Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Final Week

So we’ve finally reached the final week of Red Seas Under Red Skies read along. It’s been another epic journey, this time we see Locke and Jean navigating the treacherous waters of the Sea of Brass. Thanks for all your comments, it was great to see what you all thought about the story and really expanded my experience with this book.

The final week’s questions are provided by Lynn at Lynn’s Book blog.

1. Oh my god, such a lot going on I thought the showdown between the Poison Orchid and the Sovereign was brilliantly written and they were holding their own until Utgar and his nasty device turned up. Well a lot of you had kind of predicted it, and I suppose we’d been let off too easy so far in terms of deaths of well-liked characters – but come on, did you expect something like that? And how on earth will Jean ever recover?
I always thought it would be the Archon that wipes out the pirates and never expected the pirates to fight amongst themselves. I knew deaths would be coming and it was really sad to see Erzi to go the way she did. At least she died by saving everyone on the Poison Orchid. I wonder how Jean would cope? Probably the same way as Locke did at the beginning of this book.

2. The deceit, the betrayal, first Rodanov and then Colvard. Even now I’m not entirely sure I understand Colvard – Rodanov was never keen on the oath but Colvard seemed okay with it all and yet in this final deceit she was more devious than Rodanov – what do you think was her motive?
I don’t think there’s any real honour among thieves, and it’s only fear that keeps them in line. So maybe Colvard wasn’t ok with the plan but didn’t want to voice out in case of angering Drakasha. So she seized the moment and turned on Drakasha when everyone is least expecting it.

3. Merrain – such a puzzle, no real answer, the mysterious tattoo, the determination to kill everyone to keep her identity and that of her master a secret. Does anybody have any ideas where she’s from and what she’s up to exactly and who the hell is she working for??
I’m guessing this based on the synopsis for Republic of Thieves. If you don’t want to know what will happen in the next book then I suggest skip ahead to the next question.

From the synopsis we know the Bondsmagi are at war with each other and Sabetha is working for one of them. So I think Merrain is actually Sabetha and the tattoo represents the Bondsmagi clan the she is working for.

4. Finally we get to the point of the GB’s latest scheme, all that elaborate planning for two years, fancy chairs, gambling, dust covered cards, abseiling lessons – all for one gigantic bluff. I loved the diversionary tactic here but having finally reached the end of the story and, more to the point, the end result – do you think the GB’s are as clever as they think they are?
It’s great to see how they all fit together and I really like how they had to go into so much trouble just to steal a few paintings from Requin. However to be honest, I feel slightly let down. I really thought we would see how they will break into that impenetrable vault. Maybe Locke and Jean will one day come back and rob Requin for real.

5. I must admit that I liked Requin and Selendri – particularly at the end – I don’t think Requin will go after Locke and Jean, he was even sort of cool and composed about it all, in fact he came across as a bit pleased with himself because he had the last laugh. Plenty of good characters this time which did you enjoy reading most about this time?
I agree Requin was pretty proud of himself because he outwitted the thieves and it was pretty sweet what he did for Selendri at the end. They do make a great couple. However my favourite character in this book has got to be Captain Drakasha. I just really enjoy reading this interesting character. On one hand she’s a strong and fearless captain, while on the other she is also a caring mother who wants to keep her children safe from harm.

6. Finally, a triple barrel question, I know I shouldn’t ask this BUT, on reflection do you have a favourite between LoLL or RSURS?? And why? Are you going to pick up Republic of Thieves? And, where do you think Lynch will take us to next??
I prefer LoLL to RSURS. I’m not really a sea person and I found parts of the voyage boring. When reading LoLL, I had no idea that the deaths were coming and I felt sad to see so many GBs dead, whereas in RSURS I knew something bad is bound to happen.

On the whole I think LoLL is a more compact and refined experience. RSURS is still good but just some parts felt like it was dragging on for no apparent reason. I am also looking forward to RoT. I’m glad I don’t have to wait as long for this book as some other people who have been following this series from the beginning. All I know is that the third book will be set in Karthain, so maybe we get some answers to how magic in the series really works.

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 4

What an exciting week this has been. Love that cliffhanger ending we’re left with and I look forward to see what everyone think is going to happen. This week’s questions were supplied by nrlymrtl at Dark Cargo.

1. I was much relieved when Jean and Locke made up, which started with Locke’s gesture of a cup full of honesty with Cpt. Drakasha. Do you think that was hard for Locke? Or was he using this bit of honesty like any other weapon in his arsenal to get what he wants in the end?
We all know how good Locke is at reading and calculating people. I think he weighed all the possible actions and found out that being honest with Captain Drakasha is the only way to keep them both alive in the long run.

I was surprised Locke was honest to the Archon as well and told him everything that happened at Port Prodigal. I wonder if Locke’s plan will work out in the end.

2. The Parlor Passage: We still don’t know Locke’s true name, but whatever was in that mist does. What do you think it is?
This is a hard one but whatever it is, it obviously doesn’t want to be found. It must have some serious mojo to cast such a big spell around itself.

