Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (2007) – Book Review

Red Seas Under Red SkiesRed Seas Under Red Skies (2007) is the second instalment in the Gentlemen Bastards Sequence, written by Scott Lynch.  The novel takes place some time after the events of the first volume, the excellent The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006) and while the stories of the two novels are connected, Red Seas Under Red Skies takes our hero, Locke Lamora and his partner, Jean into new adventures, this time onto the pirate seas. Reading the first book in the series is recommended not only to grasp all of the references in this book, but also because it’s an exceptionally good read.

Where The Lies of Locke Lamora was a dazzling read, unfortunately Red Seas Under Red Skies pales in comparison. While it is still a good adventure, this instalment of the Gentlemen Bastards lacks the finely twisted plot intricacies of the first book. This time around, Locke and Jean are caught up in a double edged political scheme that means life or death for them whether they want to play along or not. At the same time, they have their own devious heists afoot and must somehow work the two together while being thrown into the pirating world right in the deep end. While these schemes and plots are brilliantly constructed by Lynch with careful threads weaving right the way through the story, there was just something a little less delicious about reading these shenanigans compared to those of The Lies of Locke Lamora. The first novel has us getting to know the characters and their origins as well as accompanying them on their schemes and while Red Seas Under Red Skies features a whole host of new and some quite interesting characters, the same charm and origin interest wasn’t there. The rich detail of the Venice-like city of Camorr was missed here too, with this book set in part in Tal Verrar and the rest at sea. Tal Verrar didn’t spring to life off the page with the same vibrancy that Camorr did and I do find that stories happening in insulated settings, particualrly ships can stretch towards to tedious, but that could be a matter of taste.

That said however, Scott Lynch has still proven himself to be an excellent writer and fantasist with an impressive talent for delicate description and developing character relationships. Indeed, if the bond between Locke and Jean was not so well constructed and heart warming to read, I believe I would have enjoyed this book all the less. Jean’s blossoming relationship with pirate, Ezri Delmastro was also another strong point of character development and a delight to read. Ezri was a fantastic character who, alongside her captain, Zamira Drakasha are two great examples of strong and multilayered women, something that modern fantasy novels can never have too much of.

Fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora will no doubt be eager to get into this next instalment of the series (and the third, long awaited and often delayed release, The Republic of Thieves). There’s swashbuckling action aplenty with some genuinely funny moments – and of course Lynch’s exceptional talent for writing amusing insults into the mouths of his characters – and some truly heart wrenching moments too. I can only hope that in Red Seas Under Red Skies, Lynch was searching for new footing in Lamora’s world which will be back to the firm standard that was set in his first novel come The Republic of Thieves.


Kate Krake

Kate Krake (aka Kate Murphy) is a writer with a long established passion for all realms of popular culture. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. Find out more on Kate's Blog.