Review of The Republic of Thieves

by johannespunkt

[Spoiler Warning]

Some jumbled thoughts about this here book.

The first time I heard of The Lies of Locke Lamora it was through that one solitary negative review that popped up when the book was published, so I did not purchase the book. When Red Seas under Red Skies came out, I thought it looked damn interesting and I had forgotten the first review, so I purchased the first book and devoured it and loved it. I read the second book shortly afterwards and I was pretty disappointed. It felt like a far cry from the brilliance of the first book. I am not sure why, as it was several years ago. Nonetheless, I knew the first book was good enough to get me to read the remaining six books in the series, and to always recommend the series to friends, so I eagerly awaited this third book.

The Republic of Thieves is amazing.

The characters’ vernacular is colourful as always, and I have found my new favourite word: bitchling. I know some people have criticised Lynch for not having his characters speak the faux-archaic that is endemic to fantasy. In this book the characters get to speak in archaic tones when they perform the eponymous play, in the flashbacks. And this archaica feels believable, not just like someone putting on a strange accent. You know that type of dialogue if you know the genre. Fantasy authors all like to play with the language in exactly the same ways.

Due to the Big Reveal that a Bondsmage has actually been watching over Locke ever since they maimed the Falconer, some of the stuff that did not make sense in Red Seas is explained, but this is lost on me until I reread that book. It takes several hundred pages to wrap up the mess of the last book, but they are mostly enjoyable pages. Some Checkhov’s guns introduced in those don’t seem go off, but the main ones do and they do so remarkably well.

Interestingly, in the main storyline of the book, hardly anyone dies. Lies was very interesting in the way it dealt with death – very, very grimly. He set up some wonderful, vivid characters and killed nearly all of them (which may be why Red Seas was a bit disappointing; I seem to not recall many characters except the utterly awesome mother pirate captain and … a scrawny poisonmaster?). In The Republic of Thieves, Locke and Jean are thrust into a game where they are not allowed to kill anyone, and their opponents are not allowed to kill them either. That felt like a very mature plot decision. Of course, it ends in a bloody carnage, but that is right at the end, after having proven that he can write interesting stuff without all the death.

If there’s anything I haven’t mentioned here, you can just assume that I thought it was excellent.