The Republic of Thieves (The Gentleman Bastards #3)
by Scott Lynch
Published October, 2013
From Goodreads: With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.
Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.
Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.
I was enthralled when I read the first book of this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora. It had everything you could want in a fantasy novel about a band of thieves- complicated heists, charismatic characters, beautiful writing, and the perfect balance between humor and drama. I think I read it twice and anticipated the next in the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies, which I read straight through shortly after it came out. I didn’t like it as much as the first book, but it’s not easy to follow a book a wonderful as The Lies of Locke Lamora.
When I saw that the mysterious Sabetha– Locke’s oft-spoken of but never seen love interest– would be in book three, The Republic of Thieves, I was excited to read it.
And then it was released, and I started reading it, and I didn’t get past page 150 or so- before Sabetha even makes her entrance. I don’t know why I put the book down, but I didn’t come back to it until a couple of weeks ago when I decided I wanted a nice long book for the long airplane trips and airport layovers on my way to and from Iceland.
I started out strong, aided by the long evenings in Reykjavik, when I would sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and start reading, then look up later thinking that half an hour had passed only to find out that two hours had gone by. As I got deeper into the story, though, I got less engaged in the story. Sure, there were points where the plot would pick back up again, but then it would trail off again and my mind would start to wander.
There are two storylines in The Republic of Thieves. The primary one follows Locke and Jean Tannen as they are hired to rig an election and discover that their opposition is Sabetha, the woman Locke has been in love with since childhood. The second story follows the same characters from childhood into their teenage years– basically a record of how Locke and Sabetha fell in love. Early on, the adult plotline was the interesting one, but about midway through it switched and the childhood storyline was the better of the two.
My issue with the book as a whole, though, lies with Sabetha. She is a multi-dimensional character full of agency and intelligence. She outwits Locke at every turn, and succeeds at being a strong female character without being there simply to be a Strong Female Character. That said, I found her to be completely infuriating. I can understand her position– she’s a women excelling in a field that is very much dominated by men– but she was so quick to take offense and clung so much to her pride that I often found myself rolling my eyes and thinking, ‘dammit, woman, get off your high horse and be a human being for a minute, would you?’
Locke wasn’t much better, as he spent much of the book (both storylines) trailing after her like a lovesick puppy, while the political machinations I had been anticipating devolved into a series of complicated, but high-schoolish pranks as Locke sought to woo Sabetha all over again.
And after 650 pages of being alternately interested, frustrated, and battered with an all-out prank war, it didn’t feel like the characters developed at all. Sure, Locke discovered a secret about his past (or did he?), but it felt like he, Jean, and Sabetha ended the story in the same metaphorical place as they began it. That’s not what I expect from a series, especially one that started out as well as it did in The Lies of Locke Lamora.