We waited quite a while for Scott Lynch's "The Republic of Thieves" ($28, Del Rey), but the wait was definitely worth it.
After being blown away by Lynch's debut novel, "The Lies of Locke Lamora," I was a bit disappointed in the follow-up, "Red Seas Under Red Skies," but the third installment in the tales of Locke Lamora is the equal of the debut.
As the story opens, Locke lies on his deathbed, having been poisoned while his loyal friend Jean Tannen makes ever attempt to save him. Jean has brought a string of physicians and charlatans through the door in a desperate attempt to cure his friend, but they've all delivered the same news -- Locke is going to die.
It's just a matter of days, or possibly even hours, when salvation comes from a very unlikely source -- the Bondsmagi of Karthain. Jean and Locke are visited by Archedama Patience, who tells them she can remove the poison from Locke's body in return for their service. Locke is understandably reluctant considering his past experience with the Bondsmagi, but Jean convinces him he has nothing to lose.
Patience wants the pair to return to Karthain with her, where it's time for an election that's held every five years for the entertainment of the Bondsmagi. Locke and Jean are to back the Deep Roots party and throw all of their skills as con artists and thieves into winning. Sounds easy enough for our favorite scoundrels ... except for that little matter of their opponent.
What follows is a rollicking good time along the order of the adventure found in "The Lies of Locke Lamora." Locke is just as quick-witted and sly as ever he was, and his opponent here is every bit his equal, which makes for some fantastic fun.
Much like the first book in the series, "The Republic of Thieves" uses a dual-story format to reveal more about Locke's past. Alongside the story of the five-year contest, we have a connected flashback tale that continues to give the reader insight to Locke's character and his unusual relationship with his opponent in the contest. Lynch weaves the two together well, so that there's no disconnect as you switch between them.
I also have to mention a bit of, shall we say, philosophy found in this book that I found both humorous and, perhaps, one of the best descriptions of life that I've ever read. It's in a discussion that Locke is having with his opponent: "He said life boils down to standing in line to get shit dropped on your head. Everyone's got a place in the queue, you can't get out of it, and just when you start to congratulate yourself on surviving your dose of shit, you discover that the line is actually circular."
Isn't it just?
As always, Lynch's characters, even the minor ones, are intriguing, and Locke's capers incredibly entertaining. There were several nights in my reading of this book (which was admittedly prolonged by my work schedule) where I came home miserable and in a foul mood from work, and within a few pages I was lost in the world of Locke and his friends, leaving all that behind and just enjoying the adventure. That, to me, is the sign of a great book.
The world that Lynch has created and is slowly unfolding is also captivating. There are still a great many mysteries, but the surroundings are as much a character in the story as any of the people and I can't wait to uncover some more of its secrets.
"The Republic of Thieves" returns the series to everything that I loved about "The Lies of Locke Lamora," and I wish that I had the next volume in front of me right now. Here's hoping that it won't be another six-year wait.