Book Review

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Red Seas Under Red Skies

  • Author: Scott Lynch
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: June 21, 2007
  • Publisher: Del Rey
  • Series: Gentleman Bastard #2

CONTENT WARNING: murder, blood, violence, gore, torture, mention of animal abuse, mention of rape

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke Lamora and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can’t rest for long—and they are soon back doing what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele – and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior…and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house’s cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors…straight to Requin’s teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb – until they are closer to the spoils than ever.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo’s secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough.

You know those books that are just so well-crafted with memorable characters that manage to stick with you and kind of live in your head rent-free, having you wonder about them? That’s this series. And no matter what I was expecting from this follow up to The Lies of Locke Lamora, this absolutely blew my mind.

It picks up on Locke and Jean after they’ve left Camorr, and they manage to get themselves mixed up in one fiasco after another, as usual. Except in this book, the stakes are even higher, and their enemies seem to have multiplied. Their cons have become even more involved, and for much of the story, they wind up on a ship. Yes, our land-loving con artists find themselves relegated to the high seas. 

Lynch brings his characteristic descriptive storytelling style to this new setting, giving us just enough information about their plans to keep us mildly informed yet still in the dark about what is actually going on. At the same time, everyone was constantly double crossing everyone at the same time. No one ever felt trustworthy at any point, except Locke and Jean, who despite the fact that they literally live their lives based on lies, also live by a strict code of their own ethics. They are the absolute definition of morally gray characters. But they’re really struggling a lot in this story:

“‘Have we ever been in less control of our lives than we are at this moment? … Tal Verrar’s entire economy is now based on fucking with us.’”

It took me much longer to read this book than it normally would. Partially because I love how Lynch puts his stories together, partially because there’s so much detail put into the devious plans of our Gentleman Bastards, and partially because I just wanted to savor the story. However, the story isn’t slow-paced, and as usual, it’s full of action and intrigue, and we get to meet a whole bunch of new characters, some new allies and a few new enemies. I love seeing the relationship between Jean and Locke grow and change, and how their friendship adapts to the presence of different people. 

I’m curious to see where the rest of this series goes, and I’m definitely on the edge of my seat to get the next book in the series, although it’s going to have to wait for a little, until I get my massive to-read shelf under control a bit. If I don’t, my NetGalley ratio is going to suffer and I’m pretty sure the library police are going to come after me.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 16

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