By Scott Lynch
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Shelves: Fantasy pnr everything untoward, Recipe for awesomesauce
“You curious men,” she said, “I offer you the answers to damn near anything, secrets thousands have people died trying to uncover, and you want to learn how we go about paying our bills.”
one word: shenanigans. my favorite.
i think i’ve settled into lynch’s formula for his book, or maybe he has. tRoT is, by far, the best book amongst the three, in terms of execution, pacing and characterization. while the basic outline is similar to the previous two, it reads like an improved effort on those two combined. it doesn’t have the halting conversation and overused italics of lies of locke lamora, nor does it contain the overbearing descriptions and general boring-ness in the latter half of red seas under red skies. inside the frame, it is entirely different, in terms of story.
while the previous story had been of a sad little boy who’s lost much, this one was like a celebration of all things locke lamora’s had. until that ending, obviously, but you shouldn’t worry about that just yet- there are 600+ pages.
the book starts simple enough, with locke and jean suffering from the corollaries of the previous book. locke’s poisoned and very much on his death bed, being a paragon of insufferability while jean’s literally run out of physikers. drop in the mage of mages, who promises a cure in exchange for them adhering to her peremptorily made demands to play in a political game with the aim to win elections. truly a game. the danger and threats, last ditch attempts and improvisations when plans fail, the plans sophisticated and molded in locke’s brains and jean’s hands- none of that.
the mage- patience- gives them the run down of what’s expected of them in this game in which she can’t directly interfere, but obviously she’s way too disingenuous for their peace of mind. and sabetha. she’s to their rival party what they’re to theirs. what follows is a mash-up of
shenanigans, drama, shenanigans, mishaps, coy looks, heartstrings, drama, shenanigans and mishaps.
the oh-so-clever plots we’ve come to expect are not there, but this simple one which ends up in a more insidious story andspoiler a prophecy. i certainly wasn’t expecting that because for all the magic in their world, the gentlemen bastards had always been more on the sidelines when it came down to it, preferring magic’s much widely used counterpart, alchemy. tRoT takes us all directly into the heart of magic, the home of mages for three hundred years, karthain.
here’s something scott lynch has always had a knack for: cultures. the cities and countries in his books are just geographical; their peoples are different, their histories and circumstances have shaped generations and he does show it to us.
i think the book is composed of episodes/anecdotes of fun. most of the time is spent in spotting sabetha’s fuckery with their plans, and charting their own ways to fuck her up. after some time, even that became old and at this point, the most sagacious yet will be asking for more sabetha/locke time. more more more! after two long books of teasers and hints, tRoT was a gratifying and almost nacreous novel.
in the middle of it all, lynch pauses and takes up with history. of sabetha and locke. his childish crush seemed anachronistic, but as we got to know more and more and more(way too less) of her, i liked her. i liked it when she was infuriatingly teenager-ish and i liked it when she bested locke. i liked their history. and that for however perfect she seems, she can be ignominious. also, the sanzas and chains come back, which i think is a witty plot device for lynch to use because it ensures that we don’t forget these characters. in fact, someone re-names himself “beefwit smallcock”. hell, you know you want to know the story behind that, if nothing else.
the conversation is now a downright art in lynch’s books and his characters become so elegant in their garrulity like a ballerina in the spotlight. same foes for cursing. books all around have claimed to have colorfully swearing characters but they always renege. with lynch, what he promises is what you get, as in
snot-nosed grand duke of insolence, a fist-fuck and a flaming oil bath
turnip-brained alley apes
these 600 pages have a story that doesn’t build up to anything, not an ingenious heist, unless you count sabetha and locke’s finally getting it on. the reveal at the end was disconnected from the story from our(locke and jean’s) perspective. i’m a bit miffed by it actually, as it promises an actual plot for the entire series, and might lose the ‘living in the moment’ theme we’ve going on in this book. traditional epic fantasy lovers may be in for a treat but i really, really hope something or the other stymies that, or lych does something to circumvent that stuff for the next two books, just until i’m bored of ‘living in the moment’.
in the face of tRoT, i may be stigmatizing the two previous books a bit too much, more than i’d have done to them independently. but frankly, dudes, this book. it deserves all kinds of plaudits i can think of and more. it was so enjoyable and i did not grow tired of a single sentence, which is a feat for me when reading a long and dense story as this.
thank you thank you thank you, folks over at del rey for giving me the ARC of the book!