My Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
Amazon Rating: 3.90 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 4.16 / 5.00
This book is the second volume in the Gentleman Bastards series: you can find my review of the first book, The Lies and Locke Lamora, here. There are spoilers for that book below. I read it as part of a Read Along.
At the end of the first book, we saw Locke Lamora and his faithful sidekick, Jean Tannen, floating off into the sunset after they barely survived their defeat of the Grey King. Deciding that they should leave Camorr for safer shores, we follow them to Tal Verrar where Locke develops an amazing plan to steal from the amazingly wealthy Requin, owner of the biggest gambling house on the islands that make up the city.
Requin’s vault is notoriously impossible to crack, plus getting to it is a suicide mission, because it is inside the Sunspire, a nine-story casino where the wealthiest people in the city come to flaunt their wealth. In order to rise up the floors one must develop a good line of credit and impress Requin and cheating is punishable by death: which places Locke and Jean at a bit of a disadvantage! However, this just makes the challenge even greater and they spend two years getting all their pieces in place so that they can execute their most audacious plan to date.
Unfortunately, just as they are about to become richer than their wildest dreams, an old adversary from Camorr surfaces and draws them to the attention of the Archon, leader of the Tal Verrar’s military. He decides to use such expert con men to begin a war with the local pirates in order to secure his own power over the city. In order to do this he doses Locke and Jean with a time-delayed poison and then sets them the task of learning how to captain a ship with the understanding that he will provide the antidote as long as they follow his orders. Finally, he sends them off with a crew drawn from a prison to find some pirates. As you can imagine, this does not go quite to plan and we see mutiny and much deck scrubbing before Locke can use his persuasive powers to fulfill his orders. Plus, he forgets to pack the obligatory cats, so they are all cursed with bad luck.
I absolutely loved The Lies of Locke Lamora, so it made perfect sense to join the Read Along of the second book in the series. In many ways this could be read as a stand alone book, because there is not a great deal of knowledge needed from the first one. On the whole, the references back to The Lies of Locke Lamora were not necessary to the story, but would make anyone familiar with it smile in recognition.
This time the ‘gang’ is much reduced, with only Locke and Jean surviving the war with the Grey King. The Prologue begins with the exquisite torture of a scene that has Jean betraying Locke when they are held at gunpoint. Mr Lynch places that doubt in your mind from the beginning and we spend a great deal of the book remembering that scene and second-guessing Jean’s motives. This adds to the tension that has developed between the two characters that are now somewhat uneasy in their relationship.
At first, Locke has basically given up on everything, drinking his life away and developing an incredibly ripe odor. In the meantime, Jean goes about the necessities of life, finding them somewhere safe and providing money for food and, more importantly to Locke, drink. However, he can only stand Locke’s self-pity for so long until he makes a stand and forces Locke to sober up and take responsibility for himself. In this sequence we see Jean come out from Locke’s shadow and become an equal partner in their team rather than just the brawn to Locke’s brain. He proves to be just as devious and persuasive as Locke, although he is much less reckless, and much, much more determined. He is the strong one of the pair, both physically and mentally, and yet he is tender and understanding of his friend’s grief. Jean is a great friend with intense loyalty, which makes that Prologue so difficult to forget.
What begins as another heist plot soon changes tack and becomes political espionage as our intrepid heroes are forced to work for the Archon, who knows their true identities thanks to the Bondsmagi. Being somewhat unforgiving in their outlook, the Bondsmagi want the pair dead because of their treatment of the Falconer in Camorr. They make their presence felt in a truly hair-raising scene, but then leave the Archon to do all of their dirty work. He doses our boys with a poison that will only become active if they do not take the antidote in time: sneaky! So, we are off a journey to find some pirates, who turn out to be surprisingly nice.
One of the great aspects of this book is the arrival of not one, but two, lady pirates. Captain Zamira is a woman with two small children on board and Ezri is her First Mate, who seems to like the look of Jean. As Grace points out at Books Without Any Pictures, we even have a lesbian captain and all the women are treated exactly the same as the men. We spend a lot of time with the pirates and their culture is well developed and very interesting, what with their paranoia about having cats on board and their unusual sense of honor and fair play. We have sea battles and a wonderfully evocative pirate town hidden in the depths of an island. It is all rather “Pirates of the Caribbean” and I kept expecting Johnny Depp to jump out at any moment, so if you like that genre you will enjoy these sections of the books.
But, of course, there is plenty of treachery, double-crossing and deception to keep us off-balance and wondering what is going on. Just when we think we understand who is behind what plot, everything changes and we are back to being clueless again. In this way we are kept dangling, like a fish on a line, until the very end of the book, which has yet another wonderful twist to make us anxious to read book three. However, it did seem like Mr Lynch over-egged the pudding somewhat: with only a few chapters to go it seemed impossible that he could resolve all the plot lines and it did seem a little rushed at that point. There was one section in particular that I really wanted more detail on because I really wanted to enjoy what happened to the people of Salon Corbeau near the end. Also, we are left with at least three unresolved plot points: one of which is absolutely crucial. I guess that Mr Lynch felt a little safer leaving these aspects until book three now that the first two books have been successful.
As Redhead raves at the Little Red Reviewer, there are a lot of good things in this book. The characterization is as excellent as ever, with wonderful dialogue and laugh-out-loud scenes. There is wonderful humor and a wonderful romance, that will have you crying into your rum.
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