait...

Susan Griffiths

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