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The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards)
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268 of 318 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Lynch ran his fingers through his hair and groaned, then looked up at the figure of Locke Lamora leaning casually, against the mantel.

“OK,” Lynch said. “So I’ve got to get you cured of that incurable poison I saddled you with at the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies, transport you and Jean to a brand new setting, and figure out some grand, complex con — grander and more complex than the last one — for you to run while you’re there?”

Locke swirled the wine around in the glass he held in his right hand, looking morosely into its dark depths. “Don’t forget introducing Sabetha.”

Lynch groaned again. “Right. The mysterious love of your life and equal to your own not-inconsiderable skills whom I’ve built up to such a degree she’ll never match the readers’ expectations.”

“She might surprise you. She always does me.”

“Oh, but that’s not hard.” Sabetha dropped down lightly from where she’d been clinging among the rafters. She took the goblet from Locke’s suddenly stilled hand. “But I’m afraid he’s right. Even I have to say, I am a bit disappointing.” She took a sip of the wine, its red a darker shade of her flowing hair. “Or at least, my older self is. I’m kind of fond of my younger self. In fact, I think those flashback scenes were some of my favorite parts of the story.”

“Um, well.” Locke noticed his hand was still shaped around a wine glass he was no longer holding. He raised it to pull at his collar. “Err.”

“Great. Are we going to have another scene where he stares at you all besotted, unable to speak, while you club him over the head with this strange relationship you two have?” Jean moved his heavy bulk out of the shadows near the door. “Because while I did enjoy the first few, it eventually gets a little wearisome.”

“It’s called drawing things out,” Lynch said, a bit defensively.

“Yeah, well. I’m no artist,” Jean replied. “But it seems to me you drew a mural when a simple canvas painting would have sufficed.”

“Jean’s right,” Locke murmured. “He’s not an artist.” He sighed. “But he’s also right that mine and Sabetha’s little dance gets played out a bit too much, with a bit too much repetition. In fact, the whole thing’s too long, I’d say by at least a hundred and fifty pages. It especially starts to flag after the first 350 pages or so. A good con man knows you can spin a story too long.”

“And are you a good con man, Locke?” Sabetha asked, smiling, but with a bit of bite behind the smile.

“Um. Er.”

“For the love of the Crooked God,” Jean said, shaking his head.

Sabetha laughed. “Sorry Jean, force of habit.” She turned to Lynch. “I hate to say it, but even Locke here gets some things right.” Locke stood a bit taller. “It is too long. It does slow down past the middle. And did we really need quite so much of the play and the rehearsals?”

Lynch looked stricken. “You didn’t like the play?”

“No, I actually thought it was very well written, some of the best writing in the book to be honest. I mean, it felt like a real play and all. And I liked how it sort of paralleled what was going on. But a little goes a long way, you know? But beside that, the whole underlying premise felt a bit creaky. I mean, I enjoyed setting us up as rivals, but did it have to be in a competition over an election?”

Lynch shrugged. “Well I couldn’t have the stakes too high. It isn’t like you two would have done anything to endanger the other.”

Sabetha smiled that tight smile again. “You’d be surprised at what I’d be willing to do to Locke here.” She pointed behind her without turning around. “Quit smirking Locke. And control yourself; I can hear the threads in your breeches stretching from here.” She dropped her hand. “The problem Lynch is just that; you didn’t give us any danger. No peril. You’ve got to admit, it robs the book of a bit of suspense. And our tactics were too, too… “

“Juvenile?” Jean proffered.

“Childish?” Locke said. “Frat-boyish? Obvious? Unoriginal? Too quickly introduced and discarded as if they were just filler?”

“Don’t try so hard, Locke.” Sabetha interrupted. “It isn’t charming.”

“I did send the three of you into the homeland of the bondsmagi.” Lynch said. “And made them your employers. They’re scary and dangerous.”

“They’re goddamn arrogant pissholes who treat the world like their gameboard is what they are,” Locke bit off.

