30 September 2013

The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch

The BlurbHaving pulled off the greatest heist of their career, Locke and his trusted partner in thievery, Jean, have escaped with a tidy fortune. But Locke's body is paying the price. Poisoned by an enemy from his past, he is slowly dying. And no physiker or alchemist can help him. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmagi 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 Bondsmagi's mention of a woman from Locke's past . . . Sabetha. 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.

Some slight spoilers will be present in this review, but mostly of book two of the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies. I tried to avoid it as much as possible.

This is the long awaited third installment in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. The cover is stunning, really a stand out and a nice spin on the hooded men that does not seem to want to go away. It looks like a painting and I'd gladly hang a print in my house, and you can't say that about too many covers.

I love Lynch. His prose, style, pacing and worldbuilding. The first book in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, sits in my top three favourite book I've read in my life. I'll try to keep my inner fanboy out of the way as much as possible.

When we left Locke and Jean at the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies, Locke just drank some nasty poison to save his friend from doing the exact same thing. We meet up with them where Locke is suffering the effects of his selfless act and Jean is busy buying, pleading, threatening and kidnapping anybody who has the slightest chance of helping Locke. The feeling is pretty grim, with Locke dying by inches. Then Patience - a bondmagi - show up and makes them an offer that's impossible to refuse.

As all Gentleman Bastard fans know, the magic users in Mr. Lynch's world formed their own city, Karthain, and they are quite apart from the world in general. If someone has enough money they can hire a bondsmagi for certain tasks and they are mistrusted and feared by most of the common people. And hated by Locke and Jean. Hey, they have some solid reasons.

Patience convinces them that she can help Locke, but for a price of course. The elections of Karthain are imminent and the factions inside the magi choose outsiders to run the election campaigns, for fun of course. If you were close to all powerful you'd also do weird crap to keep yourself amused wouldn't you? The big drawcard for Locke is that Sabetha, his Gentleman Bastard accomplice and the love of his life, has been contracted by the other magi-faction.

Throughout the previous two books we've read of the impact that Sabetha had on Locke in his youth, and I've been interested in her since the first few hints was dropped. Of course Locke accepts the offer for help and the price he has to pay.

What follows is a romp throughout Karthain. There are some rules that the elections has to follow, but not as many as you would think. Sabotage, bribery and all round hilarity ensues and makes the story a hoot to read.

Mr. Lynch uses flashbacks quite well and a lot in this book, fleshing out the back story between Locke and Sabetha in the process. We also get to read quite a bit about the Sansa twins which is bittersweet, seeing as they were murdered in Lies, and their interactions with each other is damn well done. We discover quite a lot about Locke and his origins which I really appreciated and did not really expect.

The pacing in the flashbacks is quite different and slower than the main storyline, so it almost feels like it's there to take a breath between all the action. I did not mind this, as it helped separate the two timelines well.

The interaction between Locke and Sabetha is brilliant. When they are matching wits it's magical, seeing as she is just as smart as Locke and makes him stumble quite a few times. When they are alone and Locke's insecurity and love for her comes to the fore it made for some touching reading.

We also discover why the Bondsmagi exist as they do, and the explanation is damn brilliant and I never saw it coming. In a few lines Mr Lynch manages to give reasons that makes sense and it fleshes the world out nicely for the following books. 

There were quite a few twists in this book that was done well enough to catch me off guard, and that made this book damn good. Whatever you think will happen, doesn't. I got the feeling during the book that this is Mr. Lynch enjoying himself, a master storyteller delivering his tale with flourish and style. It was a real fun book.

Will it stick in my head as the first one in the series managed to? I don't think so. There are passages that stand out and really touched me, especially between Locke and Jean, but as a whole it was good, not memorable. If you like Locke and the Gentleman Bastards, read this book. You'll love it.