3. There was an interesting section of the book that started about where Locke assisted Drakasha in selling the Red Messenger; he put on the persona of Leocanto Kosta and used the alias Tavras Callas and then Drakasha was still thinking of him as Ravelle….. Did using all those various aliases in such a short amount of time have your mind spinning a little? Do you think Lynch did this on purpose to give the reader a sense of Locke’s mind?
The wonderful about Locke is that he can be a completely different person but essentially the same person and this is what makes him interesting to read. I don’t find it confusing as these personae are quite distinct. I really like how Locke can slip into another personality just like he did when he faced the Redeemers.

4. That was a sweet little kiss between Cpt. Zamira and Cpt. Jaffrim at the end of the Captains’ Council. Do you think they have some history, or is it just innocent flirting that’s been going on for some time?
I’m sure there is some history between the two. Maybe they used to sail on the same boat before they both became captains.

5. Jean and Ezri. Cue dove-cooing and little winged hearts with sparkles. Do you think Jean will stay with the Poison Orchid or that Ezri will leave her ship to pal around with Jean and Locke?
Ezri has spent most of her time at sea and I think it will be harder for her to adjust to a life on land. Jean being the gentleman that he is, I’m sure he will side with Ezri even though if it means abandoning Locke. However I still think something will happen to prevent Jean from ever making that decision.

6. What is Utgar up to? What are his motivations?
Utgar wants to move up to the biggest and baddest ship in the Sea of Brass. I wouldn’t blame him for what he’s doing, it’s just how life is like for pirates. I wonder if it’s only simply spying that he has been charged to do or something more.

7. So last week we hashed over that Merrain killed some of Stragos’s guards on Windward Rock. But when Jean and Locke visit him, he doesn’t mention it. What is up with that?
I think Stragos still has those deaths at the back of his mind but he doesn’t want to bring them up yet until Locke and Jean has succeeded in their task. I’m sure he will make them pay for it soon enough.

8. This week’s section left us where the book began – Jean pointing a crossbow at Locke’s throat. Do you think Jean knows who sent these crossbowers? Is he on their side? Is it a clever ploy to get him and Locke out of this predicament? Did you find it excruciatingly hard to stop here?
Yes this was a very bad place to stop. I think this is a ploy but I really have no idea who the employer is and what is going to happen. Currently there are so many things happening and not that many page left, will this book have a satisfying ending for the duo? I really can’t wait to see how this book will end.

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 3

Welcome to week 3 of the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along. This week’s questions are from Ashley (@ohthatashley) over at SF Signal.

1. Locke and Jean’s ability to find themselves at the center of a serious mess seems unparalleled. At this point, do you think that Stragos will get the return he expects on his investment in them?
Locke and Jean are really in some serious mess. I never expected Caldris to die of a heart attack. How will they get the antidote in time when they have no ship of their own? I don’t know how they will do it but one thing I’m sure is that they will come up with an amazing scheme to commandeer a ship in time. At the same time I bet they will also incite all the pirates in Port Prodigal to wage war with the Archon.

2. Merrain’s activities after our boys leave Windward Rock are interesting. What do you think her plans are?
Merrain sure is a mysterious figure. Who is her ultimate employer? I think whoever she is working for wants to upset the stability in Tal Verrar and probably wish to establish a new leader to rule over the city.

3. Does anyone know why having cats aboard the ship is so important?
Well cats are important because they help catch vermin that eat away at the ship’s supplies and it seems they are a sort of lucky charm in the eyes of the sailors and pirates. Also cats are pretty fun to watch when you’re out at sea for a long time.

4. The word “mutiny” creates a lot of mental pictures. Were you surprised? Why or why not?
I wasn’t that surprised it happened. Locke and Jean are good at faking but usually they spend a long time to prepare for the schemes and have plenty of chances to practise. Whereas this time, all they had was a month and their expert suddenly dropped dead. Of course it wouldn’t take long for the rest of the crew to catch on that Locke and Jean are not who they claim they are.

5. Ah, the Poison Orchid. So many surprises there, not the least of which were the captain’s children. Did you find the young children a natural part of the story?
It makes sense that the captain wants to keep the children on the ship with her. It’s better than leaving them at port where there is no guarantee to their safety. I wonder if the children will play a bigger role in the latter parts of the story.

6. Jean is developing more and more as a character as we get further in to the book. Ezri makes the comment to him that “Out here, the past is a currency, Jerome. Sometimes it’s the only one we have.” I think several interesting possibilities are coming into play regarding Jean and Ezri. What about you?
No matter how much Jean might like Ezri I don’t think they will have a happy ending. Lynch just loves torturing his characters and there’s also another five books for Locke and Jean to survive through. I hate to say it but it’s just too early for Jean to settle down. I really can’t see Ezri becoming a part of the Gentleman Bastards.

