RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES by Scott Lynch — a Review

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA.

RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES is the second book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, and it picks up almost right were book one left off: with Locke on death’s doorstep, nursing his wounds, and Jean Tannen nursing Locke. After the dramatic ending to the first book, the men are alone, chastened, and on the run.

For all the comparisons made between THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and Ocean’s 11, RED SEAS actually does involve a casino heist. But that’s just one part of this many-layered plot. RED SEAS also involves poison and pirates as well as coups and counter-coups. And it will come down to Locke’s brains and Jean’s brawn to save the day (as well as their hides).

Like LIES, Lynch jumps around in time, using interludes to reveal elements of Locke’s character and to highlight Chekov’s gun on the mantle. And as in LIES, Locke and Jean are not the masters of their fate. But this time, it’s to a more significant degree. They are subject to the winds of fate (yes, that was a nautical pun, but more on that later). Villains galore attempt to use Locke and Jean as their pawns, much to their later regret and embarrassment. And RED SEAS involves more layers and lies than the previous volume.

Unfortunately, these layers do not align like the teeth of a gear. For example, at several points, Locke is using several false identities. While they are easy to keep track of, there were a couple of times when I wondered why Lynch used one false name instead of another–it didn’t seem to fit with the scene and the characters present. That distraction pulled me out of the scene. And whereas LIES was slow to start, I feel RED SEAS was quick to wrap up. Yes, I realize how unfair and Goldilocks-like my criticisms are. Just minor quibbles about pacing.

And minor quibbles they are, because once again, Lynch has done as masterful job of world creation and storytelling. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of research Lynch had to when it comes to mountain climbing, sailing, and pre-gunpowder piracy (with those details in mind, can you picture the set pieces?). And Lynch heaps troubles and harm and danger upon his protagonists like no one else I know.

And, at the heart of RED SEAS are those protagonists, Locke and Jean. Lifelong friends and brothers–they are close. And closeness can sometimes bring fights and stress and complications. But always, there is love. I think every reader will love Locke and Jean. I pulled for them, I rooted for them, and I smiled every time they conned or double-crossed someone. Long live the Gentlemen Bastards.

Quick, read this one before REPUBLIC OF THIEVES comes out. It’s exactly what you’d want from a sequel. More of the fun stuff, but plenty of new settings, new characters, and new troubles.

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