Archive for the lies of Locke Lamora

The Republic of Thieves [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , on May 4, 2014 by xi'an

At last! The third volume in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series has appeared!After several years of despairing ever seeing the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora and of Red Seas under Red Skies, The Republic of Thieves eventually appeared.  The author thus managed to get over his chronic depression to produce a book in par with the previous two volumes… Judging from the many reviews found on the Web, reception ranges from disappointed to ecstatic. I do think this volume is very good, if below the initial The Lies of Locke Lamora in terms of freshness and plot. There is consistency in terms of the series, some explanations are provided wrt earlier obscure points, new obscure points are created in preparation for the next volumes, and the main characters broaden and grow in depth and complexity. Mostly.

The book The Republic of Thieves is much more innovative than its predecessor from a purely literary viewpoint, with story told within story, with on top of this a constant feedback to the origins of the Gentlemen Bastards upper-scale thieves band. The inclusion of a real play which title is the same as the title of the book is a great idea, albeit not exactly new (from Cyrano de Bergerac to The Wheel of Time to The Name of the Wind), as it gives more coherence to the overall plot. The Gentlemen Bastards as depicted along those books are indeed primarily fabulous actors and they manage their heists mostly by clever acting, rather than force and violence. (Covers hence miss the point completely by using weapons and blood.) It thus makes sense that they had had training with an acting troop… Now, the weakest point in the book is the relationship between the two central characters, Locke Lamora and Sabetha Belacoros. This is rather unfortunate as there are a lot of moments and a lot of pages and a lot of dialogues centred on this relationship! Lynch seems unable to strike the right balance and Locke remains an awkward pre-teen whose apologies infuriate Sabetha at every corner… After the third occurence of this repeated duo, it gets quickly annoying. The couple only seems to grow up at the very end of the book. At last! Apart from this weakness, the plot is predictable at one level, which sounds like the primarily level… (spoiler?!) until a much deeper one is revealed, once again in the final pages of the book which, even more than in the previous ones, turn all perspectives upside-down and desperately beg for the next book to appear. Hopefully in less than six years…

X’mas bookreads

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2014 by xi'an

Even though I am beyond schedule at several levels of reality, I took some time off during the X’mas break to read a few of the books from my to-read pile. The first one was The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams. While I read two fantasy series by Williams, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and Shadowmarch, which major drawback was that they both were unnecessarily long, this short novel is a mix of urban fantasy and of detective story, except that the detective working for Heaven in our current universe and fighting the “Opposition”, i.e. Hell, at every moment. This may sound quite a weird setting, but I nonetheless enjoyed the plot, the characters and the witty dialogues (as in “a man big enough to have his own zip code”). There were some lengthy parts, inevitably, but the whole scheme was addictive enough that I read it within two days. Now, there is a second (and then a third) volume in the series that does not sound up to par, judging from the amazon reviews. But this first volume got a very positive review from Patrick Rothfuss and it can be read on its own.

The second book I read over the vacations in Chamonix is Olen Steinhauer’s An American spy. This is the third instalment in the stories of Milo Weaver, the never-truly-retired Tourist. The volume is more into tying loose ends from previous books than into creating a new compelling story, even though it plays on the disappearance of loved ones and on a maze of double- and triple-agents. The fact that the story is told from many perspectives does not help (it is as if Weaver is now a secondary character) and the conclusion is fairly anticlimactic. A bit of nitpicking: a couple of spies (Tourists) travel to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa, but there is no such thing as a Saudi tourist visa. Plus, the behaviour of the characters there is incompatible with the strict laws of Saudi Arabia.

A third book completed during those vacations is Gutted, by Tony Black. (I had actually bought this book in Warwick for my son’ British studies project but he did not look further than the backcover.) The book is taking place in Edinburgh, starting on Corstorphine Hill with a dog beating, and continuing in the seediest estates of Edinburgh where dog fights are parts of the shadow economy. The main character of the novel is the anti-hero Gus Drury, who is engaged so thoroughly in self-destruction that he would make John Rebus sound like a teetotaller! Gus is an ex-journalist who lost his job and wife to scoosh, running a pub with the help of two friends. Why he gets involved in an investigation remains unclear to me for the whole book: While Black has been hailed as a beacon for Celtic Noir, and while the style is gritty and enjoyable, I find the plot a wee bit shallow, with an uncomfortable number of coincidences. While finding this book was like discovering a long lost sibling of Rankin’s Rebus, with a pleasurable stroll through Edinburgh (!), I am far from certain I can contemplate reading the whole series

Lastly, I read (most of) Giant Thief, by David Tallerman. By bits. This may be the least convincing book in the list. The story is one of a thief who finds himself enrolled in an army he has no reason to support and steals an artefact which value he is unaware of when deserting, along with a giant. The pursuit drags on forever. There are many reasons I disliked the book: the plot is shallow, the main character is the ultimate cynic, with not enough depth to build upon. Definitely missing the sparkling charm of the Lies of Locke Lamorra.

Red seas under red skies

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by xi'an

The sequel to the [terrific] Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch has this somehow lame title, Red Seas Under Red Skies… I liked very much the first volume, despite it being a heist, and I was looking forward to the sequel. While it is not a complete disaster, it suffers from the comparison with the first book. (Some reviews disagree. This one with impressively detailed arguments!) The setting is both similar (two thieves busy stealing the most wealthy man in a city and building enemies in the process) and dissimilar (no unity of location as the main characters become pirates under constraint and make a sea trip to a pirate Hispaniola-like island). As in the Lies of Locke Lamora, the central characters are well-drawn and engaging if not always coherent (the dialogues are often completely off-key wrt dramatic situations). Life on a pirate ship is simply too civilised to be credible. More generally, the whole story is just too far from plausible and one could equip a whole pirate ship with the number of rigs required to suspend disbelief! One reason is the unnecessary intricacy of the story which involves at least three plots, each with several subplots. When everything unravels in the final pages, with double-acting agents being revealed and tricksters being tricked, it happens just too suddenly to be completely enjoyable. Nonetheless, a rather pleasant light read. From what I read on the author’s blog, there does not seem to be a chance for further volumes soon, although five more were planned in the Gentlemen Bastards series, since he suffers from severe depression… ’tis too bad, really, as he has the skill to construct (too) elaborate stories and to depict deep enough characters…