7. As we close down this week’s reading, the Thorn of Camorr is back! I love it, even with all the conflict. Several things from their Camorri background have come back up. Do you think we will see more Camorri characters?
I know there’s one Camorri that I really want to see. I think her name begins with a S…

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 2

OK, so here are the questions for week 2 of the Read Along. As usual, please visit Little Red Reviewerfor everyone’s discussions.

1. Now that we know a little more about Selendri and Requin, what do you think of them? I worry Locke is suddenly realizing this con might be a bit tougher than he expected.
Requin really cares for Selendri and there is obviously something much more to their relationship. I don’t think this revelation affects Locke’s plan that much as he is always able to get out of tight situations. In fact I think Locke will take advantage of this relationship and use it in some way to get into the vault.

2. Isn’t the Artificers’ Crescent just amazing? If you could purchase anything there, what would it be?
Everything is just amazing there and I would just purchase the whole thing. If I can only pick one then it would be some type of mechanical pet. Something that can rival a scorpion-hawk.

3. What did you think of Salon Corbeau and the goings on that occur there? A bit crueler than a Camorri crime boss, no?
I agree with Locke that these sort of games are not to my taste. I’m just wondering does lawlessness always bring out the worst in people and do people with power always want to abuse it? I just hope Locke teaches them a lesson.

4. The Archon might be a megalomaniacal military dictator, but he thinks he’s doing right by Tal Verrar: his ultimate goal seems to be to protect them. What do you think he’s so afraid of?
I think he’s very proud of Tal Verrar and maybe upset that they lost the Thousand-Day War against Camorr because the Priori gave in. I don’t think there’s anything the Archon is afraid of. He just wants to prove to the entire world that Tal Verrar is a force to be reckoned with.

5. And who the heck is trying to kill Locke and Jean every few days? they just almost got poisoned (again!)!
Well I don’t think its the Bondsmagi because they’ve already handed Locke and Jean over to the Archon. I think if Requin wanted them dead then he would have pushed Locke out of the window already and obviously the Archon has an important task for them to do. I don’t think the new Spiders want them dead either. So I guess Locke did something in Salon Corbeau that pissed a lot of rich people off and now they want to get their revenge.

6. Do you really think it’s possibly for a city rat like Locke to fake his way onto a Pirate ship?
If it were any other people I would say no but it’s Locke and Jean after all. They have been faking it since they were a small child, I have confidence they will pull this off.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part Robin Hood, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling…

An orphan’s life is harsh–and often short–in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains–a man who is neither blind nor a priest. A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans–a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful–and more ambitious–than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men–and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game–or die trying…

After over a month of discussions on The Lies of Locke Lamora read along, I’m finally writing down my thoughts on this story. The following is not exactly a review, more like a summary of my read along and contains spoilers so I advise you to seek another review if you want something spoiler free.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is definitely one the most interesting fantasy books I’ve read lately. First off, Lies takes place in a bustling port city similar to a Renaissance age Venice. This is so refreshing compared to the typical fantasy story that is set in a generic medieval style country. This slightly more modern setting allows Lynch to create a vibrant city that is filled with lives and activities, as well as exotic goods that you rarely find in other novels.

What further impressed me is the attention to detail in this book. Lynch has created a world so rich that you could mistake it for real. There’s a mysterious forgotten race, a fascinating religion system, a hierarchy of classes that separates the nobles from the common folks and then there’s food with description so vivid that causes salivation on the very thought of them. Can you honestly say you don’t want to take a sip of Austershalin brandy or taste the sweet nectar from Orange Sofia? What’s even more phenomenal is that Lynch created all these for his debut novel. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all these information, I was mesmerised throughout by how natural and how well suited they are to the story. The writing was so good that these details didn’t feel out of place at all.

Many people complained about the language, saying the profanities are inappropriate or too modern for the society of that period. Well for the first point, these people are known as the Gentleman Bastards and not just the Gentlemen. You can’t really expect thieves and con artists to behave like some uptight nobles even when they’re being themselves. Whereas for the second point, you have to remember this is a fantasy fiction and not a historical fantasy and Lynch can use any language that he sees fit for his characters. I think the swearing would stick out like a sore thumb if he were to use anything else.

And then there’s the complaints about the interludes. Some find the flashbacks interspersed in the story off putting but to me this is similar to the flashback device used on television shows to introduce a new episode. I find the flashbacks add a rich layer to the storytelling, providing just enough background information to introduce the new scenes. It was great to learn how powerful the Bondsmagi are and then the next chapter opens with Locke swearing at one of these mighty Bondsmagi.

Finally there’s the Gentleman Bastards themselves. Locke, with his exceptional skills in scheming and plotting makes for a fitting leader after the departure of Father Chains. Jean, fighter and saviour of the group, strong but not stupid. Then there’s the Sanza twins who provide much of the comedy relief of the group and last but not least Bug, the youngest one of the group who looks up to the older boys as idols. These are some of the most sympathetic thieves that you will ever come across. I just love the sense of camaraderie between the Gentleman Bastards. Except for the whole dying thing, wouldn’t it be great to be part of the gang?

