Note: This review doesn’t contain spoilers for the previous books in this series – however, the book synopsis (below) does contain some spoilers. Just skip over that if you don’t want anything given away. Additionally, as with Book 1 and Book 2, this adult title contains strong language and violence.
Written by: Scott Lynch
Published by: Del Rey
Release date: October 8th 2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
The synopsis below contains spoilers! Skip it and continue on to my spoiler-free review if you are avoiding spoilers for the end of Book 2.
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.
Anyone who’s been near my blog or Twitter in the past couple weeks has surely noticed that my life of late has been completely taken over by the Gentleman Bastards. (#sorrynotsorry) This is something I do not regret in the slightest, because it’s been so long since I found a series that I wanted to sit down and binge-read, and one which I could sit down and do so — albeit with just the first three books, and not the series in its entirety. (Only three of seven books are out so far — this is why I have a Goodreads shelf called someone-find-me-a-TARDIS.)
One of the best feelings in the world is to read a series where you never want to leave the world, or the characters. It’s heart-wrenching and disorienting when you’re finally forced to do so. And wrenching myself out of The Republic of Thieves was no exception. I’ve spent the last 2+ weeks immersed in the world and lives of the Gentleman Bastards, and I still don’t want to let go. Let that statement stand as one of the main reasons why you should pick up this series — it’s so immersive and wonderful, and you will not want to say goodbye when you’re forced to.
That being said, I have to be honest about The Republic of Thieves: I’m really torn about it.
On the one hand, I loved it. I loved it because I love these characters, more than anything. There was never one single moment that I didn’t want to be reading about Locke and Jean and their schemes for the Magi elections in Karthain. Jean and Locke are my favorite pair of thieves of all time, and I would give anything for them to have their own never-ending series where they just gallivant around, being awesome and conning people. I would read that series until the end of time. (You think I’m not serious? I’m totally serious.) And I adored all of the flashbacks to their past, with Calo and Galdo and Sabetha. We finally get to learn about their stint as actual stage-actors, and it’s awesome — and, unsurprisingly, not without the usual I’d-laugh-if-they-weren’t-majorly-awful complications. The flashbacks’ storyline in this book was excellent.
On the other hand… *sigh* The Republic of Thieves is sadly lacking in an epic overarching heist, and the plot was sort of just “meh”, for me. The story centers around Locke and Jean pitting their wits against the legendary Sabetha — each side is working for a different political faction in the elections in Karthain, and the Magi hired Locke and Jean, and Sabetha, to make a game of the elections, to try and get their side to win, via whatever means necessary: trickery, cons, lies, bribes — anything short of killing. It sounds great, and it was definitely entertaining; but for me, there was no tension. Neither side really wanted to hurt the other. At the end of the day, one of them was going to win, one was going to lose — and either way, it was no big deal. The stakes weren’t nearly as high as they were in previous books, and you could really feel that.
Sabetha was also really underwhelming for me; though my “disappointment” with her doesn’t really factor into any negative feelings I have for this book overall. She’s just not as great as I was expecting. With all the build-up to finally meeting her character, she doesn’t come across nearly as awesome as she’s hyped up to be. However, this might be appropriate(?), considering that we’ve mostly only heard of her through Locke’s perspective, and he’s pretty dang infatuated. It might make sense for his vision of her to be blown out of proportion to how she really is. I don’t know. And I really wasn’t feeling the chemistry between present-day Locke and Sabetha (though their flashback scenes together were pretty good). I think you just have to keep in mind — the Gentleman Bastards series is not a romance, by any stretch of the imagination. A sweeping tale of tragically separated lovers, this is not. The history between Locke and Sabetha adds a bit of interesting flavor to the competition for the elections, but other than that… ehh. I could take it or leave it.
The Republic of Thieves is the kind of book that I really did enjoy, just not on the merits of its plot or pacing. Locke and Jean are characters I will adore for all time, and I’d read about them leading perfectly ordinary lives (because their ordinary lives would be full of crime, but still). I will happily sing the praises of this series based on the strength of its main characters, and on that side of things, I have to give it 5 stars.
However, The Republic of Thieves falls woefully flat in the plot and excitement department. (Well, except for the beginning of the book… which I didn’t talk about because spoilers, but it does offer a really good resolution to the end of Book 2‘s cliffhanger.) That being said, I have to take off some stars for that. If this had been the first book in the series, I definitely wouldn’t have been so crazy to read the next two books. Still, because the first two were so far beyond amazing, I have super high hopes for the continuation of the series. Especially after what happens at the end of this book… Watch out, Locke, I think trouble’s coming your way… =S