“See,” Lynch began, but Locke continued.

“But after the first few dozen pages they also disappear for almost the entire book, until that one witch bitch shows up at the very end to drop a hell of a twist in the whole thing, and I’m still by the way not sure at all about how I feel about that. Sure, it shows you’re playing a hell of a long game, at least I think that’s what it shows, but on the other hand, that whole bit about my…”

“Plus,” Sabetha said, “That other guy who just at the end up and…”

Jean moved further out of the shadows and Locke and Sabetha could see him fingering the blade of one of his Wicked Sisters. “No spoilers, guys. I’m with you on some of the ending issues, but no spoilers.”

“Fine. Fine.” Lynch muttered. “Sabetha was a bit disappointing after all the build-up, save for the early days when she and Locke grew up together. The story was too long and the pacing problematic, though you did like the flashbacks and back-and-forth structure. There was too much of the play, even if Sabetha thought it was well done, but not enough suspense or sense of danger. The Bondsmagi do have a few good moments and do open up things for the future. But you’ve got some concerns about their big reveal at the end and when the…” He stopped as Jean edged closer. “Um, well, you’ve got issues with the end. Anything else to say?”

The three looked at each other a moment.

“The banter’s pretty good.” Locke and Jean said simultaneously, just as Sabetha said, “I liked the bantering.” All three looked at each other again, then laughed, joined a moment later by Lynch.

“OK,” Lynch eventually said. “I’ll make sure to keep the banter next time. Ungrateful Bastards.”

“That’s ‘Gentleman Bastards’ if you please” Locke said. “Now who’s got that damn bottle of wine?
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2013
The Republic of Thieves is the long-awaited third book in Scott Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards sequence. I read the first two books back in 2008 and, like many people, have been anxiously awaiting the third installment. Having loved the first two books, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, I wondered if Lynch could recapture the magic he delivered previously. Well, he did and then some.

The Republic of Thieves picks up very shortly after the previous book ends, with Locke Lamora in mortal danger, a complication of their previous adventure. He and his partner, Jean Tannen, are hiding out, trying to figure out what they are going to do. They are soon contacted and enlisted to help run one side of the Five Year Game, the election in the city of Karthain, home of the Bondsmagi (who happen to hate Locke and Jean). Their opponent in the election: Sabetha, a former Gentleman Bastard and Locke's deepest love; it has also been five years since Locke has seen her. What follows is a twisting romp through the election process, as the three friends reconnect as rivals.

In addition to the main tale, Lynch (like in the other books) interweaves information about Locke's youth, this time focusing on his relationship with Sabetha. It is fascinating and captivating watching more of Locke's history unfold. As he and the other Gentlemen Bastards embark on a summer as an acting troupe, they are forced to use their con-artist skills in an entirely different way than in the main story.

Because Lynch's stories rely so much on twists, surprises, and subverted expectations, I won't reveal any more plot points, but suffice to say that Lynch once again is in top form.

As good as he is at telling a story, Lynch is even better with his characters. Locke and Jean are two of my favorite characters. Each has a distinctive voice, which Lynch conveys perfectly. The flashbacks revisit many other supporting characters, all who stand on their own as distinctive and original (even the Sanza twins). Seeing how events play out for the characters is a joy. The interaction between the crew reminds me of the friendly antagonism of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and the rest of the Ocean's 11 crew.

This is a very tough review to write, because I don't want to spoil anything. I highly recommend this book, I would encourage all who read the previous two books. If you haven't discovered Locke Lamora and the rest of the Gentlemen Bastards, go read the first two books. They are incredibly fun, entertaining, and clever; plus, if you read The Republic of Thieves first, you'll spoil many of the earlier surprises.

Go buy and read this book. Now.

