The Republic of Thieves is the third book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards cycle. To say I have been eagerly awaiting this book is quite the understatement. The Lies of Locke Lamora was one of the books that got me back into reading fantasy. I read almost entirely fantasy and science fiction when I was a teenager but I got turned off by a lack of originality and too much formula. Then when I turned thirty and started writing seriously I realised that what I wanted to write was fantasy and I wasn’t reading anything in that genre any more. So, I looked for something new and I discovered Scott Lynch, G.R.R Martin and Joe Abercrombie. Something new was afoot and I loved it.
In The Republic of Thieves, Locke Lamora is dying from being poisoned at the end of the last book. Jean Tannen is trying to find a cure and is at the end of his tether. At the very last moment, a bondsmage appears and offers them a deal. She will save Locke if he and Jean rig an election for her. The catch? Their opponent will be Sabetha, formerly a member of the Gentlemen Bastards and Locke’s lost love.
Interweaved with the present day caper is a story from when Locke, Jean and Sabetha were children together. Their mentor sends them off to work a long con all by themselves in a strange town and the Gentlemen Bastards form as a proper gang for the first time. It reveals the history between Locke and Sabetha and their painful vulnerability is beautifully rendered.
Throughout, a bigger picture is emerging. The Gentlemen Bastards are caught up in someone else’s game and we begin to see how.
The two stories are equally balanced. They are both gripping and entertaining, full of twists and turns, and I was equally interested in the outcome of both. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. Couldn’t wait to pick it up again. The characters are vividly realised. Sabetha is wonderful. In the two previous books, she was a mysterious, mythical presence. In The Republic of Thieves she has the chance to come alive and she takes centre stage. Lynch writes women really well, in that he writes them as human beings first and then also shows an understanding of the experience of the world that only women will have. The dialogue is great and the way Lynch reveals character and story through dialogue and action is brilliant. This is a masterclass in showing, not telling. If you like fantasy and haven’t read these books, then you must. They are so good.