4 stars, despite the fact that there are about two thousand instances where Kestrel & Arin have a tragic misunderstanding and/or lie to one anothe4 stars, despite the fact that there are about two thousand instances where Kestrel & Arin have a tragic misunderstanding and/or lie to one another for some noble reason. This is not a sappy YA romance. Everything is terrible. Everything hurts. What is happiness. And so you might swear and toss your book around a bit. And how about I smack that smirk off your face, Emperor?! And hey, ARIN, MAYBE QUIT BEING A DICK SO I CAN LOVE YOU AGAIN.
But seriously, I love following Kestrel's journey from a pampered noblewoman who congrats isn't the worst person ever (no, you don't get a cookie for freeing one slave, girl) who finally realizes slavery is terrible and learns to put the wellbeing of others before herself but still struggles with her lifetime of conditioning and loyalty to her father and who also learns to put her super hot romance on the back burner for the good of the people even though as readers we just want her to be happy with her boo so it's conflicting.
And it cracked me up to no end that Arin took up maybe 65% of Kestrel's thoughts (the other thoughts being about espionage and loyalty and politics and war and her Father and Jess and her puppy), meanwhile Arin's over here like 99% Kestrel Standard Time. "I HATE Kestrel! Ugh I hate her perfect mind and I hate her strength and her music and I especially hate how much I love kissing her. Ugh this random thing right here reminds me of this one time when Kestrel..."
You better believe I immediately dropped the $10 for the Kindle sequel. I rarely pay more than $5 for an ebook, but desperate times...
Because honestly all I want is for Kestrel to be happy and be with her puppy & for Arin to grovel at her feet in forgiveness & for the Emperor to go...away. These things better happen. ...more
“Nobody admires anyone else without qualification. If they do they're after an image, not a person.”
Listen, this book is earning a generous 4 stars be“Nobody admires anyone else without qualification. If they do they're after an image, not a person.”
Listen, this book is earning a generous 4 stars because of Scott Lynch’s great writing, his fantastic characters, and his intriguing world-building. This book is not 5 stars, because….hardly anything happens? Let me explain.
Very very obvious “spoilers”, but from the get-go I knew something was up when Locke only took about 10 minutes to agree to make a deal with the Bondsmage in order to get healed. The blurb on the back of the book says: “Locke is opposed [to the deal], but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring—and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha.” In reality, Locke has already made the decision and it isn’t until later that he even learns of Sabetha’s involvement. That threw me as I was reading, because the blurbs have never mislead me before.
The second misleading thing, and I don’t say this as a spoiler, but as a more truthful plot synopsis for the book: “Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha—or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.” Again, not entirely true. Never, and I mean never, are you ever led to believe that anyone’s lives are truly in danger. In fact, pains are taken to clarify that all three of them will be “protected” throughout the process and no harm will come to the loser. Are there rules they must follow? Yes, but they are all reasonable (i.e. don’t murder any of our silly, harmless citizens please) and the trio have no problem treating the game like the game it is.
Death threats would have actually been far more interesting for me. If Locke/Jean & Sabetha were instead threatened that whoever lost this game would die, and they were set up in such a way that they HAD to play. How tense! How impossible! Two of the biggest strengths of the previous two novels were how high the stakes always were. The threats! The risk! The danger! The Big Bad(s)! The deaths of beloved characters! Getting backed into a corner! All the plans falling apart!
However, there is no real risk in The Republic of Thieves. Locke & Jean could have gave a half-hearted try, definitely lost, and essentially walked away from it all. (There is a “reveal”, of course, that complicates matters somewhat, but it is in the last couple of chapters and, again, compared to previous novels, it’s not that earth-shattering.)
The plot essentially goes: Bondsmages—who have the absolute power to control both Sabetha and Jean like puppets—ask our three heroes to participate in a political game of their own free will and with no genuine risks as long as basic rules are followed. The trio then spend THE ENTIRE book working with super gullible, puppeted “normal” people who only exist for the Bondsmages’ entertainment. The political election itself is essentially meaningless as the Bondsmages easily control these people whenever this political game is not being played. Sabetha & Locke/Jean basically play pranks on each other and try to out-clever one another. Locke & Sabetha work through their issues (while Jean takes a tragic backseat). And we are treated to one long extended flashback of a very significant summer during the teenage years of the Gentleman Bastards in which they join a theatre troupe to stage a play, and get caught up in a little bit of a mess--while teenage Locke & Sabetha also work through their issues. (These summer flashback sections were probably my favorite parts of the book). Then the political game ends. Then we see a glimmer of what is clearly setting the stage for future novels and the future of this world. It’s also kind of abrupt and confusing and I had to read it several times.