I received a review copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.
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67 of 80 people found the following review helpful
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch is the third book in the Gentleman Bastards series. There are definitely major spoilers for the first and second book, so I recommend checking out those reviews instead ;-). So up until this point I was actually listening to this series on audio and I have to highly recommend the audiobooks because Michael Page is an amazing narrator. Since I got The Republic of Thieves through NetGalley to review, I didn't get to listen, and I'm suspicious that might have made some difference in my feelings about this one. The Republic of Thieves just didn't enchant me the way Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies did. Lynch has done a marvelous job making each of the three books unique with a fresh setting and plot. However the plot and new characters just didn't draw me in in The Republic of Thieves.
Note: I received The Republic of Thieves through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Strengths:
I love how much of the world we have gotten to see and continue to explore in The Republic of Thieves. Locke and Jean have a tendency of needing to leave one city quickly so we've gotten a new city in every book! In The Republic of Thieves, we get to explore two new cities through the two intermingled plot lines, one of which is Karthain, the city of bondsmagi!
There were some loose ends at the end of Lies of Locke Lamora that didn't get addressed much in Red Seas Under Red Skies, but they become quite important in The Republic of Thieves. I love it when details of previous books set up subsequent books, so clever!
I freaking love the Eldren and the picture that we are slowly getting of them. There are some VERY interesting hints that are dropped in The Republic of Thieves that I'm sooooo excited to see come to fruition :D.
The ending and epilogue surprised me by suddenly opening some interesting doors that I thought were closed. I'm excited to discuss that ending with you all when you've reached it and you will know why!

Weaknesses:
I was so excited for Sabetha to show up and awesome things to happen, but I was just not interested in the romance that is the central focus of The Republic of Thieves. I just felt no spark. It seemed like I was being told that these two were in love and all awesome, but I was not actually swoony at all.
My favorite thing about Lies of Locke Lamora was the awesome scheming that occurred. There is basically no cool scheme in The Republic of Thieves. Both of the plot lines involve small schemes, but there just wasn't an awe-inspiringly complex ultimate scheme.
I'm bored of my world's politics and I don't really care about a fantasy world's elections. Seriously, the main plot is about campaigning for an election! *yawn*
Sabetha really didn't seem like a well-developed character to me. She was supposed to be all mysterious and we got occasional peeks into some of her deeper motivations, but she pulls off the mysterious and tough girl act way too well, to the point that that seems to be all she is.
My other favorite thing about this series was that in a fantasy world, our characters were very smart, but rather ordinary thieves. They didn't have the most powerful magic skillz to save the world like all main characters seem to have. The Republic of Thieves smashes this and I won't tell you how, but it was too much to hope that there wouldn't be a hero complex in this series apparently.

Summary:
The Republic of Thieves ended up feeling very "meh" for me. The things I loved about the first book disappeared and were replaced with plot lines and characters that I really wasn't interested in. It feels very much like a set-up book. I was getting worried about whether I would continue the series until the end, and now I'm quite sure that I will continue the series, but that's all that Republic of Thieves did for me. I also missed the humor that seems required for the Gentleman Bastards series. I had no moments of actual laughter like previous books elicited. In the end, I think some people will very much like The Republic of Thieves if they're more interested in the plot lines used, but it is definitely a different type of book than the previous ones. I'm hoping that the series recovers some of its humor and scheming in The Thorn of Emberlain!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 15, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was excited to hear that Scott Lynch's latest installment in the Gentlemen Bastards series was finally out. I enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora, though I didn't love Red Seas Over Red Skies. The Republic of Thieves got off to a promising start, with all the quick wit and fantastic one-liners that really set the series apart from a lot of fantasy novels.

But it often felt like Lynch put a lot more effort into crafting a carefully worded insult or analogy than into creating the world his characters inhabit, or the characters themselves. I got tired of all the clever banter and just wanted a plot that interested me. And honestly, there was SO MUCH DRAMA between Locke and his lady love Sabetha that I spent half the book rolling my eyes. The two of them were so annoying and I don't think they had a lot of chemistry so rather than being excited to FINALLY meet Sabetha, I just dreaded any scene of the two of them together - every scene would inevitably end with Sabetha taking offense and Locke groveling for her forgiveness. Ugh. No thank you.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2013
I'm not going to bother to open this review with generic statements about how much I loved the first two books in this series (although I did), and how eagerly I anticipated the release of the third (very eagerly) because odds are if you're on this Amazon page the same can be said for you. Suffice it to say: Scott Lynch is an extremely talented writer. He's proved it more than once, first with Lies and then with Red Seas.

