‘The Republic of Thieves’ is the anticipated third book in Scott Lynch’s ‘The Gentleman Bastards’ series. It introduces the infamous, long-awaited Gentlewoman Bastard named Sabetha. With mind-twisting magic, romance, revenge and secrets, the series will never be the same after ‘The Republic of Thieves.’
After their devastating losses in ‘Red Seas Under Red Skies,’ Locke and Jean are given a second chance by the people they least expect: the Bondsmagi of Karthain. The mysterious puppet-masters offer them the chance to work for the Bondsmagi instead of against them. The task? Rig an election. Their reward? Locke’s life.
Locke and Jean find themselves up against Sabetha, an old member of their gang and Locke’s ex-lover. Locke’s equal in every respect, Sabetha is a formidable opponent. Locke must choose between wooing and winning. With the Bondsmagi hovering in the shadows, any romance could be deadly for all three Bastards.
‘The Republic of Thieves’ is a long one, upwards of six hundred pages. Alongside the action, the novel is driven by characters, relationships and conniving. Some of the best parts are the flashbacks to the childhood of Locke and Sabetha. Sabetha has been mentioned before, but ‘The Republic of Thieves’ is our first formal introduction. She doesn’t disappoint. Rather than the tired femme fatale that fans may have been expecting, Sabetha is a fleshed-out, interesting woman with an equal share of sharp spots and vulnerabilities.
All those pages also help build up the complex world of the series. Like most fantasy series, each book expands the world, taking us to new cities, places and cultures. ‘The Republic of Thieves’ also brings magic more fully into the picture. Magic has always hovered on the periphery of this world, but it takes center stage here. The mysteries of this particular universe turn out to be Lovecraftian in scope and terror.
One drawback is the lack of a convoluted con game like in ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ and ‘Red Seas Under Red Skies.’ While this makes the plot easier to follow, it does diminish some of the excitement and adventure. For the most part, wits are matched from safe bases and behind walls. The election is important, but it’s not the primary focus of the novel.
Oddly, the romance is the most important part. When reading the flashbacks, you’ll realize that this romance has been the most important thing in Locke’s life from the beginning. ‘The Gentleman Bastards’ sequence might be fantasy — but Scott Lynch has just tricked us into reading an epic romance.
And it might not have a con game, but it does have the plot twist to end all plot twists.
What with sorcery, seduction, theatre, battles of wits (and weapons) and a brilliantly constructed world, ‘The Republic of Thieves’ will entertain and surprise.