Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Just finished reading Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. The first book in this series (The Lies of Locke Lamora) was an excellent addition to the fantasy world of reading that was an absolute pleasure to read. That being said I wasn’t as keen as I thought I would be to pick up this installment and it has in fact sat on my shelf for a long time. I think the idea of Locke and Jean becoming pirates put me off somewhat. But, I was very pleasantly surprised. Although it’s probably fair to say that Book No.1 is the better of the two this is no shabby addition. I think Scott Lynch is almost a victim of his own success in that respect. The LoLL was such an outstanding novel, rich in detail and populated with such great characters and dialogue that it was always going to be a tall order to surpass it and add to that the fact that your follow up novel is no longer as unique as when it first appeared, plus not all of the characters made it to book two and added to that you have a bit of a feel for the characters and how they will behave – given all that this second book is no small achievement.
I won’t go into too much detail about the plot. Basically Locke and Jean have moved on to new shores. They have left Camorr and are now in Tel Verrar where they are busy laying the foundations for their latest heist. This involves them spending a lot of time at the Sinspire – basically a huge gambling joint run by a ruthless man called Requin. Nobody steals from Requin – unless they want to pay the ultimate price and so of course our two gentlemen have set their sights and made it their next target. Added to this, we have an alternative story revolving around internal politicis and double dealing which seas Jean and Locke themselves being duped and resulting in them putting out to sea as pirates.
I really enjoyed this book and it seemed to take no effort at all to complete in spite of it being quite a large novel. I love the world building of Scott Lynch, I suppose some people may find it overly detailed but I love it. I thought Camorr was brilliant in the LoLL and it reminded me of an ‘alternative’ Venice and then again in this story we have Tal Verarr where once again the author’s imagination has simply run riot. The Sinspire is an enormous gambling tower (a sort of mini Las Vegas all located in one building) with each successive level of the building becoming more impressive, decadent and difficult to gain access to. Then, just as we start to come to terms with Tal Verrar everything is tipped on it’s head and the two are desperately struggling to learn the ways of the water. I liked this, it threw both of them out of their comfort zone, particularly Locke who really struggled to find his sea legs and learn all the correct nautical terms. Although in fairness I waned a little when reading about their training the story soon picked up when they put to sea and frankly some of the dialogue which then follows is really amusing (particularly the scene where they first run into the Orchid).
From there onwards we have a number of plots, and plots within plots, that twist and turn quite wonderfully. We are introduced to the pirate fraternity and intrigued by the Ghostwind Isles reached by the intriguing Parlour Passage and it’s creepy inhabitants. The story fairly races along packed to the brim with action, betrayal and even love. We have a really good look at Jean and he gets to really shine in this novel – I find him an excellent character who I enjoy reading about. Added to that we have the richly climatic ending topped off with even more twists in the tale.
Sorry, this is all very vague but it would be so easy to simply ruin this book by giving anything away.
So, on the whole, whilst this might not have been quite as good as the first book I put that down to the novely card having been played already. I actually enjoyed the ‘at sea’ element and thought the pirates, whilst a bit cliched, were a great addition.
In terms of criticisms I thought the ending was maybe a little rushed and I thought the loss of one character in particular was a little predictable. That aside, if you’re looking for great entertainment in a new and imaginative fantasy world this could be your book. Be warned however this is not a light read, it also contains a few scenes of violence and the use of a few expletives here and there – although I didn’t find it to be gratuitous or overly done.
I really liked this story and can’t wait to see where Scott Lynch is taking us to next. His imagination seems to know no bounds!