The Blurb: Having pulled off the greatest heist of their career, Locke and his trusted partner in thievery, Jean, have escaped with a tidy fortune. But Locke's body is paying the price. Poisoned by an enemy from his past, he is slowly dying. And no physiker or alchemist can help him. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmagi 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 Bondsmagi's mention of a woman from Locke's past . . . Sabetha. 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.
Some slight spoilers will be present in this review, but mostly of book two of the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies. I tried to avoid it as much as possible.
This is the long awaited third installment in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. The cover is stunning, really a stand out and a nice spin on the hooded men that does not seem to want to go away. It looks like a painting and I'd gladly hang a print in my house, and you can't say that about too many covers.
I love Lynch. His prose, style, pacing and worldbuilding. The first book in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, sits in my top three favourite book I've read in my life. I'll try to keep my inner fanboy out of the way as much as possible.
When we left Locke and Jean at the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies, Locke just drank some nasty poison to save his friend from doing the exact same thing. We meet up with them where Locke is suffering the effects of his selfless act and Jean is busy buying, pleading, threatening and kidnapping anybody who has the slightest chance of helping Locke. The feeling is pretty grim, with Locke dying by inches. Then Patience - a bondmagi - show up and makes them an offer that's impossible to refuse.
As all Gentleman Bastard fans know, the magic users in Mr. Lynch's world formed their own city, Karthain, and they are quite apart from the world in general. If someone has enough money they can hire a bondsmagi for certain tasks and they are mistrusted and feared by most of the common people. And hated by Locke and Jean. Hey, they have some solid reasons.
Patience convinces them that she can help Locke, but for a price of course. The elections of Karthain are imminent and the factions inside the magi choose outsiders to run the election campaigns, for fun of course. If you were close to all powerful you'd also do weird crap to keep yourself amused wouldn't you? The big drawcard for Locke is that Sabetha, his Gentleman Bastard accomplice and the love of his life, has been contracted by the other magi-faction.
Throughout the previous two books we've read of the impact that Sabetha had on Locke in his youth, and I've been interested in her since the first few hints was dropped. Of course Locke accepts the offer for help and the price he has to pay.
What follows is a romp throughout Karthain. There are some rules that the elections has to follow, but not as many as you would think. Sabotage, bribery and all round hilarity ensues and makes the story a hoot to read.
Mr. Lynch uses flashbacks quite well and a lot in this book, fleshing out the back story between Locke and Sabetha in the process. We also get to read quite a bit about the Sansa twins which is bittersweet, seeing as they were murdered in Lies, and their interactions with each other is damn well done. We discover quite a lot about Locke and his origins which I really appreciated and did not really expect.
The pacing in the flashbacks is quite different and slower than the main storyline, so it almost feels like it's there to take a breath between all the action. I did not mind this, as it helped separate the two timelines well.
The interaction between Locke and Sabetha is brilliant. When they are matching wits it's magical, seeing as she is just as smart as Locke and makes him stumble quite a few times. When they are alone and Locke's insecurity and love for her comes to the fore it made for some touching reading.
We also discover why the Bondsmagi exist as they do, and the explanation is damn brilliant and I never saw it coming. In a few lines Mr Lynch manages to give reasons that makes sense and it fleshes the world out nicely for the following books.
There were quite a few twists in this book that was done well enough to catch me off guard, and that made this book damn good. Whatever you think will happen, doesn't. I got the feeling during the book that this is Mr. Lynch enjoying himself, a master storyteller delivering his tale with flourish and style. It was a real fun book.
Will it stick in my head as the first one in the series managed to? I don't think so. There are passages that stand out and really touched me, especially between Locke and Jean, but as a whole it was good, not memorable. If you like Locke and the Gentleman Bastards, read this book. You'll love it.