Customer Reviews: Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastards)
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on August 19, 2007
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch is the second book in the Gentlemen Bastards sequence, the first book being The Lies of Locke Lamora. This is the second novel that Mr. Lynch has published, it is quite evident that Mr. Lynch truly has a gift for weaving an incredible story. If you have not read The Lies of Locke Lamora you really need to do so before you even think about picking up this book. Events and discussions that happen within the pages of this novel will make much more sense having read the first book. Plus, the first book is simply bottled magic and a fantastic read, every fantasy fan should read it in my opinion.

The plot of this book follows Locke and Jean as they plan their next major heist on the shores of Tal Verrar. On the surface this seems like a straight forward plot, however, much like the first book - things aren't always as they seem. This is a much more involved plot that you would think; there are also a couple sub-plots that occur along the way. I don't really want to talk about those sub-plots though for fear of ruining a part of the book for anyone. If you read the first book though, you understand that rarely do things go exactly as planned for Locke and whoever is following him. We'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that the plot of this novel is well done and succinct and rarely is there a slow moment in the entire book.

The story clearly focuses on Locke and Jean, two of the characters from the first book. There is a great deal of character development for Locke and Jean in this book, much more than the first book for sure. There are also a great deal of additional characters added, which only makes sense sine Locke and Jean completely uprooted themselves and moved to a different place. The addition of these new characters is seamless. They flow right into the existing story and fit perfectly into the grand scheme of things. Each character that Mr. Lynch adds is done with a reason and a greater purpose in mind. Mr. Lynch also has a way of getting the reader to hate certain characters; there are two that come to mind right away. All the characters in this novel, from the main heroes to the beer seller, are all richly detailed with just enough information given that the reader is allowed to form their own picture of what the character looks like, and acts like. They are truly unique characters, no clichés here. Characterization is definitely a strong suit for Mr. Lynch.

I do have two minor criticisms about this novel. While a great deal of this book takes place on a ship, and Mr. Lynch does his best to set the ambiance of life on a ship. There are times when Mr. Lynch has dialog with countless nautical terms. He obviously did quite a bit of research to make that dialog as realistic as possible, however, the dialog during those moments felt forced and didn't flow with the rest of the story. Secondly, as with the first book, Mr. Lynch talks about the all powerful Bondsmagi. However, we learn nothing more about them than we knew after the first book. I am all for keeping things mysterious, however, there should be a little information revealed to keep the reader interested by the mystery. After all, the adage `out of sight out of mind' holds true. I know they are present, but if I don't read much about them, then I will soon forget they are there. I hope that changes in the next installment.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel - although I think it just missed in living up to its predecessor. The magic that was the first books seemed to be slightly off in this one. That could be merely me loving the first book so much that I gave this one unfair expectations. This is a very good book and one many fans will enjoy. If you liked the first one than I have no doubt that you will enjoy this one just as much. In my eyes, Mr. Lynch has cemented himself as one of the best up and comers in the fantasy genre today. I will continue to recommend this series and I can not wait until the third installment hits the shelves.
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on December 10, 2008
Even though I often judge the purchase of a new book by the average star ratings on Amazon, sometimes they really don't suffice to give a proper idea of what to expect. "Red Seas Under Red Skies" is Scott Lynch's sequel to his outstanding debut novel, "The Lies of Locke Lamora". If you are looking at this book without having read "Lies", stop right here. Go buy "Lies" first - you won't be disappointed. If you are going to read further in this review, BE AWARE THAT THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD.

The reason I have a hard time simply using stars to judge this book is that my feelings about it are very mixed. One the one hand, we have a continuation of the Gentlemen Bastards from the first book. They continue to be a wonderful blend of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Mission Impossible, and a little bit of "The Sting" thrown in for good measure. The worlds and environments that Lynch creates are detailed, inventive, interesting and richly imagined. The capers that Locke & Jean get caught up in never fail to boggle the mind.

So why are my feelings mixed? You know, I don't mind the pirate section of the book as much as some here seem to (though to be fair, on a ship in high winds and crashing seas, I can't imagine that having both "larboard" and "starboard" as terms used to indicate opposite sides of a ship NOT getting aurally confused). For me, the failings are primarily in the very abrupt ending. In the last 40 pages or so of the book, a anonymous threat is suddenly revealed, Locke & Jean first encounter one of the major warring factions and quickly enlist their aid, topple a previously unassailable tyrant, and pull off a heist in in a massively secure tower.

Now, for me, it's not a matter of failing my willing suspension of disbelief at all. It's just that this whole sequence deserved more details. The pacing here was so vastly counter to the rest of the book that it hurt. I usually enjoy the quickening pace at the end of a good book, but this was far too severe for my tastes and far too abrupt.

This is not the only flaw in the book by any means, but it was the one that really affected my overall opinion of the book the most. Some of the characters and motivations in the story are a bit formulaic, but not so much that it detracts from the work of a good storyteller. Having said all of this, I still enjoyed the book, on the whole, though it was clearly not in the same league as "Lies".

