In my adventures as an aspiring writer, I find that I often read books that are incredibly similar to one another out of habit, which I think can be a detriment. It is advisable for me, therefore, to broaden my literary horizons in order to improve my vocabulary, both in literal and figurative terms. With more, and varied reading under my belt, new ideas will come to me, I will learn different storytelling techniques, atop which I get the added benefit of enjoying more books!
This year, I set a goal for myself to read 30 books. I have included listening to audiobooks in that count, and I hope that none of you will qualify that as cheating the system. That being considered, I have officially read 32. #Win. Anyway…
A series that came highly recommended by a friend was The Gentlemen Bastards, by Scott Lynch. It was described by that friend to be a sort of genre-fluid book, being part fantasy, part heist tale, and part Victorian snark-fest.
Simply put, this series did not disappoint.
Imagine Ocean’s Eleven, set in a gothic-esque(ish) world, with a splash of scary and misunderstood antagonist magics thrown in, and you have an idea of the setting for The Lies of Lock Lamora, the opening book of the the trilogy. The highly charismatic, hilarious, and quick-witted characters bring the world to life, and make you root for the thieves who outwit the pompous upper class using a wide arsenal of tools and sophisticated plans at their disposal. Throw in some open-seas piracy, and you have Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book in the series. The Republic of Thieves grows ever more complex, involving political manipulation, as well as straight-up-Elizabethan-stage-performances, and at its end implies more upcoming novels, which will undoubtedly maintain the high quality of their predecessors. (According to Scott Lynch’s goodreads page, novels 4-7 are already named and dated.)
The characters are wonderfully built, with secrets that unfold and make you love them all the more as the series progresses. The world feels real, and leaves just enough mystery in it to allow the reader to fill in the blanks and construct an understanding of it all their own. The plot arcs are solid, entertaining, filled with twists and turns, and spiral out of control so often that it had me at the edge of my seat as I drove to work over the San Francisco Bay, day in and day out.
The books’ strong suit is within the dialogue, which shines and entertains with such fabulous regularity that I honestly enjoyed the company of Locke, Jean, and their compatriots along their misadventures as I completed, time and again, the dull drive from hearth to work and back.
The bottom line about The Gentlemen Bastards is that the books are incredible fun, fantastically conceived and executed, and worthy of the lofty praises they’ve received in critical and casual reviews. I highly recommend them, if you don’t have a problem with foul language and some occasionally disturbing (read: violent) moments. If you want to follow folks who are cleverer than the rest, do yourself a favor and start with The Lies of Lock Lamora.