Red Seas Under Red Skies (Book #2) is the second fantasy book in the Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch.
After the immensely satisfying novel debut of Lies of Locke Lamora, I felt an intrinsic obligation to carry on with these thieves with this fantasy novel.
If you have not read my previous fantasy book review on Lies of Locke Lamora, I highly recommend you check it out before continuing with this article. Without further ado, here’s my book review!
If you’re not familiar with how I conduct my book reviews, I typically just deliver the general gist of the book to give you an idea of whether or not this novel might be to your liking. I refrain from analyzing specific plot details that would spoil the reading experience for you.
This Red Seas Under Red Skies review is meant to be a preview trailer, not a plot summary. I only include spoilers for previous novels if the novel is a sequential installment in a series.
In this case, Red Seas Under Red Skies is book two of the Gentleman Bastards series, so if you haven’t read any of the prior books… beware!
In short, this Red Seas Under Red Skies review DOES NOT contain any major spoilers for the plot of Red Seas Under Red Skies. Enjoy!
What reading genre is Red Seas Under Red Skies?
Red Seas Under Red Skies is considered to be a part of the fantasy fiction genre.
Where does Red Seas Under Red Skies fit into the timeline of The Lies of Locke Lamora?
Red Seas Under Red Skies takes place several years after the dust had settled on the final events of Lies of Locke Lamora.
There are flashbacks that fill in the gaps leading up from a few months after the time of Lies of Locke Lamora to their current predicament.
How is the plot structure of Red Seas Under Red Skies?
The storyline does build on the events of the previous book somewhat. However, the plot revolves around an altogether different heist that is utterly distinct from that of the first book.
Once again, Jean and Locke wholeheartedly believe they have a bulletproof scheme to pave their way to riches. To their dismay, their adversaries have other ideas.
In signature fashion, some wrenches are thrown in the plan. Thus, these seasoned thieves are forced to do what they do best: improvise!
How is the world building in Red Seas Under Red Skies?
The manner by which Scott Lynch constructs the world of Red Seas Under Red Skies is masterful.
Nearly every scene I was fully able to sketch out exactly what was happening in my mind. This was because the ambience descriptions were so graphically calculated.
I must mention there was a considerable amount of seafaring vernacular incorporated into the story. This was done to provide some authenticity to the pirate sailor scenes. Although I understood the intent, its inclusion felt a tad unnatural and overbearing at times.
Other than this overuse of nautical slang, I had no qualms with the superb writing of Lynch. His descriptions always made me picture a sharply transparent world that felt almost Italian Renaissance-esque… just with a splash of pirates!
What was the strongest aspect of Red Seas Under Red Skies?
The framework of the world was astoundingly good. Yet, the facet of this novel that stood out the most in my mind was the characterization of Jean and Locke.
Jean is the big and brutish type, typically making him the muscle of the theft operations. Yet, Jean also has a tame, gentle side to him that makes him so easily likable.
Locke, on the other hand, does not have the physical prowess of Jean. Though, he does possess something equally, if not more, valuable.
Locke is smart. Like brilliantly smart. He is capable of concocting intricate plans in the blink of an eye that help him and his compatriot Jean repeatedly escape sticky situations. Any other normal person would crumple under the pressure. Luckily, Locke is not your average guy.
Together, Jean and Locke comprise one of my favorite duos in the fantasy game. Needless to say, it was an absolute pleasure of a ride to follow these two in their sequel.
What distinguishes Red Seas Under Red Skies from the rest of the novels in the series?
I mentioned that there were pirate sailor scenes while describing the world building aspect of Red Seas Under Red Skies. If you have already read through The Lies of Locke Lamora in its entirety, you will know that there was no inclusion of pirates in that story.
Thus, the element of pirates is the thing in my mind that distinguishes Red Seas Under Red Skies from the rest of the novels in the series.
These sailor scenes are a completely new and original inclusion in this fantasy series. After reading The Lies of Locke Lamora for the first time, I assumed the sequel would be the same sort of setting. I was greatly mistaken.
Although Jean and Locke once again take on a heist, they instead take to the seas in the pursuit of riches. I applaud Scott Lynch for taking this massive risk and quite literally making his protagonists dive into unfamiliar waters.
It is a refreshing change that spices up the novel and adds another dynamic element to the series. It makes the novel stand out as opposed to simply retelling the same story with a bit of variation.
Although I must admit the inclusion of the maritime setting did have its drawbacks. For details, read below.
What was the weakest aspect of Red Seas Under Red Skies?
Although the plot was entertaining to the casual reader, I felt that Scott Lynch leaned too much on the maritime setting to be the biggest draw of Red Seas Under Red Skies.
Rather than focusing his efforts toward the central heist of the novel, Lynch strayed away to emphasize the nautical setting. The atmosphere of the series still remained, but it was a shadow of what it was in The Lies of Locke Lamora.
In The Lies of Locke Lamora, the main attractions were danger of the heists and the cunning strategies of Locke. With Red Seas Under Red Skies, these former staples of the series were not as prominent.
