Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies
Author: Scott Lynch
Goodreads Rating: 4.22
“‘Difficult’ and ‘impossible’ are cousins often mistaken for one another, with very little in common.”
Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentleman Bastard series. We continue to follow Locke and Jean as they travel to a new city… Tal Verrar. Quickly into the story we’re sucked into their latest schemes that involve a casino owner, military commander, pirates, and the bondsmagi. If that isn’t enough to deal with, Locke and Jean also have their own personal struggles as their friendship is put to the test. Will they succeed? That all depends on if they can survive ship battles, poisons, assassination attempts and more…
Great characters and relationships
In Red Seas Under Red Skies, we’re introduced to a new set of characters including some of my favorites… the pirates! Personally, I like the characters in the first book more than in the second book. But the pirate portion of the story is hilarious and fantastic.
It is also great to read more about Locke and Jean’s friendship. They face personal challenges that strain their friendship but they always manage to pull through the struggle together. Some of the most satisfying points in the book are when Jean has to tell Locke where to shove it when Locke is being particularly annoying, self-centered, or difficult. At times, Locke is extremely frustrating and Jean’s blunt approach is thoroughly appreciated.
Interesting setting and culture
In the second book, our setting completely changes. We get bounced between three places including… a smaller town that has an odd sense of amusement, a larger city with a completely different hierarchical structure, and a pirate town full of an assortment of unique and interesting characters. With changes of scenery and characters, it keeps you engaged and curious of each new society and its social etiquette.
At two points in the story, certain things are shared or said and it becomes almost obvious what is going to happen to two particular characters. Personally, it is too much for me. I prefer lighter foreshadowing or to be surprised along with the characters.
Too many enemies to keep up with
In the first book, we have the schemes with the ruling class and two clear bad guys with the Grey King and the Falconer. It is easy to keep up with what is going on. In the second book… it is too convoluted for me. We have a few bad guys and issues related to each with the military commander and his assistant, the mysterious assassins, the casino owner and his assistant, and the bondsmagi and their puppets.
Then there are the preexisting struggles between the bad guys where the casino owner, military commander, and ruling class are all at each other’s throats with a very flimsy “agreement” to keep them civil in public while plotting against each other in private.
For me, it is too much to keep up with. Locke and Jean’s arrival and elaborate ploy seem to push the bad guys over the edge and when they finally all clash together, it had me wondering why the situation couldn’t have been resolved prior to Locke and Jean’s arrival. The end of the book is just too quickly and easily sorted for me (outside of the ridiculous struggle that Locke and Jean go through to get to the end of the book). They get one more group involved and suddenly… ta-da! The situation is resolved.
There was a major point in the story where the pirate captain seems to make a decision that is completely out of character. Without including spoilers… The captain values her crew and family more than anything and yet makes a decision that puts them in serious danger. She meets Locke and Jean and barely knows them. Yet she agrees to risk just about everything for these two guys at the expense of her crew. The benefits of the agreement do not seem to outweigh the serious consequences and it shocked me that she was willing to go along with their elaborate ploy when she knew what could happen.
I really hoped to love this book… but Red Seas Under Red Skies just didn’t do it for me. The pirate scenes make it better and I like the new characters. But Locke and Jean plan and struggle so much for a seriously lackluster ending. Jean suffers a huge loss. Locke faces his mortality. And their two years of hard work end with little to show for it. Here’s to hoping that The Republic of Thieves is better!