Thursday, 10 May 2007
‘Red Seas under Red Skies’ – Scott Lynch
A debut fantasy novel was published last year that everyone was raving about, apart from me that is. My healthy scepticism of ‘hype’ stopped me picking up what really was the best fantasy novel of last year, ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora.’ After I’d given myself a good kicking for being foolish I promised myself that I would not make the same mistake twice! So here I am, having just put the book down, and I can say that (despite some shortcomings for this reader) Scott Lynch has delivered the goods again.
I can imagine Scott watching ‘Oceans Eleven’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, before sitting down to write ‘Red Seas’, as the influences are apparent. Following the events of the first book (and some enforced convalescence), Locke and Jean are poised to empty the vaults of Tal Verrar’s premiere gambling house the Sinspire. However, before Locke and Jean can get started another job is offered to them and a dose of poison means they cannot refuse… Having never sailed a boat in their lives, Locke and Jean now find themselves masquerading as pirates in a bid to bring the nobility of Tal Verrar under the control of a dictator. Thus begins a swashbuckling tale of daring deeds, doublecrossing treachery and doomed romance.
If you enjoyed ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ then you can look forward to more of the same in ‘Red Seas’. The plot twists and turns on itself and just when you think that you’ve nailed it, Lynch throws in another twist that you will never see coming. The outcome of the opening scene is hilarious purely because of the sense of anti-climax. The on-going banter and close relationship between Locke and Jean is absorbing, an off the cuff remark (at an inappropriate moment) will make you laugh out loud but they are forced to question where their friendship is headed in some scenes that are very poignant. The main characters are not the only ones who get this treatment, I particularly enjoyed any chapters with the pirate captain Zamira (and her first mate Ezri) and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the enigmatic Merrain in later books.
Funnily enough, for a book about pirates the weakness in this novel becomes apparent when Locke and Jean are at sea. Scott Lynch has a boundless and energetic imagination that has created some of the most fascinating ‘fantasy cities’ I have come across and I got the impression this was restricted by having to set large chunks of the novel in a ship in the middle of the ocean. The pace of the novel certainly picked up when Locke and Jean were back on dry land (and the prose became a lot more descriptive). This is a very small quibble considering that overall I really enjoyed this book.
‘Red Seas under Red Skies’ may not be this years best fantasy novel but I’m sure it will be prominent in any ‘top five’ list and, true to it’s subject matter, will probably pick a few pockets while it’s there!
Nine and a Half out of Ten