Red Seas Under Red Skies Review

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Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch is this week’s book. Or more accurately these last two week’s book. This novel is the sequel to the Lies of Locke Lamora, and is the second book in the Gentleman Bastards sequence.

The Lies of Locke Lamora was probably one of my favourite books of last year. A rare novel that not only lived up to the hype heaped upon it but for me exceeded it. The worldbuilding, character development and sheer fun of the dialogue stunned me. If the First Law books are what made me want to write, The Lies of Locke Lamora nearly made me give up out of sheer jealousy.

Red Seas Under Red Skies very much holds up as worthy successor to the first. Many of the same elements that made the original great shine through. Firstly, the novel is built around the bromance of Jean Tannen and Locke Lamora. Their relationship is nuanced and cleverly built with no shortage of strife and bickering to threaten to drive them apart. Just their banter alone is worth the price of the novel.

In this book there are a number of new settings which all feel as alive and complicated as Camorr did. Lynchs’ descriptions suck you in and make you feel as though you’ve visited them yourself. (Though you probably wouldn’t want to.)

A new cast of characters are introduced and promptly begin making lives difficult for the protagonists. I say characters but each are built deep enough to feel like real people, not cut outs. A brief description and some few lines of dialogue are enough for the reader to understand who they are.

As in the first, the odd are promptly stacked against Jean and Locke. This allows the reader to easily and readily root for them as their underdog status is well and truly deserved. A variety of plots, schemes and scams are present and Lynch keeps the reader guessing the whole time with a multitude of clues and breadcrumbs.    

Much of the book is pirate themed and the pages are packed with nautical expressions and problems. This makes the novel seem fresh and different from the original and allows Lynch to put his characters is new and interesting positions.

While much of this novel is fantastic, the main gripe I have is with the pacing. Towards the end the conclusions felt rushed and not given the gravity that they deserved. Thus the satisfaction that I received was not as great as it could have been and left me feeling bittersweet as I closed the last pages.

That being said, I still went out and immediately purchased the third instalment of the series. I would recommend this novel to anyone who read the first and liked it. And if you haven’t read The Lies of Locke Lamora then what are you waiting for! Do yourself a favour and go out and get it.

As always you can follow me at @jameslikesbooks

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The Thousand Names Review

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There are some novels that are inevitably drawn to a reader. Novels that are inevitable, unavoidable. They simply must be read. For me, The Thousand Names by Django Wexler was one such novel.

Through sheer weight of recommendations alone I would have been compelled to obtain the novel. The fact that it is military fantasy, my favourite sub-genre, was merely the nail in the coffin. I have seen the book described as flintlock fantasy, which seems appropriate.  With muskets and bayonets this novel is very reminiscent of colonial times.

Firstly, I must say that I enjoyed The Thousand Names immensely, as I strongly expected that I would. Wexler does a number of things admirably, but the overriding achievement to me was in his discipline.

Wexler creates and shows the reader a rich, believable world but doesn’t force feed it down your throat. Instead, he parcels the world building out in flashes and snapshots that feel organic and not forced.

There is magic, but it is not over used or over explained. While I do enjoy complex and well fleshed out magic systems, it is refreshing to come across magic that is just that. Magic.

Another way that Wexler shows discipline is in his characters. He is sparing in his use of viewpoint characters. In a literary world where authors seem to be trying to tell their story through as many faces as possible, this choice kept the novel tight. The characters themselves are deep and likeable. Wexler creates a myriad of obstacles and adversaries to keep them busy and struggling. The theme of the everyman, or everywoman, muddling through as best as they can is prevalent and is effective at drawing the reader to cheer for the characters as they succeed.      

However, for me the standout of the novel was in the battle scenes. They were just as I like them, numerous, bloody and easy to follow. Wexler pulls the reader onto the battlefield with the characters, presenting a clear and often gory picture of what was happening. Also importantly, the combat always felt dangerous and had stakes. It must feel as though there is danger for the characters, and Wexler delivered on that.

  Ultimately, The Thousand Names achieved what a first novel in a series should do. It had an memorable engaging story that left me craving more. Immediately after finishing I ordered the rest. Overall, I would fully recommend this novel to anyone who loves fantasy and doesn’t mind a little, (or a lot) of violence.

You can follow my book adventures on twitter @jameslikesbooks