It was pretty shocking to see them killed off so early in the series. I knew the deaths were coming but I thought these Gentleman Bastards could at least make it for a few more books. I wonder how Locke and Jean will move forward now without the other boys. Can they ever accept someone new to replace the friends they lost? And what about that mysterious Sabetha? I wonder what she did to get Locke so in love with her.

Lynch has created a fantastic story with The Lies of Locke Lamora. Yes, there is a lot of swearing and scenes of brutality but the Gentleman Bastards do live in a dangerous era and operate with some of the meanest and roughest criminals. I found there is a good balance of humour and light-heartedness alongside the thrills and excitement to make this story an extreme pleasure to read.

I can’t highly recommend this enough but seeing that this book is voted as one of the top 10 books published by Gollancz in its fifty years of publishing more than speaks for itself. A must read for any fantasy fans.

Discussion Posts:
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 1
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 2
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 3
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 4
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 5

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 15

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 1

I had a lot of fun in the first Gentleman Bastard read along so I’ve decided to continue with part 2 of the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies. This time I will actually stick to the schedule and won’t read any further than what is specified in the reading guide. Let’s see how different my answers will be from the book.

So to kick off this second read along, we have Bryce from My Awful Reviews supplying the questions covering the beginning of the book to the end of chapter 3. Also remember to check out the other great discussions at The Little Red Reviewer.

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?
I think Locke always have some ingenious plans to make things happen. I am really interested to see what Locke will do to beat this apparently undefeatable vault. I also wonder if they will ever recruit new members to the Gentleman Bastards or it will remain as the dynamic duo from now on.

2. Anyone want to guess how they’re going to make it happen?
Like Locke said, if you can’t cheat the system then you have to cheat the players. So I think Locke is going to gain trust from Requin then when the opportunity present itself, Locke will stab Requin in the back and rob him blind.

3. It’s a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?
I really enjoy the conversations between Locke and Jean but I miss the other GBs too. Like I said earlier, I hope they will add new members to their group.

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?
I think that will be the end goal for Locke. It’s still too early in the series for them to settle down and start up a thief school. I imagine that at the end of the series, Locke will become a Father Chains like figure to a bunch of aspiring con artists.

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven’t spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke’s life?
I think Sabetha is a myth to keep the GBs happy at night. I won’t believe she’s real until she actually appears in the book.

6. It’s early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn’t expect. How do you think their new “employer” is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?
I wonder what The Archon wants to achieve by “employing” the GBs. I don’t think he cares about Requin’s money. Maybe The Archon wants to use the GBs to get back at the Bondsmagi for some reason.

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Final Week

It’s the final week of the Lies of Locke Lamora read along and it has been a fantastic journey. I really enjoyed reading the book as well as discovering what everyone else thinks of it.

The final questions to the read along are provided by Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog. Without further ado, the questions are:

1. The Thorn of Camorr is renowned – he can beat anyone in a fight and he steals from the rich to give to the poor. Except of course that clearly most of the myths surrounding him are based on fantasy and not fact. Now that the book is finished how do you feel the man himself compares to his legend. Did you feel that he changed as the story progressed and, if so, how did this make you feel about him by the time the conclusion was reached?
Legend tends to blow things out of proportion and obviously Locke is not Robin Hood. He doesn’t give to the poor and he only does things when it suits him or challenges him.

I think the events in the book has given Locke a new perspective in life. Before he was satisfied with conning the nobels out of their money but I believe he nows want to accomplish more. I’m not sure if he’ll do something good or bad though but would be interesting to find out.

2. Scott Lynch certainly likes to give his leading ladies some entertaining and strong roles to play. We have the Berangia sisters – and I definitely wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of them or their blades plus Dona Vorchenza who is the Spider and played a very cool character – even play acting to catch the Thorn. How did you feel about the treatment the sisters and Dona received at the hands of Jean and Locke – were you surprised, did it seem out of character at all or justified?
I think the sisters got what they deserved. Afterall they are trained warriors and Jean beat them both in a fair fight. And Vorchenza thought Locke to be a gentlemen, but how wrong was she? Despite what happened to her, I think Locke treated her fairly well under the circumstances.

3. Towards the end we saw a little more of the magic and the history of the Bondsmagi. The magic, particularly with the use of true names, reminds me a little of old fashioned witchcraft or even voodoo. But, more than that I was fascinated after reading the interlude headed ‘The Throne in Ashes’ about the Elderglass and the Elders and why their structures were able to survive even against the full might of the Bondsmagi – do you have any theories about this do you think it’s based on one of our ancient civilisations or maybe similar to a myth??
I don’t have an explanation, maybe the Elderglass is magic proof and immune to any form of damage. I wonder if we’ll ever know where the Elderglass comes from.

4. We have previously discussed Scott Lynch’s use of description and whether it’s too much or just spot on. Having got into the last quarter of the book where the level of tension was seriously cranked up – did you still find, the breaks for interludes and the descriptions useful or, under the circumstances did it feel more like a distraction?
I still enjoyed the interludes, because I like reading about the backstory. They offer a short break from all the action in this intense finale.

