Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentlemen Bastard series. Scott Lynch is in the process of writing a seven book series set in a fantasy world, centered on a group of thieves.
I read the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, last year before starting this blog. It focuses on a young Locke Lamora who survives a plague outbreak and gets sold into an orphanage for thieves. Locke falls in love with stealing and refuses to follow the rules. Eventually the leader of his orphanage sells him off to prevent him from messing up his thieving business. This ends up being the best thing that ever happened to Locke; he gets a caring father who teaches him and trains him to master his innate skills. He gets a family of brothers and a sister. Scott Lynch writes two stories side by side, the history of Locke’s past and the present events of the Gentlemen Bastards. In both stories, you’ll see how he has a habit of writing himself into a corner. He finds the most insurmountable obstacles to throw in the path of the characters, and buries them with it. You’ll find yourself believing there’s no way out (and sometimes it’s even true).
This propensity for Lynch to write his stories into corners is only part of what makes him a great writer. He also is able to fully wrap his mind into his world and tell the story as if it were written to people in that world. This may sound like strange praise, but many writers, including Brandon Sanderson and Tolkien, are unable to do this. When you read The Hobbit the writing is clearly designed for the children of this world as a fable of another world. On the other hand, The Lord of the Rings, is written like a historical tale of the world in which is takes place. It’s hard enough to create an entire world, but it’s pure trickery to move your mind into that world and experience and express things as if you were really there.
My only complaint with this series is that Scott Lynch writes like a crude, cussing sailor. Never is that more apparent than in Red Seas Under Red Skies, which is the story of Locke Lamora as a pirate on the high seas. This book has some of the coolest characters I have ever read. One of them is a middle aged female pirate and mom that prompted one reviewer to write: “Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women, they were vicous rapits and murderers and I am sorry to say it was a man’s world. It is unrealistic wish fulfilment for you and your readers to have so many female pirates, especially if you want to be politically correct about it!”
Let’s considered this misogynist response to the book for a moment. The commentator makes a rather ignorant comment about history: “Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women.” A two second google search would prove that statement false. Madam Cheng is one of the 8 most infamous real life pirates and the History Channel composed a list of 5 famous female pirates. For this commentator to so ignorantly attack the author, is just pure unresearched foolishness.
Scott Lynch chose to reply to this commentator. Rather than reply that historically this man is ignorant, he embraced his writing and said that it is wish fulfillment, because all people deserve a character they can relate to:
H.L. Mencken once wrote that “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” I can’t think of anyone to whom that applies more than my own mom, and the mothers on my friends list, with the incredible demands on time and spirit they face in their efforts to raise their kids, preserve their families, and save their own identity/sanity into the bargain.
His full reply can be read here. But be warned it’s full of language and spoilers.
This series has been described as Ocean’s Eleven meets fantasy. It’s action packed, risk filled, con-artistry at its best. I’m hooked. I’ve read all three books that he’s released so far and will eagerly continue to consume them as they release. (My review for book three will be hopefully be coming in about three weeks.)
Overall I give this book 5 stars.
Up next: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis