The Republic of Thieves

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, Gentleman Bastard #3

With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage 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 Bondsmage's mention of a woman from Locke's past: Sabetha. She is 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.


I can still recall the day that I first picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora, it was like a completely new world opening up for me, this was already a few years back but since then, and I think a lot of friends can testify, when it comes to recommending fantasy books, I have always mentioned Scott Lynch's books, I was blown away with The Lies of Locke Lamora and similarly with Red Seas Under Red Skies. They are just terrific books to read, only, there was a loooong wait between book two and book three, but The Republic of Thieves is much worth the wait. Scott Lynch raises the bar very, very high for himself for book four The Thorn of Emberlain. This might be a bold statement, but I have a few favorite authors and I am happy to count Scott Lynch among those selected few, he and the Gentleman Bastard series is one of the reasons why I read fantasy these three books so far are just awesome.

The Republic of Thieves picks up directly after the events that happened in Red Seas Under Red Skies wherein Locke Lamora was poisoned and now fears for his life. He is dying. The story starts with a desperate Jean Tannen who has tried everything, contacted every physician in order to find a cure for Locke. Jean has spend most of their money gained from their jobs with finding a cure for Locke, but one persistent physician doesn't want to take a look at Locke and his condition so he does it in his own way... But going in with a knife might not have been the smartest of idea's as now Jean has wakened up some of the dogs that will make Jean and Locke's life (what is left of it) much harder. And then, perhaps, like a angel send from heaven, rescue comes in the form of a Bondsmagi! yeah! We all know what the Falconer was, and can only guess what true powers these Bondsmagi hold... Patience, a female Bondsmagi, claims that she can cure Locke of his poison, she is the last chance that Locke as the curtain is about to fall for him. However there is also a catch for Locke as he has to return a favor for his life. Locke and Jean have to travel to the famed city of Karthain. Yes that is where the Bondsmagi reside (that should put a big smile on your face). Finally we get to learn more about them. This is just the start of it all, Locke and Jean have to win the Five Year Election, there are several districts in the city of Karthain each with a representative that has to be won over by either the party that Jean and Locke are working for, the Deep Roots, or that of their adversary, the Black Rose party. The Bondsmagi representatives aren't allowed to use any magic in the means to rise to the win, it is thus up to Lock and Jean to use their clever minds and quick tongue to win the representatives in the favor of the Deep Roots party. AND if that wasn't enough, guess who is running the elections for the Black Rose party... none other than..... Sabetha! We haven't seen much of her so far but she makes a clear entry into this story.

The part above only marks the story that is told in the present day of Locke's and Jean's adventures. There is a second storyline that takes of from the beginning and plays out all throughout the ending, this is a flashback into the past lives and focuses on Locke, Jean, the Sanza twins, Father Chains and more of Sabetha. This is really a part of the history that a lot of the readers were waiting for to see, it explores the past relation between Locke and Sabetha. I for one was very pleased with reading this part love story and all that has happened between them. Locke might seem like your bastard with all his thieving and scheming. But he does show in these flashbacks that his heart in the right place. From the first moment that he saw Sabetha he knew she would be the one for him. It was furthermore just a pleasure to read the lengths that Locke went through just to get the attention of Sabetha, he is this young boy desperately seeking attention and failing, his eagerness does shine and no matter how often he falls and stumbles he get right back on his horse and tries again and again and again. Besides this Father Chains also has a task for his apprentices: They have to travel to the city of Espara and help in the production of the play The Republic of Thieves with a band of actors from the Moncraine Company. It might seem like a done deal, but as soon as this merry band arrives in Espara it all seems to be much harder than they had guessed and have to bundle their minds to avoid letting it go wrong... Introducing such a second story in the "Interlude" chapters is something that I have come to appreciate in Scott Lynch's story telling, with this he manages to create a brief pause from the main storyline, allowing the reader to recapture all those events and also giving the reader much more information about the past of several characters. Perhaps the best thing of it all is that Scott Lynch doesn't drop the ball, I never lost focus on either of the storylines they have a great interplay with each other. But wait there is more, there is even a second set of Interludes that feature "mind-communications/talk" between several Bondsmagi, enough said... Ok, this is a bit of the storylines that make up The Republic of Thieves but it's all briefly summarized. Once you get reading for yourself you will soon realize just how grande the whole plotting of the story within The Republic of Thieves is. 

