Hi! My name is Anna, "You'd really like me if you got to know me. I've known me for years and I love me."
Word count: about 250 000 or something, just a rough estimate
Rating: Bouncing around like a unicorn on a pogo stick + why do you keep on hitting me in the face with a brick while I'm trying to have fun? = (yes, you've guessed it) MIND NUMBING CONCOCTION OF AWESOME AND HORRID.
I'm sorry, but there is no way to keep it brief.
First of all, it’s a long book. Yes, reading it undeniably takes a while, but I’ve very much enjoyed it in general. Don’t let the length discourage you from picking that one up! (There are bigger problems)
Most of the time I was like:
How is it constructed? The action flashes between events of the past, when Gentleman Bastards were children and current timeline. Usually that turns into a mess with one of the aspects a boring drudgery, a torturous parts you suffer only to get to the ‘good stuff’. You know what I’m talking about, right? Well, that is not the case here. I still can’t decide which story (the past or the present) I enjoyed more. Both were thoroughly entertaining, which is uncommon. (Yes, despite all my problems with it, I did have fun)
The bit concerning events of the past focuses on the time before Locke Lamora became a masterful, thieving mastermind. We get to see a boy of 6 or 7; see him get older and grow into his own skin. He wasn’t born perfect. We see him making mistakes, stumbling, being unreasonable or naïve. Locke Lamora the Wicked Mastermind (version in progress). We get to see Gentleman Bastards before they became a real brotherhood. And finally we learn a story of their first lone endeavour that cemented their bonds and made full use of the abilities instilled in them by Chains over the course of many years. It was an exciting ride.
The plot centred around the events of ‘now’? It did lack the big UMPH at the end, because the main story… isn’t the main story? I don’t even know how to say it. But the big current adventure of the book isn’t what it was all about. So that was to be expected. It’s more about characters (namely Sabetha and Locke) and their past vs. current relationship far more than the proverbial ‘big heist’ (ok, I know ‘big heists’ are not proverbial, but hey, you know what I mean). The goings on between Jean, Sabetha, and Lock; that’s what it was focused on. Not the ‘thieving action’. It’s good or bad depending how you look at it. Now, I love all the scheming in the dark, the pretend game, the risk, so it would be a big minus for me, even though I’m already emotionally invested in the characters, which means it kept me on the edge of my seat, hungry for every single word. (at least for a while)
THEY MAKE THOSE BOOKS!
I’ll start with a negative, to get it out of the way. One word. INFURIATING. She’s a one, stuck-up bitch. I didn’t like her. She’s annoying, selfish, jealous, thinks she should be the centre of the world. Her favourite past time seems to be dissecting; her own feelings, relationships with others, inner workings of Gentleman Bastards, you name it. She’ll dissect it and have issues with it. Always finding something to be angry about (preferably angry at Locke, because hey, nothing makes carrying on easier than misplaced blame!) She’s obsessed with the thought that Lock only wants her, only ever wanted her, for one reason only. She’s been making him run in circles around that issue for YEARS! He’s all meek and nice and apologetic while he should put his foot down and tell her to just fuck off.
So I don’t like Sabetha, yet she’s an enjoyable enough character. Reading about her and Lock was... kind of torture/ kind of fun. It showed him in a different light, and her… well, let’s just say she matters to the story (both stories, actually).
I love Locke Lamora. Here we get to see him as a real, multi dimensional person (less perfection does him good). He’s still a scheming genius, but also has fears, hang-ups, and insecurities. We read about a young Locke, the one that didn’t yet quite find himself and an older version that still needs someone (namely Jean) to shake him up from time to time. I’ve always had a thing for intelligent, devious minds, so he’s right up my alley.
Oh my, Jean is one of my favorite characters ever. His loyalty to Locke is staggering. They are a golden combo. He’s not just a sidekick that could disappear without any consequences (like Watson in Sherlock Holmes). Oh no, he is a voice of reason, a steady rock. He is the person that calls Lamora on his bullshit, that doesn’t let Locke wallow in self pity. They need each other. It could even be argued that Locke needs Jean more, than Jean needs Locke. I just love him.
The humour in those books? One of my favourite things in the whole wide world. Such creative, vulgar insults! I could spend the whole day quoting this book and that still wouldn’t be enough. I love the language. I hate all those Goody Two-Shoes authors that write stories about shining heroes. Stories, in which there is no murder, or theft, or violence, because god forbid our protagonist did something immoral! Here were faced with practicality. People die, people still, some are selfish assholes and there is no noble way of getting around them. That was one of things that impressed me in those books, and it’s still present here. One of the things redeeming that book, I'd say.
A fair warning – I don’t recommend reading The Republic of Thieves before getting through previous parts. You know that thing most series do? The one where you have all things previous explained? It’s not there. At all. I have no idea how it would read without that prior knowledge, but the way we got it is the way I prefer it.
What didn't work out in that book?
- if we were supposed to like Sabetha... She's Locke's obsession, but certainly not love. The word 'love' should never be used around those two. I believe many people would prefer a world in which she dies or doesn't exist at all. She has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Since both storylines were focused on Locke-Sabetha relations, it takes away from what made Gentleman Bastards series awesome. In the end I just really wanted to hit her. It was almost as if she lived to spoil a good thing (disclaimer: I don't need to like characters to enjoy reading about them, so I've survived. Just try looking at her as a curious piece of roadkill.) Self-obsessed queen bitch.
- Locke is NOT in love with Sabetha, he's obsessed. I got worried at the very beginning when he had a crush on her as a 5 year old, but I thought "It could work, right?" Well, it didn't (unless that was the point). It's fine for him to be obsessed, but there also comes a time to MOVE ON. She turns Lamora into stumbling, mumbling idiot. Remember kids, repetition without progress is death. He should either get better at handling her over the years or their love should be believable. It's neither.
-Main 'plot' (current timeline) gets neglected in favour of 'relationship stuff'. It's barely there and not very much in keeping with genius mastermind we're used to. The plot set in the past is better because there is more scheming (believe it or not) and they're just trying to find themselves. They're learning, and that makes it exciting. There is actually more going on in the recollection of the past than in the present (but I guess anything is better than NOTHING).
- What could be forgiven young Locke is not going to fly for a current version. It'd be much more interesting to see how their relationship changed, rather than how it remained the same.
The book is redeemed be language, humour, and Gentlemanly Bastardy (whatever little of it we get to see). The pieces of world-building were interesting (as always) but book fell short of what we all came for. I can't rate it lower, because despite all the problems I did enjoy some of it. For the writing alone, for all the jokes and quotes it deserves a biggest of high fives. What I loved was there, just not enough and overshadowed by Sabetha (Habetha - that's what I call her, in Polish it means an old, pitiful sorry excuse of a horse)
In the end Scott Lynch remains one of my favourite authors. I’ll await his next books impatiently. I do hope that The Republic of Thieves is just a prep for the next one and all those things mentioned above were intentional.
EDIT: All my criticizing may have made the message a little muddy. I liked the book. I did enjoy reading it. I did impatiently await every next move of characters. But I'm already emotionally invested into the story and characters. The book had some faults. That's all I'm saying. (Three stars means 'liked it' according to goodreads ratings. It's not negative.)