Review of The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Our long national nightmare is over.  Book 4 of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, The Thorn of Emberlain, has a(nother) release date of September 22.  UK for now, but a US release date should follow.

The Republic of Thieves is the (long awaited) third book in Lynch’s planned 7-volume series.  Like the first two books, it is ambitious but doesn’t quite reach its promise.  The main story opens where Red Seas Under Red Skies left off, with Locke slowly but surely dying of poison; a flashback story told in parallel features the Gentlemen Bastards (including the twins!) staging a play (yeah, it doesn’t really make much sense).

Republic of Thieves cover

Lynch’s world is richly imagined.  We again visit a new city-state.  Advanced alchemy and clockwork both provide color and seamlessly play their part in the plot as necessary.  We see much more of the Bondsmagi, and city-state politics plays a large role.  But it is the food, as always, that is most rich and richly described:

There were the underwater mushrooms of the Amathel, translucent and steamed to the texture of gossamer, paired with coal-black truffles in malt and mustard sauce.  There were cool buttercream cheeses and crackling, caustic golden peppers.  Spicy fried bread with sweet onions was drizzled with tart yellow yogurt, a variation on a dish Locke recognized from the cuisine of Syrune.  Each of these courses was bookended with win and more wine.

But what really stands out about The Republic of Thieves, and by which I think it must succeed or fail, is the introduction of Sabetha, a character obviously central to Locke’s life previously kept off-screen.  The Republic of Thieves returns to the flashback-heavy style of The Lies of Locke Lamora, which the flashbacks again telling a story on equal footing and in tandem with the main story (Lynch deftly jumps between the two).  Sabetha is central to both.  Feelings about Sabetha seem mixed from early reports, but she is a phenomenal character.  Ambitious and proud, but I couldn’t help but sympathize with her.

Unfortunately, The Republic of Thieves doesn’t quite come through on its promise.  The climax of the primary storyline is somewhat abrupt.  As for the flashback storyline, I get that it’s all about Locke and Sabetha, but it needs to be clothed in a plot with a more effective climax and more of a point.  There is also probably a meta-commentary to the political kabuki in the present-time storyline—that American elections are theater while plutocrats manipulate the puppet strings—but that’s pretty plainly discredited by Bernie Sanders’ staying power and the rise of Donald Trump.

The book does, however, have a great hook for the rest of the series.

4/5 Stars.

Disclosure:  I receive a free copy of The Republic of Thieves through NetGalley.


About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction).
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