As for the characters. We are already in the third book of the series and have come to learn and understand a lot of the different characters. The protagonist Locke Lamora and his best friend Jean Tannen make up the majority of the current storyline as the others: the Sanza Twins and Bug have sadly died. When I first read about Locke's character he put a smile on my face with all his quick-witted and funny remarks, he was a schemer and charmer in The Lies of Lock Lamora and slightly got more serious when the story progressed into Red Seas Under Red Skies, now that we are in The Republic of Thieves, he character does seem to transform again. In the start up he is dying and I found how Scott Lynch has setup his character very interesting, I think Locke wanted to keep strong in the face of Jean, Locke knows pretty well that he is dying and no one can save him, he tries to bat these thoughts away by making some lighthearted banter but the consequences lie heavily on him, I think deep down Locke fears for his life, to die. After the intervention of Patience, Locke does lighten up a bit but now with Sabetha in the back of his mind and perhaps with taking a too big a risk, I think he is getting more reserved in his actions. Locke's character just gotten a lot more interesting! As for Jean Tannen, he is the "heavyweight" who is most of his cases would rather let his axe talk for him. Jean is also very determined and loyal to Locke and a friend in the truest of ways, when many would have abandoned their friends, Jean sticks around till the end even if it will cost him his own head. He isn't a man of many words but when he says things they are often time what it is. 

Now for the major new addition: Sabetha. One that we have all been waiting to read about. We get to learn her past all from when Locke was still an orphan in Shades' Hill, where Sabetha was doing the Windows. Locke and Sabetha had a small meeting there that Locke can recall clearly, but Sabetha doesn't know his when they again meet several years later with Father Chains. Sabetha is a girl with a past and always has had to fend for her own. She is very protective of her own and would rather push a lot of personal feeling away just avoid having to deal with them. But along the way and perhaps by having to deal with Locke 24/7 when with Father Chains, she does seem to thaw a bit and becomes much more open untill perhaps an unavoidable event. If you compare Sabetha in the past and the present story (that of Karthain), she has grown up but even her love for Locke doesn't seem to have gone out. Maybe she is more reluctant to show it. It great to read how complicated the relation between Locke and Sabetha was and still is. Just as I have come to appriciate of the Gentlemen Bastards, top characterization. And I haven't even mentioned the Bondsmagi!

So the Bondsmagi. Super stuff right there. Like I said the Falconer is someone we all know, but where their true power lies is still obscure on many fronts. Finally Scott Lynch indulges the reader more into their society, the Falconer has been a crucial player in the storyline but he was left without hands and tongue by Locke and Jean and has pledged revenge. I am not going to say more but you see more from his point-of-view... Exploring more of the Bondsmagi society answered many questions, but raised tons more... this latter can only proof to pay of in the books to follow.

Plotwise The Republic of Thieves is just awesome, there were many events that I hadn't seen coming but there were two that felt like a slap in the face, of course for the definite better of it! The first is the real history of Locke, man did have a great impact and I re-read it, re-read it again and just stared at the wall... wow... You know he was a sole survivor of something... after reading The Republic of Thieves, you will know the how, what, if, but and possible implications/consequences that now hand above Locke's head. And then the second one, this is rather pretty awesome as well and surround one big nemesis. If you think a certain person was out of the race... think again... Scott Lynch brilliantly reintroduces a character that will undoubtly have a big impact on the remainder of the story. The way that Scott Lynch wrote up how the events took down was just terrific I could see it right there in front of me

The Republic of Thieves is a terrific read that further roots down the Gentlemen Bastard series on it's rightful place for me as one of the best fantasy series that I have come across. It is for these kind of books that I read fantasy. Of course a book stand and falls by how the author executes his story but for me Scott Lynch hasn't faltered any moment in any of his books so far. They are fresh, original and a lot of fun to read. Where the first two book really build-up the story and the world of the Gentlemen Bastard series, The Republic of Thieves starts to explore much of the early presumed events making the series that much more dynamic. Characterwise and storywise The Republic of Thieves is rock solid and a lot of readers will enjoy that finally the enigmatic character of Sabetha is explored in more detail. Plotwise you will be in for a lot of surprises. This is a series where the books, eventhough they are 600+ pages are just over too soon. The Thorn of Emberlain will be released in November later this year, but with already three strikes in a row I know the fourth book will be just as great and luckily no wait of a few year just a few months... but they will start to feel that way very soon... 

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