I have high hopes for the next book in the series. There are lots of loose ends to address, and I do enjoy the main characters. "Red Seas" is not by any means a bad book, but here's hoping for better things to come!
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on January 31, 2008
I would like to start by saying that I may judging this book more harshly than most because I had very high hopes for it after reading the first novel in the series "The Lies of Locke Lamora".
Red Seas under Red Skies isn't bad exactly, it's just very average. From the perspective of a stand alone novel, the book has a good amount of intrigue, interesting characters and a couple decent plot twists. Unfortunately, it does not possess enough of these qualities to really stand out in the field of medieval fantasy, and would be hard to recommend by itself. It's greatest value comes from the character and world development that occurs and relates to the overall series of Locke Lamora and I am glad that I read it simply because it will allow me to read the third book, which I hope will give Lynch a chance to redeem himself as one of my favorite new authors.

Don't read this book by itself, read Lies of Locke Lamora first, and only read this book if you loved the first and wish to read the third.

In order to not totally trash the book, here are some things it does well:
1.) Humorous, Locke and sidekick are still amusing and clever to a certain degree, and this adds alot to the depth of characters and plot.
2.) Dark and real, The world of Locke Lamora is dangerous and no character is invulnerable to death or maiming.
3.) Intricate plot, main plots and subplots entwine to keep you guessing. The tapestry is not as satisfying as the first novel, but still well done in a field that is littered with straight forward and bland plots.
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on December 9, 2007
I totally loved the first book in this series, The Lies of Lock Lamora, but I have mixed feelings about this one. It's got some great characters hurling some of the best insults I've read, and the odd smattering of humor kept me going. The pacing of this adventure was uneven. For a swashbuckling adventure, the buckles could have been swashed a bit harder. After a bit of plodding plotting the resolution comes ridiculously swiftly. The energy in the last 20 pages would have been welcome throughout. The cliffhanging ending is more irritating than intriguing. It's got some great bits, but on the whole It's Just OK.
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on May 19, 2008
Even more so, when neither book is good. It's very difficult to satisfy two very different audiences, and in this case, Scott Lynch fails miserably. As a fan of Lies of Locke Lamora, I was excited when I learned about this sequel. Most authors get better with experience, but, unfortunately, there is the exception that proves the rule, where Red Seas over Red Skies is that exception. Lynch makes the following mistakes in this book.

1. He believes he's capable of writing a sea adventure. He is no Patrick O'Brian, Robert Louis Stevenson, or C.S. Forester. Reading up on several nautical terms does not give an author the understanding to do so, and changing them does not make a good story. The old adage, "write what you know" applies here. Lynch didn't follow that rule.

2. Fantasy cliches abound: pirates with hearts of gold, who look like Xena but act like Rowling's Hermione, corrupt military leaders trying to instigate wars in order to secure their ruling position, and thieves who bumble from near-death experience to near-death who survive because the author refuses to end the novel. Stock characters and elements can be fine when you want to make things familiar, but they should not be your entire story!

3. Heroes who survive on the might of strawmen and divine fate to carry them through the plot. In life sometimes you are saved by dumb luck, but no one has the winning streak of Jean and Locke. After three or four times everything becomes contrived and the reader loses all suspense of what may come. When ill befalls our heroes, we know their salvation is only five pages away.

4. The Interludes were a wonderful literary device in Lynch's first novel, but he tries to reach their magic with a similar approach and gives up half-way through the book. The Reminiscences are hit and miss, but they continued to provide much needed depth to this story. The plot in the first book worked so well, because everything was a product of the rich history Lynch created. Characters long dead were the motivations and inspiration for the present events: Father Chains lived on through the Gentleman Bastards and Capa Barsavi's murders survived in the Grey King. There is no parallel in this novel.

I could go on, but let me get to the heart of the problem. I wouldn't mind this book such a disappointment, except Lynch departed in so many ways from what made his first story grand. In Lies, Lynch found his writing voice, which he used abundantly in Red Seas, but this novel lack the focus, grit, and creativity of its predecessor. The last 200 pages of Lies were an easy read, but looking back, those chapters were the most poorly written, and, while he kept that tone throughout this book, he also kept the bad ideas. Lynch needs to find a balance between his witty fast pace writing style, and the careful detail which he crafts his worlds. That was not the case with Red Seas.
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on November 8, 2007
Piracy problems.

This is also a book with a few problems, too. In particular, pace and structure. What Lynch has here is a caper book with some piracy or a pirate book with some thieving, but it is close to 600 pages.

Now that it is not necessarily a problem. The work is divided into three books, with the first the period after they get out of town in the end of the first novel.

This part has flashbacks, flashforwards, flashsideways that get quite annoying after awhile and will likely leave some readers slightly confused, and occasionally they are pointless shipboard interludes.

For this sort of book the extended learning to be sailors middle book also drags a little.

The whole adventure is wrapped up at almost blistering speed in the last few pages - running out of space then, perhaps?