Not only are there no stakes, but the story is also pretty repetitive. Sabetha is interesting & I’m glad we’re finally seeing her, but every interaction she and Locke had kept boiling down to Locke putting his heart on his sleeve and Sabetha saying “it’s complicated”. I don’t care for mooning!Locke, and I can’t stand unbalanced relationships where one person is CLEARLY more into it than the other person. GIVE ME JEAN AND EZRI OR GIVE ME DEATH. There were times Sabetha annoyed me with how “complicated” she made everything. Like, please write a vague, angsty post on your Livejournal and move on. [This is not to say she is a poorly written character. In fact, she is extremely well-layered and realistic. She’s just not my cup of tea. And the story itself wasn’t crazy enough to distract me from how much she tended to drag things out. Her and Locke’s conversations began to feel like filler. Ok, and maybe she reminds me a bit of myself and how I overcomplicate & overthink relationships too much. But maybe more like teenage me which is even worse I guess. Basically: grow up, Sabetha.]
THE GOOD: Like I said, as much as I didn’t reach for this novel as often as the previous ones (I was hardly ever left on a good cliffhanger), whenever I did read I was always warmed by Lynch’s writing. Like, the way he wrote the dialogue for the play the Bastards were acting in—plain as day what a talented writer he is. I want to go see that play!! This book, like all his books, is also extremely character driven, and that is always a delight for me when done well. His characters--even if they only appear for a few pages--are drawn so sharply in my mind. And no one does witty banter quite like Lynch. And while it is ALWAYS a treat to see Calo & Galdo, can we PLEASE see some more of Chains??! I love him so.
And of course, some quotes :)
“What is government but theft by consent?”
“I don't expect life to make sense," he said after a few moments, "but it could certainly be pleasant if it would stop kicking us in the balls.”
“My disinterest in your bullshit is so tangible you could make bricks out of it”
“You want a lesson, boy? If you find yourself being born, climb back in as quick as you can, because life's a bottomless feast of shit.” ...more
“Only one way to win when you're being chased by someone bigger and tougher than you. Turn straight around, punch their teeth out, and hope the gods a“Only one way to win when you're being chased by someone bigger and tougher than you. Turn straight around, punch their teeth out, and hope the gods are fond of you.”
I almost rated this book 4.5 stars, but then I checked myself before I wrecked myself. Did I love this book as much as or more than Lies? No. Was it still one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years? AYE! If only all the books I read could be this rich & fun & nerve-racking!
This review will attempt to be as spoiler-free/plot detail-free as possible.
Before I read Red Seas I skimmed a few reviews here on Goodreads and was distressed to find that, unlike the first book, readers were clearly varied on their opinions of this sequel. I saw a lot of 3 stars and a LOT of 4 stars. However, I think that reading these books back to back helped me actually see through a lot of the criticisms those readers had (readers who probably spent a few years waiting for the sequel, building it up in their heads, waiting for perfection).
People like to give Lynch crap for his pacing. Even with Lies there were the naysayers who claimed all his flashbacks and “exposition” chapters took away from the momentum of the plot. I never had an issue with that. Everything always informed something else, there was no added fluff or needless distraction. Every story shared was entertaining and enlightening. Interestingly enough, in this sequel we get no such childhood flashbacks and very little exposition interludes. (There are a few “flashbacks” in the beginning that cover what all has happened in the two years that have passed since the ending to Lies). The complaints of pacing in this novel are now what some people consider a cobbled together narrative of two different stories: one Oceans 11 heist novel and one Pirate/war novel. (First of all, I see no problem with having both of those things in one book. More fun for me!!! Two of my favorite things!!) But also, people are acting like this is something new and not exactly the type of thing Lynch does in his stories. In Lies we begin with a con that the Gentleman Bastards are pulling on a rich noble family, which soon becomes halted/changed by the much bigger events happening concerning the Grey King and the Capa. The con on the nobles later becomes entwined with their dealings with the Grey King, but for a long while it DOES take a backseat. We have the same thing happening in Red Seas. Crazy fun heist is suddenly halted as our Gentleman Bastards are thrown into something far messier and even more dangerous. But the initial heist is not forgotten and comes into play later. Basically, all these critics need to calm down.