5. Now that the book has finished how did you feel about the conclusion and the eventual reveal about the Grey King and more to the point the motivations he declared for such revenge – does it seem credible, were you expecting much worse or something completely different altogether?
I know some people can really hold grudges so I’m not surprised that the Grey King waited for so long to get his revenge. I am a little surprise that he doesn’t have more people around to protect him. Maybe he was over confident with the bondsmage? I did secretly wish that the Grey King is someone Locke knows though. That would have driven Locke nuts.

6. Were you surprised that Locke, being given two possible choices (one of which could possibly mean he would miss his chance for revenge on the Grey King) chose to go back to the Tower – especially given that (1) he would have difficulty in getting into the building (2) he would have difficulty in convincing them about the situation and (3) he would have difficulty in remaining free afterwards? Did anyone else nearly pee their pants when Locke and the rest were carrying the sculptures up to the roof garden?
I knew Locke would go back to save those people. After everything he’s done, he never intended to hurt his victims and he would never want to see so many people dead. Yeah and the moment with the sculptures was tense.

7. Finally, the other question I would chuck in here is that, following the end of the book I was intrigued to check out some of the reviews of LOLL and noticed that the negative reviews mentioned the use of profanity. How did you feel about this – was it excessive? Just enough? Not enough?
I thought the profanity suited the situation, afterall they are thieves and you can’t expect them to talk like nobles when they are by themselves. Another issue that I see people have is that the profanity is too modern but this is a made up world so Lynch can use anything that he sees fit. However if this was a historical fantasy then I can understand where their concern is coming from.

8. Okay one further, and probably most important but very quick question – having finished, will you pick up the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies?
Yes, definitely! Just waiting for the next read along to start.

OK, here’s a question of my own. Do you think Locke went over the top with Falconer or he got what he deserved? Afterall the Bondsmage is only a gun for hire and did what he was told.

Remember to check everyone’s answers over at Little Red Reviewer.

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 4

Welcome to another week’s questions and answers for Lies of Locke Lamora read along. Once again, do visit Andrea at Little Red Reviewer for everyone’s answers to the questions.

This week’s questions are brought to us by Ashley at SF Signal.

1. In the chapter “A Curious Tale for Countess Amberglass” we learn of the tradition of the night tea in Camorr. I found that not so much fantastical as realistic – how about you?
I really love these details that flesh out the world. It shows that there is life outside of the main arc of the story and the author has put in a lot of work into imagining all aspects of this world.

2. When Jean meets with what will become the Wicked Sisters for the first time, the meeting is described very much like how people feel when they find their true work or home. Agree? Disagree? Some of both?
It does sound like Jean has found his true love. I was pretty surprised how fast Jean picked up using the Wicked Sisters and how natural he was at fighting though.

3. Salt devils. Bug. Jean. The description is intense. Do you find that description a help in visualizing the scene? Do you find yourself wishing the description was occasionally – well – a little less descriptive?
I don’t mind descriptive scenes, as long as it’s not redundant or too flowery. I think the description Lynch used for the scene was spot on. It added to the tension and sense of danger that the gang faced in that situation and made it that much more exciting.

4. This section has so much action in it, it’s hard to find a place to pause. But…but.. oh, Locke. Oh, Jean. On their return to the House of Perelandro, their world is turned upside down. Did you see it coming?
Let just say I made the mistake of reading some discussion threads which spoiled the surprise. Anyway I would never have guessed it coming in a million years. It’s fitting but I would like see that GBs together for a few more novels.

5. Tavrin Callas’s service to the House of Aza Guilla is recalled at an opportune moment, and may have something to do with saving a life or three. Do you believe Chains knew what he set in motion? Why or why not?
Chains wanted the boys to be prepared for all kinds of situations. He might not know exactly what mess the GBs will get into but at least he gave them a good foundation.

6. As Locke and Jean prepare for Capa Raza, Dona Vorchenza’s remark that the Thorn of Camorr has never been violent – only greedy and resorting to trickery – comes to mind again. Will this pattern continue?
Well Locke learnt his lesson at a young age and he swore that he will never get anyone killed because of his schemes. So I don’t think he will hurt anyone unless they deserve it.

7. Does Locke Lamora or the Thorn of Camorr enter Meraggio’s Countinghouse that day? Is there a difference?
I don’t think there is a difference between the two. Both the actions of lying and conning are so ingrained in Locke that he can’t simply just be himself. The Thorn of Camorr will always live on in Locke.

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 3

It’s time for another The Lies of Locke Lamora read along. This week’s questions come from Bryce at My Awful Reviews. Once again you can find other people’s answer over at the Little Red Reviewer.

1. This section is where we finally get to sneak a peek at the magic in The Gentleman Bastards books. From what we read, what are your initial impressions of the magic Lynch is using? Is there any way that Locke and Company would be able to get around the Bondsmage’s powers?
I like it that magic isn’t that common in this world and it actually costs an arm and a leg just to even hire someone who can casts spells. I’ve read too many stories that are spoiled by way too powerful magic. This means that Locke and Co. have to rely on their wit to overcome the challenge that is the Bondsmage.

