The Republic of Thieves, The Gentlemen Bastards 3, by Scott Lynch
The Republic of Thieves is the long awaited third book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, and it’s something of a return to familiar territory after Red Seas Under Red Skies. For the obvious part we’re back on dry land, but there’s also the return of the Sanza twins, Calo and Galdo, as the book is split between the present day follow on from Locke and Jean’s pirate adventures and the early days of the group’s history.
Republic is definitely an enjoyable read, just as as the previous two instalments were. Thinking about it, there’s not so much of a plot here, but then these stories have often worked more for the plotting than for the plot itself. Both the storylines have their little capers but lack the big heist that was such a prominent part of the previous two books, especially The Lies of Locke Lamora. It almost felt a bit like a filler in some ways, ticking off certain necessities before we move on to The Thorn of Emberlain – see what happens after Locke’s poisoning, check! Get to know Sabetha and of the shared history there, check! Drop a twist in the tail to give something to think about going forwards, check!
Without going into any detail, and of course avoiding spoilers, I’d personally have preferred this particular twist to have been left out. It seemed to come out of nowhere, not only in terms of being a twist, as they by definition tend to jump out at you, but also in terms of what we already know about this world and our characters. Obviously we’re yet to see where future instalments will take us, but I can’t help but feel I’d prefer this twist to have been avoided.
As for the story itself, as previously mentioned it seemed to lack to big heist and the necessary build up to this. There were lots of little capers, but it almost seemed like child’s play compared to what we’ve seen before, and there was certainly nothing so jaw-droppingly magnificent as some of the plotting from Lies that made it so special for me. In the present day story, most of the fun was relegated to prank territory and the big deal clincher at the end of the it all was a bit of a damp squib really. Rather than going out with a bang, it was more with a whimper.
The other side of The Republic of Thieves also seemed lacking in the big stakes. There were a couple of little exercises here and one or two small plans there, but again nothing that really said to me “this is a Locke Lamora adventure”. For me there was rather a bit too much “play” and not enough “play time” as the Gentlemen Bastards spent a large portion of the time rehearsing for a stage performance, several scenes of which were detailed in the book.
I regularly found that the flashback scenes in particular were a little long, meaning when the narrative returned to the present day I was a little lost trying to remember where we’d left off. This may have been exaggerated a bit by the inclusion of those big sections of the play previously mentioned, as I tend to find those types of exchange a bit dull overall, but then there would occasionally be the same problem going the other way as well. As we also have the Interludes that Lynch seems a fan of, the book itself almost seems more like a play than a novel at times, especially when coupled with the content of the flashback chapters in this volume.
In general, the characters still make the book for me, even if I would like to see more of the clever high jinks I opened the book expecting. For me, that’s what makes Locke Lamora really stand out, so it would be a shame if moving on with the continuation of the series Lynch lets the story get in the way of this. There’s room for both story and capers in the Gentlemen Bastards series, but enjoyable as it was, The Republic of Thieves just didn’t have enough of either one.
Overall: A good read, but will we see the series reach the heights of The Lies of Locke Lamora again, or was that debut just a special one-off?
Dominish rating: 78%