And concerning our supremely lovable protagonists, Locke & Jean, Lynch does an excellent job developing their (already incredibly layered) characters. I just LOVE seeing Locke get out of a tight corner with just his wits, but I think I love it even more when he finds himself in situations he can’t snark his way out of. (view spoiler)[When they were only given a month to train to be “seamen”, when they were told it would take a normal person 5 years at sea to get caught up, I almost rolled my eyes thinking how unrealistic it was going to be when they finally got out to sea and managed to fool everyone into thinking they were expert pirates or whatever. Needless to say, their epic failure was actually much appreciated. The moment the kitten thing became an issue and then Caldris bit it (RIP), I was like OMG THIS IS THE WORST. I love reading a book and having ZERO ideas about how the characters will get out of a mess. (hide spoiler)] AND THERE WERE SO MANY OF THOSE MOMENTS THIS GO ROUND. I was on the edge of my seat!! How are these brilliant IDIOTS surviving THIS?!
And now, re: women, wish fulfilment, and feminism. My ONE and ONLY complaint about Lies is that there are no major female characters, and that the one with the most potential gets fridged very early on (and the second most influential female character isn’t introduced until halfway through the novel). However, I appreciated the mentions of all of the female guards, fighters, thieves, nobles, artisans and such that are clearly commonplace in this world. You rarely read a sentence that goes like “the men were all lined up…”, instead it will read “the men and women were all lined up…”. Such a simple thing can mean so much to readers like me. But it still felt a little more like talk rather than action. Kind of pseudo-representation without any actual bite. So color me shocked when I read Red Seas and half, if not over half, of the people Locke & Jean interact and deal with are women! These women are guards, assistants, black alchemists, locksmiths, assassins, pirates, gamblers, you name it! Not only that, but some of the major players, several of my absolute favorite characters, are women and they are given plenty of moments to shine (and also interact with other women!). I almost feel as if Scott Lynch, a feminist, read criticisms of his first novel and he thought, “Dang. People missed that I’m a feminist? Let me be extra clear.” And he addressed the issue intentionally. And I love him for it. It doesn’t feel forced to me at all. It feels true to this world and true to the story Lynch is trying to tell.
Please, oh please, treat yourself to this excerpt of Scott Lynch LAYING IN on some misogynist online who criticised Red Seas for having characters who are “unrealistic stereotypes of political correctness”--because women pirates can’t exist--and “unrealistic wish fulfilment” (this dude should never read a history book, btw):
Lynch: You know what? Yeah, Zamira Drakasha, middle-aged pirate mother of two, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I realized this as she was evolving on the page, and you know what? I fucking embrace it.
Why shouldn’t middle-aged mothers get a wish-fulfillment character, you sad little bigot? Everyone else does. 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.
Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn’t a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone. In my fictional universe, the main characters are a fat ugly guy and a skinny forgettable guy, with a supporting cast that includes “SBF, 41, nonsmoker, 2 children, buccaneer of no fixed abode, seeks unescorted merchant for light boarding, heavy plunder.”
You don’t like it? Don’t buy my books. Get your own fictional universe. Your cabbage-water vision of worldbuilding bores me to tears. […] As for claims to “realism,” your complaint is of a kind with those from bigoted hand-wringers who whine that women can’t possibly fly combat aircraft, command naval vessels, serve in infantry actions, work as firefighters, police officers, etc. despite the fact that they do all of those things— and are, for a certainty, doing them all somewhere at this very minute. Tell me that a fit fortyish woman with 25+ years of experience at sea and several decades of live bladefighting practice under her belt isn’t a threat when she runs across the deck toward you, and I’ll tell you something in return— you’re gonna die of stab wounds.
What you’re really complaining about isn’t the fact that my fiction violates some objective “reality,” but rather that it impinges upon your sad, dull little conception of how the world works. I’m not beholden to the confirmation of your prejudices; to be perfectly frank, the prospect of confining the female characters in my story to placid, helpless secondary places in the narrative is so goddamn boring that I would rather not write at all. I’m not writing history, I’m writing speculative fiction. Nobody’s going to force you to buy it. Conversely, you’re cracked if you think you can persuade me not to write about what amuses and excites me in deference to your vision, because your vision fucking sucks.
So yeah, another winner in my book. Heists, badass lady pirates, Locke & Jean’s beautiful friendship, PIRATES, kittens, swag, poison, JEAN IN LOVE AND IN LOVE WITH EZRI WHO IS THE BEST. (Seriously tho, Ezri and Jean, two huge nerds that could also kill you in like 30 seconds. Gah, I was literally blushing they were so cute together.) (view spoiler)[ I SO CALLED HER DEATH. As soon as she agreed to run off with Locke & Jean and have a happy ending together I almost started crying because I knew that sealed the deal that she would die. The only other alternative would have been her saying she couldn’t leave her pirate life behind for Jean, but as soon as she said she would it was like a nail in the coffin. We can’t have nice things!!! (hide spoiler)] Literally starting book 3 today!