25 September 2013

Some changes on the horizon

I've been in a bit of a reviewing slump these last few weeks and did not really know why, until I saw this on Twitter:

This could just have been a throwaway comment from Mr Kay, but it's stuck with me for the last few days and it got me thinking about why I like the books I like. There are books that stick in my head, where I can recall the storyline and the characters without issue. American Gods by Gaiman, Lions of Al-Rassan by Kay, Stormcaller by Lloyd and Night Watch by Pratchett to name a few of the more memorable ones. They make me think of the structure of the worlds, the interactions between the characters and never really leave me.

Other books are a hoot to read, and then they fade into the background. They do not really make me think too much about anything further than what's on the page and re reading the books wouldn't really cross my mind. Sanderson, Brett and Weeks fall into this category for me. I still enjoy reading them,  but they do not get me thinking much after I put the book down. It was a fun read and that's that.

So, in saying this, I'm revamping my reviewing style and scoring of said books in the coming weeks. Some good books will get a lower rating purely based on if I feel it would stick with me on the long run. This will be mentioned in the review of course. This process is going to take a while to perfect, so bear with me. Books that has already been reviewed and scored will keep their score, since that was what I felt they deserved at that time. I see this as an evolution of my personal tastes and feel it needs to be included in my future reviews.

How would I know if a book has really moved me? We'll have to see what I come up with!

16 September 2013

Authors welcome. I have coffee. And beer.

Something interesting happened yesterday on Twitter. My Sunday feed is usually filled with semi drunken ramblings from sports fans and happy-place statements from people chilling on the couch. Then someone shared this, an article at Strange Horizons where the author says that he is uncomfortable with authors commenting on reviews of their work and with interactions with said authors. My timeline erupted into a flurry of posts about this. Go read it and be sure to check out the comments.

It seems that Ben Aaronovitch commented on a review over at The Book Smugglers, and some people took major offence. He then commented on the SH article as well and got slapped around a little bit in the comments. Now I do not know Ben and I haven't read any of his books, but he's an adult and can surely take some internet criticism. 

My gripe is with the feeling that authors should not comment on reviews posted by bloggers. 

I started this blog as a place to post what I thought about the books I've read, to post some thoughts on the genre I love and to interact with the fans and the creators of said genre. My twitter timeline is 80% book related and I waste a lot of time on there. If an author comments on a review I did or tweet their thanks for said review, I appreciate it immensely. An author whose work I liked took a little time to read my thoughts and replied on said thoughts? Absolutely brilliant in my book. 

If an author disagrees with a review and decide to flame me on my blog or on social media, I'll be sure to tell the people who follow me that someone just had a brain fart and committed social media suicide. There are limits to interaction of course and it goes both ways. A civil discussion with valid points is helpful. If an author points out a factual mistake in my review or clarifies a part I might have interpreted differently, that generates debate about the intentions and meanings behind his story and helps to understand the book better. I won't change my interpretation, since I am entitled to my opinion, but it must be helpful to the author to see how different people interprets their work and a lively debate is constructive to all parties.

My favorite forum is Fantasy Faction. I like it there because there are loads of authors online talking about their work when asked and they punt books they like. They discuss their writing processes and they are integral members of the site. The inclusive feeling there is great. You can pick their brains whenever you want and all of them are open and friendly. 

Owners of blogs are 100% entitled to decide how they want their blogs used. They can disable comments, post a list of rules on posting on their reviews, interact with fans in their comments section and delete whatever they want. That's fine. Free speech and all that. It's your space, you can do whatever you want.

I do disagree that the industry standard should be that no author must comment. Ever. That the writers must write their books and then go start the next one and leave the blogs and forums alone to dissect their work in private. That it's bad form for the creator to interact with fans outside of conventions and signing events. That authors should please post guest blogs, interviews etc when asked, and then shut up and go away. That if any author dares post a comment on their own work anywhere online, the blogger and others should explode into righteous indignation. That this is normal.

I'm not going to post rules. Be civil and I'm happy. I'm not going to post a badge to say everybody can comment. That's implied. If I'm ever lucky enough to meet some of my favorite authors, I'd like to buy them a drink or twelve and chat a bit about their work. Since the chances aren't that big seeing as most are in Europe and USA, I can at least interact with them on here and on social media. The more the merrier.