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Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
3.5
Book Name: Red Seas Under Red Skies
Author: Scott Lynch
Publisher(s): Spectra
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Adventure
Release Date: July 31, 2007

It’s a common theme that the second book in a series is the most difficult to write, think of all the time you can spend on your first novel when you’re unpublished and there’s no agent or editor or deadline to worry about it’s just you and your work. Then suddenly there’s pressure, especially if your first book does well, people expect you to match that maybe even better it. Now when your first novel is the bestseller The Lies of Locke Lamora, there’s certainly a lot of pressure and anticipation.

Now I cannot deny I was one of those people with very high expectations for Red Seas Under Red Skies but it wasn’t exactly what I expected. The build up is very long, now considering the cover and title and even the plot indicate piracy it takes well into half way through the book before our protagonists actually get to their mission in the sea.

Before this we find ourselves in a new location which we are allowed to explore and see the different aspects of the culture, from their luxurious gambling to a Hunger Games-esque version of entertainment. Yet no matter how intriguing this new place is it lacks the atmosphere or Camorr. Everything in The Lies of Locke Lamora is intricately woven together; everything is there to contribute to the overall story. Whereas Red Seas Under Red Skies is a lot more stretched. In The Lies of Locke Lamora every scene has a purpose whereas there were numerous scenes in this book which seemed to be there just for sake of it, whilst they were all entertaining I found myself impatient for the plot to get going. That being said Lynch has remedied all the structural issues I referred to in my previous review with the constant flashbacks and telling rather than showing. Now any changes in time are far fewer and they are no longer clearly stated which can be confusing at times but it is a much more conventional writing style.

Lynch has also remedied the lack of central female characters. Zamira in particular shines and deals with the issue of having a family and growing old in such a lifestyle which I found particularly interesting. Then there’s the character Ezri who I took to far less, she does have a few interesting moments but she is very clearly there as a love interest. Due to Jean being the side kick there are not that many times when the narrative is from his POV, as a result the relationship progresses very quickly from meeting, a bit of banter, sex and then undying love. Although there are a few scenes with them as a couple it wasn’t enough for me to feel as emotionally involved as I would have liked to be especially given the intensity of the relationship.

For me the central relationship has always been Locke and Jean so I mainly just saw Ezri as getting in the way of that. However, she is the centre of the most memorable scene in the book where she finally embodies her reputation. Once Locke and Jean reach Zamira’s ship the plot becomes really interesting and entertaining and the big battle scene is certainly the highlight of the book with a particular moment reducing me to tears.

There are enough nautical technicalities to make the scenes at sea believable whilst not weighing you down with technicalities and taking away from the excitement of the narrative. Also for all cat lovers out there you’re going to like this book.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is rather bigger than its predecessor. However, it’s well into the second half of the novel before I felt it really found its legs and then it races towards the end. But the ending lacked the satisfaction of the first book. A common theme throughout the series is the bad luck of the protagonists. Now whilst I’m a big fan of removing the predictability of things always coming right for our heroes, it is now becoming predictable in and of itself, dampening the heart stopping or hilarious moments.

A new element to this book is the different aspects of Locke and Jean’s relationship; it really gets pushed to its limits. They’re at odds with each other for so much of the book, or they’re separated due to the Ezri plot, that it feels like the heart of the book is missing. Locke is a mess at the beginning. Jean is a mess at the end. you just find yourself longing for the relationship to return to bring the equilibrium back.

All this being said I still feel that it is a lot better than many other books out there and my review is so critical because the predecessor was so good. So many writers struggle with the second book in their series and I see this as Lynch trying something new, experimenting with style and plot, and I still greatly look forward to the next book in the series.

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Rating: 9.6/10 (5 votes cast)
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, 9.6 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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3 Comments

  1. Overlord says:

    Great Review! Although, personally I actually preferred it to Lies of Locke Lamora.

    I thought the story had more variety to it (although, granted, you have to accept the rather sharp turn from Ocean’s 11 type plot to Pirates of the Caribbean plot). I also thought that the misdirection and complexity was genius – the whole book seemed to set you up for one thing and throw you into another time and time again.

    As Anne Lyle said on Twitter today too, the relationship between Locke and Jean really grew and changed throughout this book and I liked seeing that.

  2. thedoctor says:

    Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who was a little disappointed by this book. I loved the first one, but really couldn’t get into this one in the same way. I actually thought the beginning was great and I was enjoying all the games, but then it all went wrong at sea.

    That said, I have never been a fan of books with nautical settings, so I was somewhat biased against this one from the start. I’m hoping book three is a return to form.

  3. Charlemagne says:

    I also didn’t like RSURS so much… it wasn’t actually a bad book (a rather good one, in fact), it just suffers when placed in comparison with Lies of Locke Lamora, which I consider to me among the best fantasy books ever published. My main problems were the pacing, as mentioned, and the shift in the relationship. I know a lot of people liked that change, but I missed the old dynamic (and I am pleased to report that it is back in Republic of Thieves. I have a review on my blog, if anyone’s interested: http://singmuses.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/the-republic-of-thieves-by-scott-lynch/).

    I did love the book once it got to the whole pirate bit, though. The pace really took off and things went all badass on me. It was great. 🙂

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