I recently finished up The Republic of Thieves and was debating for the longest time whether or not I should wait for Scott Lynch to release the next novel in his saga before publishing my own review.
After teetering back and forth, I figured why wait to review one of my favorite series of all time!
If you’re not familiar with how I conduct my series reviews, I typically just deliver the general gist of the series to give you an idea of whether or not this series might be to your liking. I refrain from analyzing specific plot details that would spoil the reading experience for you.
This series review is meant to be a preview trailer, not a plot summary.
In short, this series review DOES NOT contain any major spoilers for the plot of Scott Lynch’s novel series. Enjoy!
What is this series about?
This series is a fantasy series written by Scott Lynch and consists of three volumes thus far in the following order:
- The Lies of Locke Lamora (Book #1)
- Red Seas Under Red Skies (Book #2)
- The Republic of Thieves (Book #3)
Although this saga is not one of the most renowned fantasy series to date, I can say with certainty that it is deserving of more recognition given how breathtaking this series really is.
What reading genre is this series?
This series is considered to be a part of the fantasy genre.
How are the fantasy elements in this series?
For all the fantasy book fanatics out there, I admit that this is not the archetypical sort of fantasy series that you are used to.
It does not contain the superlative, epic fantasy style setting compared to that of a Westeros, but vast world building was not meant to be the staple of this series.
What separates Lynch’s saga from other series in the fantasy genre is not the world building, but the exquisite, first-rate characterization.
Who exactly is being characterized?
The dynamic duo of Jean and Locke!
This pair of delinquents is written in a way that perfectly conveys their charismatic, larger than life personalities.
What makes these characters so compelling is the fact that these “protagonists” are not really protagonists at all.
These men are criminals. Thugs. Crooks.
They are devoted members to a close-knit band of thieves known as the Gentleman Bastards, attempting to make a name for themselves in a nefarious world where underground gangs reign supreme.
If Jean and Locke are bad men, why should I like them?
Although Jean and Locke are bad men without a doubt, they are made out to be the lesser of two evils.
Lynch frames their lawbreaking activity in a way that the reader automatically perceives their crimes as boyish charm rather than cruel, heartless theft.
It is nearly impossible to realistically chart where these characters lie ethically from one moment to the next. The constant battle of virtue versus vice taking place within these men kept me on the edge of my seat every step of the way.
What makes this series different from other fantasy series?
The concept behind this storyline of high stakes heists with a sliver of chilling magic is unlike anything I have encountered in fantasy literature.
This contains everything that a fantasy book fanatic could ask for. From friendship to humor… romance to betrayal… this novel has it all.
The episodic nature of the series also caught my eye. Each volume had a somewhat contrasting theme from the previous novel, yet the trademark ambience of the saga remained in spite of this.
How is the pace of this series?
The stories are paced marvelously. Each novel incorporates flashbacks in a manner that does not noticeably detract from the overall plotline.
Being that the narrative is paced so smoothly, these novels are relatively quick reads even though they are anywhere from five hundred to six hundred pages. These paperbacks are just long enough to not be overly dreary and still give us sufficient time to venture with our favorite duo.
How long does it take to read through this series?
The novels of this series are a bit lengthy, but not too bad overall.
The Lies of Locke Lamora has a total page count of 544 pages. From start to finish, it takes about 12 and a half hours to read.
Red Seas Under Red Skies logs in at 760 pages total, taking about 15 hours to complete for the average reader.
The Republic of Thieves is 704 pages total. For the average reader, it takes about 13 and a half hours to complete.
After crunching the numbers, it takes approximately 41 hours to read through the entire series.
If we are strictly concerning ourselves with page length only, this series falls slightly above the middle tier range of length relative to other fantasy series.
In other words, this is not the quickest fantasy series to read through, but it is also not the slowest. All in all, the length of these novels should not be a major factor in determining whether this series is for you.
What are the predominant themes in this series?
A prevailing theme in throughout this series is friendship.
