Despite the number of fantasy reviews I’ve written lately, I don’t actually read that many fantasy novels. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, as a matter of fact I enjoy them more than the majority of genres I read. (Just ask author Daniel Arenson.) what it comes down to is one thing, and one thing only. Size. (Insert your favorite “size matters” joke here.)
Fantasy novels take time. Not only are they (generally speaking) in the 600 page range (this one was 651) but they are usually very interwoven. (That’s code for: requires my full attention when reading.) Their plots twist like vines, and the characters (and the worlds that surround them) morph and shift according to whichever plot line they are following. Which ultimately means they are wildly entertaining, BUT time consuming to read. If I didn’t have 2 years worth of books sitting in my review TBR, or 2 small children buzzing around my head like gnats most of the time, I would devote HOURS to escapism via fantasy. (In particular Brandon Sanderson…who for the record I met in September and have a mad nerd crush on.) As it stands, I have to pick and choose my poison. So WHY did I decide to read Lynch’s “The Republic of Thieves” when it’s (not only) the 3rd book in a larger series (I haven’t cracked a book in) but pushing the boundaries of acceptable time consumption?
Because George R. R. Martin told me to.
(Not personally of course… I think any actual face time with him would be taken up by my fury over the demise of Rob Stark, but I digress…) The fact of the matter is, I don’t follow directions well. At all actually. (I view them more as suggestions.) But I DO know when to swollow my bull-headed pride and take one for the team. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when one of the best writters of the modern day tells me to.
And while I’d like to dive right in and give you the in’s and out’s of “The Republic of Thieves” first…a little about it.
So, first things first…did I understand a damn thing that was happening in this book having not read the first two? Surprisingly (and thankfully) YES! Truth be told, after doing a little Goodreads research on the first two novels (The Lies of Locke Lamora & Red Seas Under Red Skies) I was actually quite thrilled that I read this novel first.
Rumor has it that in the first two novels Sabatha (who is a VERY major player in Republic) is nothing more than a name in the air. A chink in the armor of Locke. Unfortunately, the readers of books 1 & 2 haven’t the faintest idea of who Sabetha actually is. She’s mist. Her name floats around every decision Locke makes, but she is never introduced. In “The Republic of Thieves” she is there, in all of her confusing, arrogant, damaged, self-conscience, and perfect red-headed glory. You get to experience her as a child as she thieves her way through the dark nights of Camorr. You stand watch as she blossoms into a teen, mesmerizing hundreds with her beauty and skill. You get to stand in awe as she engages in a battle of wits with her better-half Locke. Sabetha in short, takes the stage, sets fire to the pages of this novel and shows you why she can effect Locke with nothing but her whispered name. And though I’m fairly certain I would have loved books 1 and 2 despite her absence, I’m happier to have known her, relished in her story, and put the pieces (of her) in their proper places.
BUT the story is not all about Sabetha, it’s about Locke…THE Gentleman bastard himself. The piece de resistance (I guess you could say) of thieves. At the open of the story Locke is dying. Poison from a previous battle coursing through his blood. This battle (of course) took place in a previous book (and yes, I’ll be going back to read it) but it didn’t take away from THIS story. Lynch (in what I’ll call a stroke of mad-author genius) gave just enough detail, delved into just enough flashback-awesomeness, that I wasn’t lost. I could take Locke’s inevitable demise for what it was (a noteworthy way to spout some pretty stellar insults) and continue on my merry way. Everything after that flowed like sand through an hour glass, fluid and quickly.
It did (as expected) take me longer to read this book than I would have liked, but the spectacular plot (which jumps between 2 different time lines and 3 different plot points) made the late night hours (and occasional snappish Mommy moment) worth it. The story, it’s attention to detail, the characters and the way their emotions slammed into each-other, the specifics that only a fantasy novel can capture in regards to setting, are EXACTLY what I look for when delving into this genre.
I could have been lost. Found myself stumbling through a forest of intimate details I had no idea how to decipher. Instead, I found myself entranced by a book. Living inside of it. Rooting for a legion of people no sane person ever should. In short, I loved it. I wouldn’t change a thing about it, and I will NEVER regret reading this one first.
A solid novel for fantasy lovers. Get it, live it, love it…pass it on.
Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.” – George R. R. Martin