And of course, quotes:
“When you can't cheat the game, you'd best find a means to cheat the players.”
“You are beyond mad," said Locke after several moments of silent, furious thought. "Full-on barking madness is a state of rational bliss to which you may not aspire. Men living in gutters and drinking their own piss would shun your company. You are a prancing lunatic.”
“Gods, when did we discover how easy it is to be cruel to one another?”
“I'll wager I would have screwed things up regardless. But. . .can you imagine those poor bastards grappling their prey, leaping over the rails, swords in hand, screaming, 'Your cats! Give us all your gods-damned cats!”
“Maxilan, darling." Locke raised one eyebrow and smiled. "I knew you were driven, but I had no idea you could smoulder. Come, take me now! Jean won't mind; he'll avert his eyes like a gentleman.”
“It had the expression common to all kittens, that of a tyrant in the becoming.”
“Gods. So this is what a command is. Staring consequences in the eye and pretending not to flinch.” ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Wavering between 2.5 & 3 stars. Just didn't grab me. Angsty, angry love just isn't my bag any more. I need something more than star-crossed loversWavering between 2.5 & 3 stars. Just didn't grab me. Angsty, angry love just isn't my bag any more. I need something more than star-crossed lovers these days. Give me dragons, give me plague, give me robots. Hodge is a good writer though. ...more
Y’ALL I ended 2015 with a bang in book world! This book was 5 stars from start to finish. No warm-up period, no moments of doubt, no dumb ending. ThisY’ALL I ended 2015 with a bang in book world! This book was 5 stars from start to finish. No warm-up period, no moments of doubt, no dumb ending. This was a glorious fantastical trainwreck of fun times that made me feel feelings again! BOOKS ARE AWESOME ISN’T IT GREAT??
You like heists? You like snappy dialogue and colorful ensembles of 3-dimensional characters? You like Victorian London vibes and self-reliant orphans and rags to riches tales and gangs and just a dash of magic? You like being on the edge of your seat and honestly not knowing how your characters are getting out of this one again? You like character arcs and surprises and literary sleights of hand? You like moral ambiguity and bands of misfits?
Yeah, me too.
Synopsis: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone…. Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
Word to the wise: there is no info dump introduction chapters setting up this world & easing you into anything. This is a pre-established world Bardugo has made and there are a couple times you’ll be like, “wait, what?” at some reference or slang word. Tolkein has Middle Earth, Bardugo has the “Grisha” universe. She has written and published a separate “Grisha” trilogy with different characters that takes place a couple years before the events of Six of Crows. That series would definitely benefit a person in familiarising them with this Grisha world before reading Six of Crows, but it’s not necessary. Six of Crows is the first book by Bardugo I have ever read and I (clearly) enjoyed it. And you can guess what I’LL be reading until the Six of Crows sequel comes out next year! She has also written several “Grisha” short stories.
But back to Six of Crows. Amidst all the action and intrigue and twists and turns, Bardugo still manages to bring to life six incredibly rich characters. These characters are layered and they grow and they are given individualized character arcs all their own. Each one is even set up wonderfully for the sequel & I am beyond excited to see where Bardugo takes them. This was a strong first book in a series & I have high hopes for the sequel, Crooked Kingdom.
(huge spoilers: (view spoiler)[ Kaz setting aside his vengeance—the one thing that has driven him from the beginning—in order to pursue something entirely new, a love that isn’t possible with his condition. Will Dirtyhands finally remove those gloves for good?
Inej finally facing the one person who made her feel helpless and then getting the best of her—only to have her dreams of vigilante pirate justice snatched away as she is taken hostage. Will the Wraith who has conquered her fear save herself or need saving? (Little nervous about this one; Inej is not some Damsel in Distress and she better have agency in the sequel—but I trust Bardugo.)
Nina making the ultimate sacrifice to protect her friends—will the addiction claim her or will her brief stint on the dark side mar her newly restored relationship with Matthias?
Matthias making the hardest decision of his life by betraying his country and brotherhood and beliefs—how will he deprogram and relearn a new way of viewing the world?
Jesper finally coming to terms with not only his abilities but also his gambling problem—will he step up his game or run even farther from his problems?
