Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies
Author: Scott Lynch
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Length: 786 pages
Read: June 5-22, 2014
Summary: Possibly best of the series
The first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was one of the better novels I read last year. Red Seas picks up right after and avoids Sophomore Slump by switching up the scenario and the location fairly substantially. Our heroes have left their Venice-like hometown of Camorr and venture off to a new city (Tal Verrar) and a new (and even more elaborate) scam with even bigger stakes.
The first third of the novel is Oceans Eleven in the Renaissance, and it’s real good fun. The world is enormously detailed and Scott Lynch is very sharp with the dialog. He has come into his own in this second book, as it’s wittier than ever. There is a very slight overwriting to the style, but you get used to it quickly and the huge novel flies along. The dynamic between Locke and his partner/friend Jean is fabulous and they are very well drawn characters.
This is aided enormously by a series of flashbacks. In the first novel, which also crossed two timelines, it was a little confusing which was which. This time around, Lynch has clearly labeled the flashback chapters. Because the novel begins essentially in the middle of the current heist, these are used to fill in the setup and the complex relationship between the two men. Walking a delicate line, Lynch has to maintain his suspense by NOT telling us how exactly the heist is actually going to work. We are tolled out bits and pieces until the very end.
Then about a third of the way in we take a hard tack to starboard and enter a high seas pirate tale. The entire middle act is shipboard and has less to do (directly) with the heist of the . At first I was like woah, but hell, I like pirates and this was good fun. Somewhere in Lynch’s brain there exists a different novel, about half the length, without the whole pirate part. You can tell this was self indulgent, that he really researched period nautical life and wanted to really use it. From a structural sense, the pirate thing isn’t even necessary, but because this world and its characters are so rich, and it was so fun, I think it’s a net win.
Hell the whole act of reading a fantasy novel is escapist, who cares if it’s too long as it’s a great read — which Red Seas absolutely and definitely is. A pure pleasure and a work of delightful fantasy. Plus, so strong are it’s characters, that it actually has a good bit to say on the nature of friendship.