So what on earth happened to Republic of Thieves?

I think I first noticed something was wrong when I got about halfway in to this giant and realized, despairingly, that I still had half the book to go. And quite honestly, my own despair caught me off guard. I noticed then that I wasn't enjoying myself. Yes, it's by no means the worst thing I've read, but it's certainly not one of the best: It felt like a long, slow slog to nowhere. The more I tried to put my finger on what was bothering me, the clearer the dissimilarities became between this book and its two predecessors. After a little bit of thought for this review, I can break down what I think is the main issue that turned this read into such a drag:

Not just one but TWO lackluster plots.

It wasn't that the characters had changed- Locke and Jean are still fundamentally the same Locke and Jean from the earlier books, and there are moments where they do shine- but the plot was so 'meh' it was hard to stay entertained. In Lies and Red Seas, Lynch did a great job of plotting his books so the conflict was real. Credit to him, it was never about saving the world but rather besting pretty brutal villains with pretty interesting motives, and things often became personal, convoluted, and downright deadly. There was always the sense that the characters were in real danger, that their lives were on the line. But in the main plot of Republic, the 'high stakes' is the rigging of a public election. Don't get me wrong: it's not the subject of the plot (politics and brutality can pretty easily go hand in hand), it's the blandness of the way its handled. I never got the sense that the characters were threatened. By anything. There was no real essence of danger. No one to root against. And while the introduction of the long-awaited Sabetha could have been a nice twist, she falls flat, in a weird place between hero and villain and not in the good way. As an 'opponent' she comes across again, as lackluster- you get the feeling she's not trying her hardest- and as a 'heroine/love interest' it reads as just too forced.
The more you read, the more it becomes obvious, that she's not the villain. She's not even a real rival either. And so we're left with the bones of a plot-: no real threat, no real enemy, a boring election without high stakes (although Lynch tries to convince us otherwise without much success), and no real danger. There's no room for these characters to flex the wit and cleverness that got them out of such dire straits before. There's just...talking. And more talking. And occasionally some tries at humor which largely fall flat (the snakes in the carriage? Come on, now...)

Making matters worse is the interlude which, in typical Lynch fashion, is pieced into the book. But where the interludes in the previous books were actually character-driven exposition, this one is...something else. I guess we're supposed to take out of it how Locke and Sabetha first met and how their relationship developed, but honestly, all I learned was that Lynch should stay away from Shakespeare. Much as in the main plot, this interlude (which is all about how the Gentlemen Bastards have to stage a play) is dull, danger-less, and generally unappealing. Where's the fighting against the odds? Where's the action? If the main plot doesn't have any, the interludes have to (or vice versa) or we wind up with dullness throughout.

And that's pretty much what we get. Dullness.
There's no kinder way to say it: Republic of Thieves is bland. Does it have its moments? Yeah, there are some good bits here and there that did make me laugh and kept me interested. But these moments are few and far between and what we're left with are pages and pages and pages of pointless exposition, boring politics, and a romance subplot that spins its wheels in the ditch.
I wanted to like this one and I dutifully stuck it through until the end but there's no denying that something's missing from Republic that was so essential in Lies and Seas. This one was a long trek folks. If you're not 100% sold on it, I'd wait, and if you're starving for something to read, do yourself a favor and look into Django Wexler's "A Thousand Names" instead.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2014
This book was entirely too long. I started from the first book which had all the exciting and refreshing vigor of an author in love with their own brainchild of a plot, and you got that feel just by reading. Locke and Jean are charming rogues as are the rest of the Gentleman Bastards. Sabetha is hinted at and serves to fluster Locke whenever she's mentioned. I found this charming. Even in the second book, you get the sense of Locke and Jean dealing with the aftermath of the first book and trying to make a way for themselves in other parts of the land. The pirating bit was loads of fun.

