Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard #2) by Scott Lynch
Published in 2007 by Gollanz.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: high fantasy.

My rating:

Thief and con-man extraordinaire, Locke Lamora, and the ever lethal Jean Tannen have fled their home city and the wreckage of their lives. But they can’t run forever and when they stop they decide to head for the richest, and most difficult, target on the horizon. The city state of Tal Verarr. And the Sinspire.

The Sinspire is the ultimate gambling house. No-one has stolen so much as a single coin from it and lived. It’s the sort of challenge Locke simply can’t resist … but Locke’s perfect crime is going to have to wait.

Someone else in Tal Verarr wants the Gentleman Bastards’ expertise and is quite prepared to kill them to get it. Before long, Locke and Jean find themselves engaged in piracy. Fine work for thieves who don’t know one end of a galley from another.

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This is the review for the second book in the series, so it will UNDOUBTEDLY contain SERIOUS spoilers for book one. If you haven’t read The Lies of Locke Lamora yet, you can check out my review here! This is a part of the Bastard read-along, which is taking us way more time than is seemly (mostly because it took me four months to finish re-reading this book!). I strongly urge you to go check out DJ’s review – he’s the other side of this adventure, reading the books for the first time (unlike me), so he’s bound to have a different perspective!

The first half of this re-read was really slow for me. I had other interesting books to read and I remembered just enough of the story to be disinterested – I think that if I’d forgotten more of it, it would have been better. I’m not sure whether this was my second or third time reading the book – did I re-read it before I read The Republic of Thieves? Who knows. Goodreads still doesn’t have a “currently re-reading” option, which is a pity, because I re-read a lot.

I found the lack of other Gentleman Bastards to be a serious flaw of this first half of the book. I love Locke, I really do (he’s one of my all-time favourite characters), and Jean is a fantastic sidekick, but Calo, Galdo, and Bug offered comic relief, filled in the dialogue, made everything better, in short. So I was really glad when the second half of the story – the pirate part! – began, as Locke and Jean finally got a crew, even though it was vastly different from what they were used to.

I have to say this: knowing that I’ll probably be translating this book at some point, I was horrified by the amount of nautical lingo in the story. I saw Lynch’s note at the end, saying he bluffed through half of it, so I suppose I’ll have to do the same and not worry too much, but I’m already planning on kidnapping someone with nautical knowledge and keeping them captive until they explain all the sea stuff to me. Because I know nothing about ships. I get seasick, people.

Locke’s schemes are as elaborate as ever but I liked that there was always something to take him down a notch (like being poisoned, huh), he can be a cocky bastard. Jean’s development in this second book is also great, he’s no longer content to just follow Locke blindly around. Oh, I wish him well, he’s such a marshmallow, my heart broke for him. *sob*

The ladies of Red Seas were a breath of fresh air compared to The Lies, which only had one female character (I think Nazca was the only one? Okay, there were the Berangias sisters, but still.). Captain Zamira Drakasha and Lieutenant Ezri Delmastro were fantastic. PIRATES! Lady pirates! Lady pirates with small kids! I do hope we get to see The Poison Orchid again at some point in the series.

The story ends with a bang, that’s for sure, and though I know what’s coming next, I’m excited to read The Republic of Thieves, which I have definitely only read once. DJ and I will be reading it during the summer, I think, and posting our reviews sometime before The Thorn of Emberlain is published on September 22. Though when exactly that will be, I can’t say for sure: DJ is starting med school during the summer and my baby is due on August 25. :D Lots of things happening!

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Have you read Red Seas under Red Skies? What did you think?

Do you like stories about outlaws like pirates and thieves? Why do you think such morally ambiguous characters are so appealing?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • Greg Hill

    Con men as pirates? And lady pirates too! Sounds like fun… I haven’t read these due to the size and I wasn’t sure if the whole con men/ heist thing would appeal to me, but I have to admit I’m curious. The worldbuilding looks great. I may one of these days…

    • YES! Pirates! Lady pirates! :) It’s a great series. I mean, it’s not finished yet (it’s supposed to have 7 parts and the 4th is only being published in September) but what I’ve seen so far is beautiful. And funny. If you need something to tide you over while you wait for GRRM to get his game on, you could give this one a try!

  • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I can imagine the nautical terms would be a nightmare to translate! I know very little about ships, just the basic stuff. The kidnap-scenario seems legit, I think you should look into that more :D

    Calo, Galdo and Bug definitely are comic relief, and they make the story feel a tad less dramatic and serious so I felt their absence heavily when I first read this.

    Great review! :)

    • I am clueless about ships. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Luckily, we do have schools for sailing and such, so I suppose we must have the terminology that goes with it. But it’ll be a long process, I’m sure.

      Yeah, the tone of this one is more serious at first, it’s clear that the grieving process influenced Locke and Jean a lot. As is right, probably – I would have been disappointed if they just bounced back to their usual selves after all their friends were murdered.

  • Oh man, I hadn’t even thought about you having to translate the nautical words XD XD Sorry XD

    We both had many of the same opinions on this one: lack of Gentlemen bastards was a major flaw; like Locke’s scheme and book’s elaborate plot; and Ezri and Jean ;)

    The difference with me was that I actually liked the start of the book. It still really really sucked missing out on the other BG, but I loved seeing Locke lay down the his plot for the Sinspire, and the flashbacks with him and Jean right after they left Camorr (I wish those interlude chapter has stayed all they way thought like in Lies). But when I started to lose interested was int the middle; the transition period between the casino and pirate plot. I just didn’t like the story knew where it was going? But once we got to see Locke as a boat captain (the cat XD ) and then Ezri and Zamira… I was glued again!

    And yes the ending…! I was kind of expecting it, but I’m still not sure if IT (being what happened to them) is a truth or lie?!?! Neither of them have had any symptoms, so….? I really hope it’s a bluff.

    • Yep, I’ll definitely be having fun with the ships. :) I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge but also terrified. :p

      Ha, yeah, I can see how the transition between the first and the second part would make you lose some of the interest. But the Orchids definitely made up for that! :)

      Ah, you’ll have to read The Republic soon, then! :) And find out what happens. DUN DUN DUN!

  • I think I agree with you 100% about this book. The first section drags a bit – I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why but I think you likely nailed it. Also Locke is being a bit of an asshat. That does leave room for Jean to really step up (and I completely fell in love with him this book) and starting in the second bit the story and everything really takes off! And yes, so glad for more ladies and really awesome ones at that. So. Well reviewed all around! I salute you!

    • Yep, Jean’s development in this part was really great. And I get that Locke is being an asshat – I mean, they’re both grieving, so it makes sense the mood of the book will be more sober. Locke has realized for the first time in his life that he is NOT, in fact, cleverer than everyone else. :)

      Thanks. ;) Have you read The Republic of Thieves, too? I’m kind of anxious to dig into it again because I know I loved it but don’t remember enough to remember WHY. :) But I really want to reread it before I start The Thorn of Emberlain when it comes out in September.