Archive for the republic of thieves

Gagner la guerre

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2020 by xi'an

Within a few sunny days of being consigned at home [by the “war” against the epidemics], I went through Jaworski’s Gagner la Guerre [To the victors go the spoils], which I had discovered in the list of the 101 favourite novels of Le Monde readers (or rather of whoever replied to the call since the survey was not restricted to Le Monde subscribers).  While I still have no clue how the book ended up at the 67th position in the list (!), next to Yourcenar’s fabulous L’Œuvre au Noir, I am still glad that this list pointed out the very existence of this book. Although not much more enlightened as to whom would include it in the “best novels ever”. (Warning: As the novel has not been translated from French into other languages, the review  below may be of limited appeal to most readers!)

A possible explanation for this paradox is that Jaworski is originally a creator of role-playing games and hence famous among some role-playing communities as well, who could have mobilized efficiently enough to bring him within the 101. The plot shows some influence of this role-playing expertise as the central character, a despicable, violent, sexist, xenophobic, rapist, murderous, anti-hero Benvenuto, moves from one danger to the next, while visiting the continent imagined by the author and meets characters from one fantasy race after the other: elves, dwarfs, near-orcs. Reminding me very much of the races in Warhammer, since fighting styles associated with each conveniently identified the different parts of the country. The home town of Benvenuto is a mix of Italian Renaissance state-cities, between Sienna and Venezia. Run by a Senate of rich families, fighting a Southern kingdom closely resembling the Ottoman empire, as in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of Earth and Sky. If in a much grittier style. It also reminded me of the fabulous Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, incl. Republic of Thieves. Sorcery is also involved here, whose role only appears progressively throughout the novel. Despite my usual annoyance at this choice, the writing style of the author, who also is a teacher of French literature in high school, always a first person narrative, ends up being a strength of the book, involving a rich multitude of language levels, from the vernacular to the antique, revealing as well a multitude of layers in Benvenuto (who finds himself anything but welcome from most places he visits!, including my living-room!!). None of them palatable however. To be perfectly clear, the book is an addictive page turner, despite an accumulation of details that sometimes delay the action, but which are nonetheless essential to make the book universe more substantial and complex. Highly recommended for French-speaking fans of grimdark pseudo-historical fantasy (over the legal age)!

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…

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