Anyway, not sure if it is the author or edito/publisher with problems or length demands, but it certainly spoils the book.

Lynch is quite entertaining at the page level, and his dialogue can be very funny at times, so it is disappointing the experience is spoiled by the rest.

The basic storyline here is they have to stir the pirates up into causing a threat to enable the Archon to restore his military powerbase, or they die.

A decent book, but the series continues to frustrate in not achieving its potential.
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on July 11, 2009
Some of the rich and powerful characters in this book are so stupid that *I* could rob them of every centira of their wealth. Most of the conversations go like this:

Powerful crime lord: Why should I believe you?
Locke: (insert smooth-talking here)
Powerful crime lord: You strike me as an exceptionally deceitful, arrogant, smooth-talking fellow. You admit that you are a notorious thief. Everyone that I trust tells me I would be best served by killing you. Therefore, I shall believe everything you say!

... Huh?

Remember how Locke and crew deceived that silly Don in the first book? Thoroughly researched and conned him, and then dressed up as very powerful law enforcement officers and told on themselves? Yeah, that was brilliant. There's none of that in this book. Locke just simply talks his way out of everything by acting flippant and doing card tricks. My 5-year old niece wouldn't fall for some of the crap that these supposedly powerful men gobble up for no apparent reason.

The romance was even worse. I would have been able to accept the matches made in this book, even with their flimsy bases ("they both like hitting people when they're not reading romance books!"), but the ridiculous sex scenes and related "humor" killed them for me. This book gives us the very juvenile view that the best sex involves property destruction and excessive noise. It's a very, very cheap attempt at humor that's only a notch above fart jokes. I've engaged in all sorts of sex, kinky as you can imagine, yet never did I think.. "let's intentionally keep everyone awake by screaming our heads off and kick in the walls!"

Lynch should have tried some more unconventional things. Trying to pair Locke off with the captain would have been a great move. She's older, has children, is in a position of power over him, and doesn't have red hair. Something like that would be so much more satisfying than the pairing of friggin bruisers. I'm sorry, but the "I've never met anyone like you before" crap was ridiculous. Two bruisers, a pirate and a thief, who have never before encountered other bruisers and just can't believe that others like them exist. SERIOUSLY?! Never ever met anyone like them before, huh? Might want to think that through, especially given that we're introduced to another novel-quoting brute just a few pages later.

As for the other plot problems, people already mentioned them. Pirates with hearts of gold. "Mysterious" characters and organizations that are losing their mystery (Sabetha, the Bondsmagi). Stock characters by the dozens.

This book has moments that had me laughing out loud, and reminded me of the magic of the first book, but was ultimately a let-down. I would probably still recommend reading it, but only to be up-to-date for the next installment. Don't put it at the top of your reading list.
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on August 21, 2008
When you set out to write seven books, it turns out you have to find a way to fill seven books. And that's the basic problem with Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book in Scott Lynch's...septology?

Lynch left himself with a lot to work with from the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora. What is all that Elderglass? How will the bondsmagi try to take their revenge on Locke and Jean? How the heck does that magi stuff work in this world anyway? What has happened to Camorr after their caper's semi-success? Who's going to run the underworld now that the Grey King and Capa Barsavi are both gone? When will we get to find out more about that gal that Locke's pining after?

Rather than answer any of those questions, Lynch gives us two books in one: a pirate-romance novella sandwiched inside Locke and Jean's main caper, an elaborate attempt on the Sinspire, the most opulent den of iniquity in the city-state of Tal Verrar. Characters march on and off stage as if by rote, ideas are dropped almost before they're begun, and multiple machinas are elevated to deus status at various points to keep the plot creaking along.

Fortunately for the reader, Lynch's sarcasm and propulsive prose eventually overbalance what turns out to be basically an 800-page diversion, and the book, despite itself, is pretty enjoyable at that level. So long as you don't expect the larger arc of the Gentleman Bastards to move very far down the track, Red Seas Under Red Skies can be the kind of readable romp that makes for good vacation or airplane material.
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on February 4, 2008
I like Scott Lynch's style a lot. He's always got something up his sleeve that keeps me reading, and the plot twists are often completely unexpected.

This novel is good, but tries a little too much for its own good. Among other problems, I think Mr. Lynch may be in danger of having his protagonists fall into the dour guilt-ridden trap that makes so many fantasy and science-fiction series difficult to get through after the first few books. All the novelty and innocence and humor gets bled out of them because the characters have been through so much horrifying trauma.

I'll keep reading, but this book makes me a little wary.
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on January 12, 2016
One of the main reasons why I liked this book better than the first book was that author did not spend so much time talking about or explaining the local trade relations, economic implications and crop yields. At times it felt like I was reading a microeconomics book. That is not to say that this book is not complex; far from it, but I feel like it is done in a much better way. They story progresses at a good pace and the characters are done well. I almost didn't read this sequel because I was so exhausted of reading about banking and investing and fronting and trade policy from the first book. But this story does a great job of moving on from the original while still staying true to the essence.
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