2. Not a question, but an area for rampant speculation: If you want to take a stab at who you think the Grey King might be, feel free to do it here.
At first I thought it could be Jean because his background is a mystery. Maybe he became an orphan because of the Capa and now poses as the Grey King to get his revenge. Then I thought maybe it’s Chains, he did say he wants to disrupt the Secret Peace. Where is he now anyway? We never know what happened to him in the story.

2.5 (since 2 wasn’t really a question) Anyone see the Nazca thing coming? Anyone? Do you think there are more crazy turns like this in store for the book? Would you like to speculate about them here? (yes, yes you would)
I didn’t see the Nazca thing coming at all. I think Lynch sucker punched me with the idea of a wedding between Locker and her. Since I’ve finished the book already, let’s just say I never expected what happens at the end of the book.

3. When Locke says “Nice bird, arsehole,” I lose it. EVERY TIME. And not just because I have the UK version of the book and the word arsehole is funnier than asshole. Have there been any other places in the books so far where you found yourself laughing out loud, or giggling like a crazy person on the subway?
I don’t remember laughing out loud but I do recall there were plenty of places that I thought were awesome. (Is it wrong that I love a particular scene with Locke and the Falconer which appears later on in the book?) I also really like the exchanges between Locke, Falconer and the Grey King. This definitely one of my favourites because Locke just wouldn’t take shit from them no matter what.

4. By the end of this reading section, have your opinions changed about how clever the Bastards are? Do you still feel like they’re “cleverer than all the rest?” Or have they been decidedly outplayed by the Grey King and his Bondsmage?
I still think they are clever but definitely not as smart as the Grey King who played them like a pawn. It was obvious that the Grey King never intended them to get out alive. I thought that Locke would have a better contigency plan before going to meet the Capa.

5. I imagine that you’ve probably read ahead, since this was a huge cliffhanger of an ending for the “present” storyline, but I’ll ask this anyway: Where do you see the story going from here, now that the Grey King is thought to be dead?
Now that the Grey King is dead, Capa Barsavi will think he got his revenge and begin to relax… Can’t say much more since I know what happens but what came afterwards didn’t surprise me.

6. What do you think of the characters Scott Lynch has given us so far? Are they believable? Real? Fleshed out? If not, what are they lacking?
I’m really loving the characters so far. Locke is maybe too good at what he does but it doesn’t mean he is invincible. Scott Lynch shows that nothing is safe even if your character has talent.

7. Now that you’ve seen how clever Chains is about his “apprenticeships,” why do you think he’s doing all of this? Does he have an endgame in sight? Is there a goal he wants them to achieve, or is it something more emotional like revenge?
Chains wants to use the Gentleman Bastards to destroy the Secret Peace but why does he hate it so much? He’s training the boys to be well-versed in high society, so he must be planning something to get back at the nobles. Exactly what Chains is planning though, I’m not too sure.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy – from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to steal their thoughts, to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of the Moving Cities of Mars. Except that Jean made one mistake. Now he is condemned to play endless variations of a game-theoretic riddle in the vast virtual jail of the Axelrod Archons – the Dilemma Prison – against countless copies of himself. Jean’s routine of death, defection and cooperation is upset by the arrival of Mieli and her spidership, Perhonen. She offers him a chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self – in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed…

The Quantum Thief is a hard SciFi novel that has received plenty of praise and has been on my radar for quite some time now. So I immediately jumped to it when Fantasy Faction chose this book as its March book club read.

Now having finished reading this, I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand this book is packed with some brilliant ideas that can fill many books on what future could hold for humankind. What if we are no longer bound by our mortal bodies and that we can simply live forever by uploading our minds and spreading our consciousness across the galaxy? What if we can share our memories and our most intimate information with others as simply as sending an instant message?

However on the other hand, I felt these ideas are wrapped in what is essentially a weak story, one where I never cared about the characters at all. At certain points, the book has the reader buried in so many unfamiliar concepts and terminologies that makes identifying with the characters less of a concern. Maybe the author wanted to keep the story short and snappy and decided to sacrifice depth for a fast-moving pace?

The problem is that the story doesn’t guide you by the hand but rather expect you to figure out everything by yourself. I come from a science background so the concepts weren’t that hard for me to figure out but at times you just feel so overwhelmed and lost that you want to give up. Luckily there is also a glossary available on Wikipedia. Even with the glossary at hand, I didn’t have much idea of what was happening in the story until I was in the final chapters when everything finally clicked and realised what a clever ending this is. I felt my “Eureka” moment came too late and spoiled my enjoyment of the story.

This is a book that will definitely benefit from rereading. By the second or third time, you will already be familiar enough with the concepts and can just focus tackling the story. I will let you know if my opinion changes if I ever decide to reread this book.