Wylan changing his whole effing appearance and choosing the gang over his family—will he be able to go up against his father and potentially even have to kill him himself? Also, will he finally get his own chapters? (hide spoiler)])
One thing to nitpick? (view spoiler)[ The first book ends by setting up the sequel as though it will be an even bigger, crazier, more impossible job than the first…but how is rescuing someone (an insanely talented, deadly someone) from some random rich guy so much harder than infiltrating and escaping the most highly guarded and secretive military establishment ever? I don’t know… GUESS I JUST NEED THE SEQUEL RIGHT NOW. (hide spoiler)]
Please go read this book so we can talk about it! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Was this book heavily inspired by Harry Potter (The Goblet of Fire in particular) and The Hunger Games? Yes. Was all of the the foreshadowing super obWas this book heavily inspired by Harry Potter (The Goblet of Fire in particular) and The Hunger Games? Yes. Was all of the the foreshadowing super obvious? You bet. Was there a love triangle? No, there were two. Did An Ember in the Ashes consume my thoughts for the several days it took me to read? Surprisingly, yes!
Book synopsis: Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom.
I don't know what it is that captivates me about certain books. Books like Harry Potter & Hunger Games that I could read again & again. That transport me to their worlds so easily and so completely. I ache for the characters, their struggles & hero journeys. These books feel like home. That's the simplest way to describe it. We all have favorite books that speak to us that way.
An Ember in the Ashes does not fall into that revered category for me. I don't know why. Maybe the writing style wasn't just right (it had its moments). Maybe it took me a little too long to take to certain characters. Or maybe this was the first time in a while I've read such a "hyped" book after it was already hyped. Oh, and did I mention the two love triangles?
So let's talk about what this book got right.
Elias. He isn't a cocky, angry douchebag (with a secret heart of gold)--although we DO get one of those, I'm looking at you, Keenan--and he also isn't a brooding mysterious psychopath. He's a young man with a horrific upbringing who is wrestling with the tension often found between self-preservation and doing what's right. I really enjoyed Elias' chapters. I found that tension intriguing. I loved that he had complex thoughts & feelings and that he was on a journey not just to free his body, but his heart & soul, too.
Laia. I know, I know, I wasn't crazy about her at first either. Mostly because I knew she was intentionally being written as overly-cowardly in the beginning so that her ~growth~ would be more pronounced. But I did enjoy her quiet strength. Her unwavering loyalty to her brother. (view spoiler)[I seriously loved that her ultimate motivation for saving Elias in the end was for her brother, not twu luvv for someone she's spoken with like 5 times. You go, girl!! Blood before studs. (hide spoiler)] Her non-fierceness was a fresh change from most YA with their Tough Girl characters (although we DO get one of those--I'm looking at you, Helene). Although she did suffer from multiple instances of injured-damsel-needs-to-be-carried-by-a-hunky-babe. But let's be real. If I ever found myself in one of these dreadful dystopian/fantasy worlds, I would way more likely be a Laia rather than a Katniss (or Helene in this case). I couldn't fight my way out of a paper bag, but you can bet I would sneak my way out meekly. Warrior Fighter Babe is the dream, and terrified yet determined weakling is the reality for most of us.
Gripping story, and while there are mild annoyances (the transparent foreshadowing I mentioned being a big one--so many times I wanted to shake the main characters and go "DUH, honey! It's so obvious, please put it together!"), this book never made me angry or offended me. Even the love triangles are done well! As realistic as a love triangle can be, really. A genuine feeling out of two different people, comparing/contrasting the dynamics. Is this lust or love? Attraction or a connection? Comfort or compatibility? Head or heart?
Overall: Tense, scary, shocking, disturbing...I stayed up past my bed time several nights in a row. I love riddles & trials & destiny & free will & rebels & empires. I got it all. Needless to say, I'm frothing at the bit for the sequel. Which comes out in August. Of 2016. Ten burning hells!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Super short review: pretty heavy-handed/preachy at times, but what a great cast of characters! Jo is my homegirl. I got a little choked up & tearySuper short review: pretty heavy-handed/preachy at times, but what a great cast of characters! Jo is my homegirl. I got a little choked up & teary a few times, too. Glad I finally got around to reading this one (having only watched the '49 film growing up). But hey guess what, Laurie/Amy is still mega weird. And the ending of this novel reminded me a lot of Harry Potter's OTT ending. They all lived happily ever after together in one big family and named all their children with borrowed names from other characters because people definitely do that and it's not weird or anything to name your son after the guy you almost married who later married your sister and is now your brother. Not weird. ...more