Four stars, with reservations
A bit of a slog in the beginning--guess I haven't been in the mood for the great con. Locke Lamora is still at the heart of the narrative, and I don't think he could get from bed to breakfast without hatching or implementing a Rube Goldberg of a plot. It remains a sort of "Oceans Eleven" caper at the beginning, with multiple steps and a long, convoluted plan of attack on the owner of an elaborate and elite gambling facility. However, in true Oceans fashion, even as the con is planned and developed, Lynch keeps surprise elements in reserve.
Locke is more than just a bit of a rogue, and has few principles to guide him. I haven't been in the mood to read rogue, but this has been sitting on my shelf for two months and needed to be read. I stuck with it and am pleased to see Locke's ethical compass developing.
What Locke still hasn't comprehended is that the cost of revenge is very, very dear, and might cost everything. We see him early on wallowing in self pity, then acting and saying things to Jean about their old life, apologizing for mistakes made and missing their friends. And yet they are right back in it with their con, and the worst part is, Locke still hasn't realized that his opponents have even fewer scruples than he. There's some tender touches midway through for Jean, which is a redeeming moment of happiness in a generally grim book. I also like the fact that Locke has to "come clean" and enlist the help of others if he is to survive. As always, I appreciate and enjoy the close friendship between Locke and Jean, finding it both believable and redemptive.
Lynch also does a fabulous job envisioning his world and all it's different political structures and terrains. As usual for me, it usually reminds me of the city-states of Renaissance/pre-Ren Italy. The language he uses is fun and complex, with just the right amount of detail, although for those that objected to swearing in the first, it's still here--especially when Locke and Jean head to sea. There are few fantastical elements--the most fantastical thing is probably the mysterious sea creatures and a passage through a haunted channel. For it's genre, I'd almost call it steampunk style, with a heavy reliance on alchemy and "artificers." Again, reminds me of Leonardo di Vinci's Italy.
Narrative continues the back-and forth between events shortly after the end of the last book and a fast forward two years in the future. It works fairly well at the beginning and helps make the transformation back to the normal Locke tolerable. I do give Lynch lots of credit for the very likeable and noble female pirate character Zamira.
A great book, if you feel like devious plotting, rogue heroes and a smattering of casual violence and swearing. And lady pirates.