The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, a tale of well, thieves, returns fans to the slick, hilarious, and heartfelt world of the Gentlemen Bastards fantasy series.
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch is a story about winning. The stakes, rewards, and price of victory stamp most elements of the gripping third installment in Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, from the major plotline to the chilling secrets unveiled as the story progresses.
As The Republic of Thieves begins, Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen are definitely not winning. Their most recent con has ended in personal and financial disaster, and has left Locke at the mercy of a mysterious poison which is rapidly killing him. Lynch spares no detail of Locke and Jean’s considerable straits, but he finesses the resolution of this seemingly-impossible quandary with admirable speed – and a lingering sense that this initial victory has an invisible price tag dangling from it.
From there the story kicks off in earnest, as Locke and Jean are installed as members of a convoluted political game orchestrated by the magi of Karthain. Their opponent is none other than Sabetha Belacoros, the long-absent female member of the Gentlemen Bastards – and the love of Locke’s life.
Fans of the series have been waiting eagerly to meet the enigmatic Sabetha, and her appearance does not disappoint. By turns wise, wickedly cunning, sweet and cruel, Sabetha makes sure that she stands out as a fully-fledged force of her own. Her feelings for Locke are an intricate puzzle which she, Locke, and the reader all struggle to solve as the story progresses.
Though Lynch perhaps erred a bit too far on the side of grand statements in her case (Sabetha has a tendency to proclaim her personhood whenever she suspects that Locke is idealizing her) by the end of the novel, fans will certainly be anxious for the two professional degenerates to find emotional and romantic synchronicity.
It is Locke, Jean, and Sabetha’s emotional chess which keeps the action in Karthain churning, but as in the previous books in the series, the story on the surface is rarely the most interesting. Lynch once again succeeds beautifully in interspersing stories from the childhood of the Gentlemen Bastards, which augment – and in some cases, supplant – the action in the present.
Funny, moving, and thoughtful, the back story in The Republic of Thieves moves from singular anecdotes to its own cohesive tale with just as much suspense and drama as the events in Karthain. Even more so than in the previous books in the series, Locke, Sabetha, and Jean are all infinitely richer as characters for their (sometimes unflattering) experiences in the past. As an extra benefit, Father Chains (who functions only in this history) gains a wonderful depth in this installment. While always an entertaining figure, hints at Chains’ true motives now add a moving emotional slant to his status a the master manipulator of the Gentlemen Bastards.
There are also a few meta-surprises to be found in The Republic of Thieves, as Lynch begins to lay down one or two of his literary tarot cards. Unexpected histories are revealed (or are they?) and vague spiritual mysteries flash briefly into focus with an intensity that demand analysis beyond the breathless attention of an initial reading.
Overall, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch reads like one of Father Chains’ famous feasts. Beautifully balanced and incredibly rich in character and tone, the third installment in the Gentlemen Bastards series offers a wonderful return to a dense and intricate world. Established readers of Lynch’s work will devour the story, and whether or not Locke winds up the winner in this long-anticipated game, even those new to his adventures will undoubtedly close the book with a thrilling sense of victory.