The Quantum Thief is a book full of potential but not quite getting there yet. Let’s see how the sequel,The Fractal Prince will do when it comes out in September.

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 7

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 2

This is the second week into the Lies of Locke Lamora read along and this week’s questions were supplied by Susan at Dark Cargo. Click here, if you missed my responses for week one’s questions andhere to see what other people has answered for week two.

1. Do you think Locke can pull off his scheme of playing a Midnighter who is working with Don Salvara to capture the Thorn of Camorr? I mean, he is now playing two roles in this game – and thank goodness for that costume room the Gentlemen Bastards have!
When I found out Locke is also the Midnighter I thought how is this con going to work? Then I realised that the Midnighter role gives him a way out of the situation he set up. But why does it have to be so elaborate and complicated? I think it’s because Locke is cocky and in order to look for some excitement and challenges, he has to create these handicaps for himself in the games he plays.

Since we’re only at around the half-way point of the book, it’s obvious that something’s bound to happen to make it difficult for Locke to pull off the con.

2. Are you digging the detail the author has put into the alcoholic drinks in this story?
The Austershalin brandy sounds so good. An alcoholic drink that gives you all the benefits of getting drunk but without the hangover‽ Sign me up! Now where can I find a bottle of 502?

3. Who is this mysterious lady Gentlemen Bastard Sabetha and what does she mean to Locke?
Actually I really want to know more about this mysterious Sabetha. From the dialogue it’s obvious that Sabetha is the one that got away but who is she? And at what point in Locke’s life did he meet her?

4. Are you as creeped out over the use of Wraithstone to create Gentled animals as I am?
Yeah I was a little taken aback by the usage of Wraithstone. I admit the thought of creating Gentled animals is tempting but it’s not necessary. If we can’t tame them by normal means then what right do we have to force them into a life of servitude? It will be a complete disaster if Wraithstone ever falls into the wrong hands and used for nefarious purposes.

5. I got a kick out of child Locke’s first meeting with Capa Barsavi and his daughter Nazca, which was shortly followed up in the story by Barsavi granting adult Locke permission to court his daughter! Where do you think that will lead? Can you see these two together?
I think Nazca has a crush on Locke but his heart will forever be with someone else. The marriage is just going to be a marriage of convenience, something to keep the Capa happy and take his mind off other things.

I think both of them can work well together if they marry. Locke has the brains and Nazca has the authority. However this can only work if Locke lets Nazca into his little secret about the Gentleman Bastards’ real job.

6. Capa Barsavi is freaked out over rumors of The Gray King and, in fact, us readers are privy to a gruesome torture scene. The Gray King is knocking garristas off left and right. What do you think that means?
Oh is he known as the “Gray King” in the US edition? I prefer to call him the Grey King. Anyway I think Capa Barsavi has gotten too old and not as powerful as before. He has finally met his match in the Grey King and looks like he won’t be able to keep his reign over the city for much longer.

7. In the Interlude: The Boy Who Cried for a Corpse, we learn that Father Chains owes an alchemist a favor, and that favor is a fresh corpse. He sets the boys to figuring out how to provide one, and they can’t ‘create’ the corpse themselves. How did you like Locke’s solution to this conundrum?
I had something similar in mind when I first read about the task. If you can’t create a corpse then the most logical place to look for one is a place where they store dead people, like a morgue. Locke’s solution is pretty creative and shows just how convincing his lies can be.

It’s funny how Locke cannot resist complicating such a “simple” task with his over the top theatrics. Good thing that everything worked out according to his plans.

Giant Thief by David Tallerman

Even the wicked can’t rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland. Damasco might get away in one piece, but he’s going to need help.

Big time.

I’ve been reading a lot of books on thieves lately and each author manage to bring something different with their creation. Giant Thief is a fun and humorous take on this trend, and on many ways it succeeds. In this book we have a thief who has the charisma to charm his way out of any situation, and there are plenty of scenes where Easie Damasco uses his wit to weasel his way out of the direst confrontations. However its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness for me. At no point I felt that Easie is in any danger because I know that he will always get out of him. In fact he made it through the story pretty much unharmed.

Another weak point is that the story can be considered as one long chase sequence and after a while you just get tired of all the running. Since most of the book is filled with action and running, very little space is left for world building. Due to this, the world just failed to make an impression on me. The setting feels very much like a generic version of a medieval fantasy land with the usual nobles and peasants that inhabit it. For an imprint that is known for its genre-bending stories, Giant Thief feels a little too linear and ordinary.

As for the characters, I never liked Easie as the protagonist but maybe that’s the point. He is a typical selfish egotistical thief who has tremendous confidence in himself and the only person he cares about is himself. There is nothing wrong with that but I just find it harder to get into a story when I can’t emphasise with the lead.

There are a few other important characters in the book but they too failed to make an impact on me. Moaradrid is supposed to be the villain of the story but at no point was the reader made clear on his motivation for his actions and we just have to trust that he is the bad guy. Marina Estrada, the mayor of Muena Palaiya is a fierce woman and the source of her town’s strength against the invasion. Here’s an interesting character that I wanted to get into but feel that the part wasn’t as fleshed out as I hoped.

