Basically, this book is a fantasy version of Ocean’s Eleven without the large crew. Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen find themselves in Tal Verrar after the conclusion of The Lies of Locke Lamora. They have a plan to pull off a heist from the most secure gambling establishment in the world, first though they have to survive the manipulations of a dictator and the wraith of The Bondsmagi.
I enjoy these books, because Scott Lynch tries to expand beyond cliché. He can be successful for the most part and then slides into lazy writing, but it’s not the normal, bad fantasy writing. The world feels developed, though Lynch relies too much on pages of visual description, instead of incorporating the setting throughout the action and thoughts of the characters. Also, there is little attention to how things feel or smell. It’s more like an aerial video panning over the city, removed from the sounds of the street.
What I found disappointing with Red Seas under Red Skies was the many wasteful pages of Locke and Jean out at sea. There’s a reason for it, but it’s aggravating. How does one react when a character dies? If the reader is not heavily invested in the character, will the reader care? How does one create a relationship between the character and the reader that conveys enough depth to care? Lynch’s decision is to spend a couple hundred of pages showing the new character and an established character falling in love. However, it comes across as cheap. All of this time spent, just so the reader will have an emotional reaction when the character dies? With a greater depth of writing, Lynch could have created empathy and caring in the reader in just a few pages or sentences. Show us how the Jean feels? Describe his emotions. Don’t waste our time. We’re smarter than that. This isn’t Redshirts is it?
The novel’s closure is somewhat satisfying. Locke and Jean have a triumph, things unexpectedly go astray, and the reader is curious how the characters will fare in the next novel, which is much better than this one.
I’ll keep reading The Gentlemen Bastards franchise, but it’d be nice if the novels became a little less repetitive.