Each member of this dynamic crew had nothing before finding each other. On their own, they were abandoned misfits just looking to ensure their survival for another day. When these individuals banded together, however, they became something else entirely.
The story’s developments emphasize that close friendships give an individual purpose and a fierce desire to strive for more.
Without close relationships, it is easy to lose yourself in the hardships of life. There was certainly no shortage of hardships in the lives of the characters. Nonetheless, they found solace within each other, sharing the burden together.
The theme of friendship is a cornerstone of this novel and is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this series so much, especially in The Lies of Locke Lamora.
A second major theme in this series is the negative impact of greed.
The whole mantra of this fictional crew is to steal for themselves and pile their riches sky high. They are never satisfies with what they have.
This dynamic band of personalities is always looking for the next opportunity to pull off a big heist. This puts the crew into some sticky situations that can jeopardize everything that they have ever accomplished.
Sometimes they manage to skirt away from the consequences of their actions. Other times, these characters are not so lucky. The unpredictable nature of the this theme keeps the reader intrigued throughout.
It is not my place to reveal if the greed of the crew catches up to them. Ultimately, that is for you to find out.
What sort of emotions would you feel while reading this series?
In my personal reading experience, I felt the whole emotional spectra with Scott Lynch’s work.
Learning about the unfortunate upbringings of the story’s crew was depressing to say the least. Hearing about their early hardships definitely brought me down a bit.
Feeling this empathy toward the characters made me realize something significant. It made me realize that I actually cared about these characters.
The eventual happy moments that came made me forget all about these sad moments. I reveled in hearing about the gang recount a memory of them pulling off some heist to perfection. Reading the sarcastic banter between protagonists had me actually laughing out loud!
These happy moments are what distinguished this series in my mind. Not all of the happy moments were even meant to be big breakthroughs to the reader. Most of my favorite moments of happiness were just the snippets of banter between characters.
The attention to detail is what really compelled me to emotionally invest in this series. These seemingly petty details are what made these characters so easy to relate to on an emotional level. Most other series I have read in the past sorely lack in this department.
Would you recommend this series to kids?
I would not and here’s why.
The language of the series is certainly not child-proof.
What I mean by this is the language of this series is crude. I mean given the title of the series, you can probably could have guessed this.
Some of the jibes between the characters do involve cussing on a rather large scale. So if you are looking for a fantasy series that is suitable for children, I would explore other options.
Which of the novels in this series is the best?
In terms of individual novels, The Lies of Locke Lamora was the crowning achievement of the trio.
Even the highly acclaimed author of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin, went so far as to say that The Lies of Locke Lamora was “Fresh, original, and engrossing… Gorgeously realized.” The Lies of Locke Lamora has cemented itself as one of my favorite works of fantasy of all time.
Whenever someone asks for a list of my personal fantasy novel recommendations, The Lies of Locke Lamora always finds its way to the peak of the lineup.
Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves are no shams either, however, they do not touch the impeccable status of their inaugural counterpart.
The Gentleman Bastard Series Review Recap
In conclusion, I consider Scott Lynch’s work to be first-class. The debut novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is an absolute must read.
The following two novels, Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves, are quite the spectacular ride, especially when you have the fantasy duo of Jean and Locke manning the helm.
If you are currently in a rut looking for your next fantasy series, l advise you to give this series a shot! You can buy the 3-book set here at Amazon. It won’t disappoint.
To see how this series stacks up against some other reading sagas I’ve reviewed, click over to My Top Reading Sagas.
“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”
“Someday, Locke Lamora,” he said, “someday, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”
“Oh please,” said Locke. “It’ll never happen.”
“When you can’t cheat the game, you’d best find a means to cheat the players.”
“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.”
“Stand aside, and try not to catch fire if I shed sparks of genius.”
“I don’t expect life to make sense,” he said after a few moments, “but it could certainly be pleasant if it would stop kicking us in the balls.”
The Lies of Locke Lamora
BACK OF BOOK BLURB
An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.
Red Seas Under Red Skies
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.…
The Republic of Thieves
BACK OF THE BOOK BLURB
With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.
Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.
Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.