But this last installment was dreadfully dull. Trying to slosh through the flashbacks of Locke and Sabetha's strange and abusive relationship was painful at best, but I trudged on so I wouldn't miss any important parts that may have come up later on. Lynch attempts to emulate Shakespeare with a contrived and super boring play as some sort of plot device or allegory to Sabetha and Locke's relationship. Over the course of two books, Sabetha has been built up to be this criminal mastermind equal to Locke in her genius and the only one capable of beating him at his own game for the simple fact that she has red hair and he likes her. It's a very juvenile and childish trope that most video games and comics use to try and create a unique female character by giving her red hair and green eyes.

And it becomes wearisome after the first few flashbacks when you realize their relationship is literally going no where and the chemistry between them is pretty much nonexistent. There's also some inconsistencies in the story. In the first book, when we are introduced to Locke, there is no mention of Sabetha when she was in the Shades Hill gang, but in this book, suddenly there she is, and had apparently been there the entire time Locke was pulling his outlandish schemes during his formative years. I guess it's not too good to wait six or seven years to release a book in a series if you forget what you've written previously.

I got more chemistry between Jean and his dead girlfriend, Locke and the pirate captain, than I did with Sabetha and Locke. Their entire connection seems contrived and forced and Sabetha herself is a flat and two-dimensional character who fails to live up to expectations that have been set in the previous installments. The element of danger and suspense is also absent from this book as it seems there's no risk of Locke and Jean being killed during their exploits. The Bondsmagi, who have been purported to be the Big Bad for the last two books, and are built up to be the scariest MFers in the Seven Marrows, are completely absent for most of the book until the end where Lynch drops a convenient plot twist, one which makes zero sense in relation to the entire series, but explains why Locke is who he is. This sets up a lot of possibilities for a plot featuring more of the Bondsmagi in the future but it just seems like there was too much trying to be both Tolkien and George R.R. Martin in terms of introducing multiple characters, lore, plotlines, and plot twists.

I'm hoping the next installment of the series will prove a lot less dull and return us back to the fun-loving action Jean and Locke are capable of giving us.
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30 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2013
I would not normally give one star to a book that's as well written as this, but then there's no question that Scott Lynch's prose style is excellent. It's everything else in this book that suffers.
First, I love the first Lies of Locke Lamora and although I didn't find the second book as good, it still was a cut above most and I waited with huge expectations for this one.
Unfortunately this book is disjointed with interlocking plots that don't ever quite connect in the clever way you assume the author wanted them to or, for that matter, even in a way that made sense or worked. Also, something has happened to the characters. Their names are the same, but whatever made them fascinating people that people like me waited for years to hear more about is gone. They've become sort of generic and not like the people in the first two books. They lack the vulnerability, the humour, the unpredictability, and have become merely clever. And unfortunately not that clever. Consequently the romance was flat because who cares what happens between two chatacters who no longer have much personality left.
I kept reading despite the fact that the book got ever more boring as it went on hoping that sooner or later Mr. Lynch would return to his former writing abilities. It never happened. And he never brought all the pieces that he threw out in his overly long book to any sort of coherence. It's as if he decided to put all his writing ideas into one book without worrying about whether they had anything to do with each other.
Mr. Lynch, I'm sorry to be so critical. If you weren't such a good writer, I'd be less disappointed, but please go back to whatever the source of your first book was.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2013
The Republic of Thieves is the (long awaited) third book in Lynch's planned 7-volume series. Like the first two books, it is ambitious but doesn't quite reach its promise. The main story opens where Red Seas Under Red Skies left off, with Locke slowly but surely dying of poison; a flashback story told in parallel features the Gentlemen Bastards (including the twins!) staging a play (yeah, it doesn't really make much sense).