I suppose with any major story shift, there are bound to be literary sacrifices. I may just be a greedy reader wanting it all, but I would be cheating you if I did not include these thoughts. I guess I just wanted all of the pieces to fit perfectly together like they did in The Lies of Locke Lamora.
All in all, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a tough act to follow. For all the weaknesses of Red Seas Under Skies, it is still a solid read.
What are the predominant themes in Red Seas Under Red Skies?
A major theme in Red Seas Under Red Skies is love and sacrifice.
In Red Seas Under Red Skies, the relationship between Jean and Locke is tested. There are some low points in their relationship. This is because each character has a hard time balancing their own personal wants with the desires of their counterpart.
With a loving friendship comes sacrifice from both parties. At certain point throughout the novel, Jean and Locke are unwilling to sacrifice for each other. This ultimately leads to friction in their friendship, complicating their quest for immeasurable riches.
Whether they will admit it or not, Jean and Locke need each other if they are to stand a chance at conquering their enemies and attaining the treasure trove. For this reason, Jean and Locke redefine the lines of their relationship.
They identify their foremost priorities and communicate them between each other. This explicit communication clears the air between the two. It helps them to find the delicate balance between what is best for themselves and what is best for their partner.
The conflicts surrounding love and sacrifice are a great addition to the novel. It complicates many scenarios and creates intrigue to compel the reader to keep reading.
Another major theme in Red Seas Under Red Skies is the negative impact of greed.
This theme is a staple of the series. Greed is the entire mantra behind Jean and Locke. It drives them to do the absurd, even when it may entail risking everything.
Once again, Jean and Locke are pursuing an elusive treasure that will set them up for the rest of their life. Per usual, there are some unforeseen obstacles that stand in the way of their prize.
Rather than abandoning their mission when the going gets tough, Jean and Locke thrust forward with even more vigor and aggression than before.
This momentum pushes them past the point of no return. As a result, Jean and Locke find their lives hanging in the balance with their prized riches laying just out of their reach.
Will their greed come back to bite them? Or will they escape unscathed in typical stylistic fashion? Discover for yourself by reading Red Seas Under Red Skies!
Is Red Seas Under Red Skies suitable for children?
Once again, I would not condone recommending this novel to your children simply because of the use of crude language.
It was not the aim of Scott Lynch to market his books to the youth. These novels are meant for a mature audience.
If you are looking to recommend a fantasy novel to a child, I would look beyond this series on to something else.
What sort of emotions did Red Seas Under Red Skies invoke while you were reading?
Red Seas Under Red Skies certainly invoked a sense of adventure. This novel switched up the scene and took to the seas, which was a drastically different setting from the previous novels.
This edition of the series definitely had more of a pirate feel to it more than anything else.
I absolutely adore stories based around a pirate setting. For this reason, I was genuinely excited while I was reading through the pirate lore in Red Seas Under Red Skies.
Lynch made a sincere effort to encapsulate the reader into the maritime ambience, supported by his frequent use of nautical jargon.
However, I must admit that the nautical jargon did annoy me a couple times.
This feeling of annoyance was especially magnified when the dialogue repeated the same seafaring terms over and over. When these occasions came up, I was just waiting for the section to be over to be quite honest.
Although these feelings of irritation were few and far in between. For the most part Red Seas Under Red Skies was a smooth, pleasant ride. Consequently, I felt feelings of pleasure the most compared to any other emotion.
Red Seas Under Red Skies Review Recap
If you enjoy the perils of the pirate life and the uncertainty of daring heists, this novel might be right your alley!
To join this duo in Red Seas Under Red Skies, get a physical or audible copy at Amazon here.
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“When you can’t cheat the game, you’d best find a means to cheat the players.”
“You are beyond mad,” said Locke after several moments of silent, furious thought. “Full-on barking madness is a state of rational bliss to which you may not aspire. Men living in gutters and drinking their own piss would shun your company. You are a prancing lunatic.”
“Worst of all, the inner vault is guarded by a live dragon, attended by fifty naked women armed with poisoned spears, each of them sworn to die in Requin’s service. All redheads.
-You’re just making that up, Jean.”
“Only one way to win when you’re being chased by someone bigger and tougher than you. Turn straight around, punch their teeth out, and hope the gods are fond of you.”
“Crooked Warden, I will fear no darkness for the night is yours,” muttered Locke, pointing the first two fingers of his left hand into the darkness. The Dagger of the Thirteenth, a thief’s gesture against evil. “Your night is my cloak, my shield, my escape from those who hunt to feed the noose. I will fear no evil, for you have made the night my friend.”
Red Seas Under Red Skies Review Rating: 7/10!
Back of the Book Blurb
In his highly acclaimed debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch took us on an adrenaline-fueled adventure with a band of daring thieves led by con artist extraordinaire Locke Lamora. Now Lynch brings back his outrageous hero for a caper so death-defying, nothing short of a miracle will pull it off.
After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke 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 are soon back to 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.…