Friday, February 24, 2012

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

And Pirates, too?

To the formula that made The Lies of Locke Lamora such a great tale, Lynch adds a bit of C.S. Forester or R.L. Stevenson flavor in this installment of the tale. Locke is still figuratively licking his wounds from the mess in Camorr, but his friend and fellow Gentleman Bastard, Jean Tannen, manages to pull him out of an alcoholic self-pitying funk and get their terrible twosome back in business, now in a new location.

The pair of rogues make their way to Tal Verrar, where they put into play a ploy to rob the owner, Requin, of the most expensive gambling hall on the planet, the Sinspire. Anyone caught cheating at the Sinspire is immediately put to death, in a very public manner, but somehow or other Locke and Jean, under assumed identities, of course, manage to cheat their way to the most exclusive floors of the establishment.

Their plans go a bit awry when the Bond Magi alert the ruler of the city, the Stragos, about the pair's true identity and origins, and he decides to use them in a plan of his own to consolidate his power over the nobles of the city. In a bit of "wag the dog" this military ruler coerces Locke and Jean into stealing a ship, raising the pirate flag, and trying to stir up other pirates to stage raids on the Tal Verrar coastline, so that he will be begged by the merchants and nobles to raise a large navy again, as he did the last time the pirates grew too bold. Once his forces are increased, he believes, it will be no problem for him to use them to consolidate his hold on power.

Despite a very concentrated training program forced upon them, Locke and Jean really aren't that skilled as sailors, and when their ship is nearly destroyed in the first big storm they encounter, the men on the ship mutiny and put the two off of the ship. Luckily, shortly thereafter some real pirates happen along and appropriate the ship, incidentally rescuing our hapless heroes.

Plenty of swashbuckling occurs after that, and their efforts turn to recruiting the female captain of the pirates, Drakasha, into their plot to a)finish the swindle on Requin and b)get vengeance on the Stragos. This one doesn't disappoint the promise of Lynch's first book, and now I'm eagerly awaiting the straggling sequel.

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