“I don’t expect life to make sense,” he said after a few moments, “but it would certainly be pleasant if it would stop kicking us in the balls.”
The Lies of Locke Lamora was all about revenge and gang warfare. Red Seas Under Red Skies branched out to an Ocean’s Eleven style casino heist and piracy on the high seas. So what do we get in The Republic of Thieves ? Infighting between political factions of mages and election fraud, apparently.
On the plus side, we go far more in depth in two things I’d been sorely curious about: the Bondsmages and Sabetha.
Ever since the first book, I’ve been wanting to know more about this mysterious Bondsmages, powerful enough that everyone is terrified of them (and willing to pay exorbitant prices to hire them) and insane enough that they’ve managed to actually pull off eradicating any magic users that refuse to play their games. This time around, we get to see a much more human face to them, along with a variety of political factions within the Bondsmages themselves. The more human they seem… honestly the more terrifying it makes them.
“Magi must never work magic against one another,” said Patience. “We’re as human as you are, as complicated, as insecure, as driven to argument. The only difference is that any one of us, out of the mildest irritation, could make someone evaporate into smoke with a gesture. “We don’t duel,” she continued. “We don’t so much as tease one another with our arts. We forcefully separate ourselves from any situation where our crossed purposes might tempt us to do so.”
I think my favorite bit of the Bondsmages is learning just why they take the jobs they take and why they exert such direct control over the magic of the world. It’s rather less about power than I expected (although that certainly feeds into it) and more… Cthulian. There are only hints, but not I want to know even more. And if Patience wasn’t lying to Locke the entire time… we might just.
So far as Sabetha–we’ve spent two rather long books building her up and now we get to see her both as a young Lady Bastard and then as a fully trained fraudster and peer of Locke and Jean’s when the Bondsmages pit Sabetha and Locke against one each other in their 'game' of election fraud . We start with their very first interaction, years and years ago:
Second, she spoke directly to him for the first time, and he would remember her words with a clarity that would jar his heart long after the other incidents of that time had faded to a haze of half-truths in his memory: “You’re the Lamora boy, right?” He nodded eagerly. “Well, look here, you little shit. I’ve heard all about you, so just shut your mouth and keep those reckless hands in your pockets. I swear to all the gods, if you give me one hint of trouble, I will heave you off a bridge and it will look like a bloody accident.
Things only get better from there. :)
I actually really like Sabetha. She was built up to unholy heights, by Locke’s point of view, so seeing her as entirely human–albeit just as smart and well trained as the others–is worth it. Especially when she has her own wants and desires completely alien (at least at first) to Locke. That’s a growing relationship worth seeing.
Overall, it’s fascinating to see just how different each of the Gentleman Bastard’s books can be, while driving forwards the characters and expanding the world a few hundred thousands words at a time. I look forward to The Thorn of Emberlain, whensoever it comes out.
Side note: The backstory behind the name ‘The Thorn of Camorr’ is wonderful. About 44% of the way through in one of the interludes.