Lynch's world is richly imagined. We again visit a new city-state. Advanced alchemy and clockwork both provide color and seamlessly play their part in the plot as necessary. We see much more of the Bondsmagi, and city-state politics plays a large role. But it is the food, as always, that is most rich and richly described:
"There were the underwater mushrooms of the Amathel, translucent and steamed to the texture of gossamer, paired with coal-black truffles in malt and mustard sauce. There were cool buttercream cheeses and crackling, caustic golden peppers. Spicy fried bread with sweet onions was drizzled with tart yellow yogurt, a variation on a dish Locke recognized from the cuisine of Syrune. Each of these courses was bookended with win and more wine."

But what really stands out about The Republic of Thieves, and by which I think it must succeed or fail, is the introduction of Sabetha, a character obviously central to Locke's life previously kept off-screen. The Republic of Thieves returns to the flashback-heavy style of The Lies of Locke Lamora, which the flashbacks again telling a story on equal footing and in tandem with the main story (Lynch deftly jumps between the two). Sabetha is central to both. Feelings about Sabetha seem mixed from early reports, but she is a phenomenal character. Ambitious and proud, but I couldn't help but sympathize with her.

Unfortunately, The Republic of Thieves doesn't quite come through on its promise. The climax of the primary storyline is somewhat abrupt. As for the flashback storyline, I get that it's all about Locke and Sabetha, but it needs to be clothed in a plot with a more effective climax and more of a point. The book does, however, have a great hook for the rest of the series.

Disclosure: I receive a free copy of The Republic of Thieves through NetGalley.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2013
The Republic of Thieves does what it set out to do well: it establishes Sabetha as a three-dimensional, realistic character with thoughts and feelings of her own. It also provides a lot of the background information that the audience needs to understand Locke's fascination and obsession with her.

Unfortunately, in focusing so exclusively on Sabetha, the book falls short of the previous two in the series. The epic world building, hints-of-true-fantasy, and action of the previous entries are waved away in lieu of drawing out a rather sedate love story. Instead of seeing Locke at his best, pulling smart cons, teasing the audience with unforeseen twists, we get the Twilight version of Scott Lynch for much of the book.

Finally, when The Republic picks up with hints of real fantasy intrigue and world-changing scope - the opportunity is dashed with what feels like a fairly cheap plot twist. The reveal of a "big bad" at the end also feels hollow, as Scott has repeatedly delivered enemies that are so overpowering, so impossibly high-fantasy, that they break the scale he has kept Locke and Jean on for the past three books.

If Scott's goal was to create an easy read about characters we know and love, he succeeded. If his goal was to bring the plot forward, to introduce new elements to his world - he did that in 100 pages or less. Too bad the rest of the book didn't live up to the promise in those hints.

3 Stars: It was good. I don't regret the money or time I spent reading it. I do, however, lament missed opportunities and would be hard-pressed to suggest this book to others not already familiar with the series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2013
Locke Lamora is dying, poisoned by an enemy during his previous con. However, he receives an offer from the least likely source imaginable: the Bondsmagi of Karthain, his sworn enemies. In return for saving his life, they want him and his stalwart companion Jean to help their allies win an election in their home city. The only problem is that the rival faction has the same idea, and has hired the one person in the world who can match Locke in a battle of wits: his former lover, Sabetha.

The Republic of Thieves has finally arrived, six and a half years after the publication of the previous book in the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies. The medical and personal problems which have afflicted Scott Lynch's writing have been well-documented elsewhere and seem to be resolved, with the next book in the series, The Thorn of Emberlain, reportedly already nearing completion and hoped for publication in late 2014. Hopefully this is the case, because The Republic of Thieves marks the end of the 'stand-alone adventure' phase of the series and the arrival of what appears to be a somewhat more serialised mode of storytelling.