I think one thing that all readers would agree on is how adorable the stolen giant Saltlick is. Most of the time the giant just bumbles along and acts as the butt end of the jokes. As the story goes on we realise that he may not be as dumb as we think and that there is real intelligence behind those dopey eyes. Saltlick may seem simple but at least he knows what his values are and what he needs to do to keep them intact. For me, Saltlick is the real undeniable hero of the book. It would be a shame if he doesn’t feature in the sequel book titled Crown Thief.

Even though I didn’t enjoy the protagonist that much, I still had a good time reading the book. Giant Thiefis one of those books that is a bit of a laugh and is interesting enough to keep your turning the pages. It is a fun adventure that you can relax and escape to during your downtime.

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 6

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 1

This is my first time joining a read along and what better book to start with than The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch? This read along is hosted by a bunch of great people and week one is led by Andrea at The Little Red Reviewer.

1. If this is your first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, what do you think of it so far? If this is a re-read for you, how does the book stand up to rereading?
This is my first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and I just finished it today. It was a fantastic read, full of action and drama. I can really see why so many people love this book and I will definitely be reading the sequel.
What I love: The cons that Locke pulls off. He can just go into any situation and start spilling out crap and people would believe him.

What I dislike: I don’t really have anything that I dislike in the book. If I have to nit-pick, then maybe Locke is too good at the things he can do.

2. At last count, I found three time lines: Locke as a 20-something adult, Locke meeting Father Chains for the first time, and Locke as a younger child in Shades Hill. How are you doing with the Flashback within a flashback style of introducing characters and the world?
I don’t mind the flashbacks because most of the TV shows that I’m following use this style of storytelling. It’s actually a refreshing change from the linear style that I’ve been reading a lot of lately. I like how Lynch actually uses the flashbacks to introduce to the reader how and why the Gentleman Bastards are so good at what they do.

3. Speaking of the world, what do you think of Camorr and Lynch’s world building?
Loved it. The world reminds me of the Age of Discovery, a rich period of history when European countries are busy exploring the world and bringing back all kinds of treasures to their bustling ports. A very exciting time indeed!

4. Father Chains and the death offering… quite the code of honor for thieves, isn’t it? What kind of person do you think Chains is going to mold Locke into?
I know how things turn out to be but I did make notes of the beginning of the book to the chapter Locke stays for dinner. From my notes, I would say that Chains will drill Locke to leverage his talents but at the same time make him respect the honour among thieves. Chains will make sure Locke know that everything has a consequence and that he can’t be as reckless as before.

5. It’s been a while since I read this, and I’d forgotten how much of the beginning of the book is pure set up, for the characters, the plot, and the world. Generally speaking, do you prefer set up and world building done this way, or do you prefer to be thrown into the deep end with what’s happening?
Either is fine with me. With a gradual build up I can enjoy the characters and settings more, whereas starting with the deep end then I can get right into the action.

6. If you’ve already started attempting to pick the pockets of your family members (or even thought about it!) raise your hand.
This isn’t something that I will try because I know I don’t have the skills or subtlety to do it.

So that’s it for my responses. Do visit The Little Red Reviewer to see what the other fine folks answered.

Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick

Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick

Drothe has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers in the employ of a crime lord while smuggling relics on the side. But when an ancient book falls into his hands, Drothe finds himself in possession of a relic capable of bringing down emperors-a relic everyone in the underworld would kill to obtain.
I’ve been reading a lot of great debuts lately and Among Thieves is definitely one of the top ones. Hulick applies his love of fencing and medieval history to create a convincing criminal underworld filled with rich history, action and excitement.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Drothe – a nose, a person responsible for sniffing out information for the crime boss. What started out as a simple job to find the missing Imperial relic quickly spiralled out of control, as Drothe finds himself caught in an all-out gang war backed by the mysterious Gray Princes and a plot that will destory everthing around him. Now Drothe and his sworn partner Degan must do everything they can to correct the mess in the criminal infested cordon known as Ten Ways.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a story told from the first person and it took a little while to get used to. However within the next few chapters I already found myself loving Drothe’s voice and completely immersed in the world Hulick created. I couldn’t put this book down even though I was supposed to read this over a period of a month for the Fantasy Faction bookclub.

There really isn’t anything bad I can say about this book. The story is fast paced and full of energy, as evident in the wild chases across Ten Ways and the thrilling fight scenes. The interaction between Drothe and Degan gives us more insight into why Drothe is the way he is and greatly adds to the story. Also the relationship Drothe has with his sister serves as the much needed comic relief in this otherwise action orientated book.

I personally think that there is much more to the Gray Princes than what Hulick has already told us in the book and I really can’t wait to be proved right or wrong in my theories.

This is a strong and well-rounded debut with everything that you would look for in an action-packed fantasy story. Look forward to the sequel, Sworn in Steel out in April 2012.