Like its two predecessors, Republic is divided into two storylines. We have a present-day storyline set in Karthain and featuring Locke and Jean trying to win an election in which they are opposed by someone who knows them better than they know themselves. We also have a lengthy flashback to when the gang were teenagers and sent to work in the city of Espara, where they find themselves trying to stage a play (the Republic of Thieves of the title) despite their director being in prison. The book alternates between the two storylines as it progresses.

Both storylines are entertaining, though the flashback one is arguably the stronger of the two. The secondary characters in the theatre company and city of Espara are more strongly-defined and the escalating catastrophes of things going wrong and then getting worse is quite compelling (overcoming the weakness that we know the 'regular cast' survives because, hey, flashbacks). The current-day storyline, set in Karthain, is hampered by the fact that no-one (not the Bondsmagi, Locke or Sabetha) seems to really care who wins the election. There's some interesting (if more broadly-defined) characters featured in this section and the various vote-winning ploys are amusing, but the lack of stakes makes this storyline flag a little. The alternating structure is also not entirely successful: the chapters are quite long and involved, so you're just being absorbed into one storyline when the other resumes, and then the same problem recurs. Reading the flashback chapters as one self-contained novel and then the present-day storyline as one chunk does improve this issue and restores some pace to both narratives, which otherwise tend to bog-down mid-book. There is a large focus on the Locke/Sabetha relationship in both timelines, which tends to get a little repetitive and isn't helped by the 16-year-old Locke and Sabetha discussing relationship issues with impressive and not entirely convincing maturity, which in thankfully isolated moments threaten to the turn the novel into a fantasy version of Dawson's Creek, though Lynch manages to avoid it becoming too annoying. These discussions also later provide important groundwork for the development of their relationship in the present day storyline.

On the plus side, Lynch delves into Locke's psyche a lot more than in previous books and we get closer to finding out what makes him tick. He also lifts the veil on the Bondsmagi, and we learn more about their history, culture, beliefs and organisation. The story about how the Bondsmagi will save Locke in return for helping them out in a minor issue seems rather thin, and it's rather a relief to find that there is more going on than meets the eye. In particular, the closing chapters of the book (and the twist ending) do explain a series of oddities in three volumes to date. There are some complaints that, as a heavily-trailed character, Sabetha is disappointing but if anything this appears to be deliberate. Whilst intelligent and highly capable, Sabetha isn't the paragon Locke lionises her as, and discovering there is a plot reason why Locke is so unhealthily fixated on her is a relief. In fact, there is an argument for readers to read the last few chapters to discover the spoiler and then read the novel knowing about it, as it makes a whole bunch of decisions earlier on more comprehensible than if read cold. Fans of Jean will appreciate that he gets some very good development in the flashback chapters, but will be less impressed that he seems to be sidelined in the present-day story.

Both the twist and another subplot in the book (reports coming in of a brewing civil war in the Kingdom of the Seven Marrows) seem to mark an end to the stand-alone nature of each novel. It looks like that, from now on, the plot of each book will lead into the next (as Republic's apparently does into The Thorn of Emberlain). Those who were expecting and even hoping for this series to consist of isolated, repeated heists and capers may be disappointed by this, whilst those who have dismissed the series for being a bit lightweight for the same reason may be moved to a reappraisal. Whilst some may mourn the loss of the 'Fantasy Ocean's 11' approach to the series, I think it's interesting and healthy for an author to evolve his story and characters from book to book and not be trapped into doing the exact same thing for ten books running, and The Republic of Thieves certainly does that.

With The Republic of Thieves (****) Lynch has delivered a book packed with his trademark sharp dialogue, wit and cunning plotting, and with big improvements in worldbuilding and the portrayal of characters' emotions. It's a transformative book in the series, raising the stakes and making it more clear what the series (and the potential sequel-series Lynch has mooted) will actually be about. There are pacing issues and reading the two narratives as separate novels rather than one big intertwined one may be a better idea, whilst the stakes of the story are somewhat murky and only revealed at the end. However, this is a step-up in quality from Red Seas Under Red Skies, even if it doesn't match the enjoyability of The Lies of Locke Lamora. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
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