Week 1: Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along
Ever wanted to be a pirate? Long hours, hard work, certain peril, possibilities of swashbuckling and seasickness. Don’t forget to bring a kitten. It’s not Locke Lamora’s idea of a career move, but after a promising start the Gentleman Bastards find themselves out of their depth in Tal Verrar. Can Locke and Jean outwit the Archon, the Bondsmagi, the master of the Sinspire and all the pirates on the Sea of Brass?
- 5th May Chapters 1-3 hosted at x+1
- 12th May Chapters 4-6 hosted at x+1
- 19th May Chapters 7-10 hosted at The Illustrated Page
- 26th May Chapters 11-13 hosted at x+1
- 2nd Jun Book 3 & Epilogue hosted at x+1
1) “Jean, I would describe this turn of events as less than helpful.”
We get off to an unexpected start, jumping straight into the middle of – well, what? We’re in Tal Verrar and the wheels appear to have come off. In the subsequent chapters, there’s a lot of focus on Locke and Jean’s friendship and devotion to one another. Do you think Jean has really turned against Locke?
Wendy: There are several moments that seem to imply this to be true, but those are balanced by moments of their utter devotion to each other through thick and thin, piled on top of everything we learned in the previous book. There’s nothing that makes me believe that Jean’s betrayal isn’t simply a ruse within their greater plans, especially since Locke’s talk with Requin indicated plans to cut “Jerome” out of the deal. When Jean switches sides in the opening showdown in the prologue, it felt to me like Jean was doing what he needed to to get the upper hand in situation where it could easily have gone south with the twitch of a finger. Jean getting himself on the other side of the crossbow just makes sense.
Tiara: The thing about friendship, true friendship, is that there should be honesty and loyalty. It doesn’t mean you allow your friends to get away with things or ignore issues that could hurt a friend more than help them by whistling past the graveyard. It doesn’t mean that sometimes you don’t show fear or uncertainty in the relationship. There have been some turbulent, trying times in Jean and Locke’s relationship after the death of their friends, but I don’t believe that Jean betrayed Locke even in the face of all that’s happened.
I noticed that the readers never get to “hear” Locke’s plan for their long-term swindle other than knowing it will involve aliases and the Sunspire. We’re only told that Jean thinks it’s crazy enough to work which leads me to believe this is part of their plan. It certainly fits their usual MO. However, on the slim chance it’s legitimate, I can’t allow myself to believe that Jean doesn’t have some scheme he kept to himself that will benefit them in the end.
2) “I am an honest working thief and I’ll do what I have to to keep a table set and a roof over our heads!”
This time, the interludes are flashbacks to what the Bastards have been up to for the past two years. How did you feel about Locke’s depression – and Jean’s responses?
Wendy: Depression can hit hard and hit differently for each of us. Locke’s self-loathing was completely justified and understandable, as was Jean’s response to it. Locke is quite self-centered in many ways and his ego has shaped the Bastards’ paths. But what good does it serve either the living Bastards or the dead ones to continue wallowing in it? Jean’s treatment of him was harsh, but credit to him for understanding his friend well enough to know the key to getting Locke back on his feet after giving him time. Jean’s kick in Locke’s pants was, as I said, harsh, but I don’t for a second believe that it doesn’t come from a place of love and loyalty for his friend and for the friends they lost.
Tiara: Locke’s depression was a sad thing, especially given how confident he was during much of the previous book. So often in SFF books we’re used to our heroes bouncing back ferociously instead of being allowed the humanity of really crumbling under the weight of their emotions. Locke’s depression goes to show that even the most “put together” person (or as put together as a person like Locke can be) can crumble completely in some circumstances, and he had every right to be this way.
However, don’t think I didn’t understand Jean’s frustration at the situation or the wondering to himself how he was going to “fix” Locke. And I don’t mean “frustration” as in Jean isn’t being sympathetic toward Locke. It’s more like a personalized frustration at not wanting the person you care about to wallow in grief and being uncertain what to do about them which in turn can lead to anger toward the person. See, I’m much like Jean in this situation. If something happens, my instinct is to get off my ass and see what I can make happen to mitigate the damage and get back on the right path. That’s not to say I don’t feel the weight of what’s happening or that I’m trying to ignore it, but I can’t just sit there and do nothing in the situation.
Doing nothing can make people like me feel helpless in such situations, and I think that’s the kind of person Jean is. Damage control even in the face of grim possibilities and odds. Some people are just doers in these situations. People like that are also known for being mother hens toward loved ones who may not be so proactive and they tend to expend a lot of energy trying to make sure they (their loved ones) are okay as well in the situation as evidenced with Locke and Jean. We feel it’s our duty to our loved ones to see them through this. Sometimes it’s by being compassionate and strong and sometimes it’s through tough love.
3) “It is possible,” said Locke with a sheepish grin, “that I have been slightly too bold.”
The Requin game is worth more than the Bastards entire lost fortune in Camorr (and Locke gives us a little insight into what it means in real terms). His reputation is ominous. Given everything we learn about Requin, is Locke over-reaching himself?
Wendy: I want to say yes. That’s a pretty big score and though they are working it over a long period of time, it’s more than necessary. But Locke always has something to prove to himself. Go big or go home. But I’d be far more concerned if this had come about in a brief period of time. A two year con means Locke is back in true form.
Tiara: When you’re a thief, there’s always some calculated risk involved regardless of how big or small the score is, IMO. It may end up being easier to get in that fortified vault than stealing bread from a beggar off the street depending on what variables end up being thrown into either circumstance. More preparation and planning would go into the bigger score, and you’d likely consider more ways of that going wrong than just snatching a piece of bread from a beggar (who could turn out to be One Punch Man and then, you’re in trouble). I think big or small, though, thieves probably way their risks, and it’s not always just about the score but the rush of overcoming a difficult challenge.
I don’t necessarily think he is over-reaching, but it’s an ambitious task for Jean and Locke. Right now, Requin doesn’t strike me as any more or any less ominous than Capa Barsavi was in the last book, and we see how that turned out. Locke has experience dealing with these types. He was just fortunate he was on the right side of Barsavi’s wrath than he is with Requin right now. He did get the man to actually listen to him and let him go. I know we get a rousing story about the mayhem he caused while trying to find an assassin, but I think Barsarvi could (and probably had) caused an equal amount of chaos if we’d heard more stories of his exploits. You don’t get to rule a city without doing many, many dangerous things. Requin’s one up on Barsavi seems to be his cruelty where Barsavi was more calculated. My opinion on Requin’s threat level could change with future readings, though.
4) “It’ll be good to be the predators again.”
[I guess Maxilan Stragos and the Bondsmagi are front of the queue to disagree with Jean (even if you don’t think Requin is more dangerous than a half-starved, blood-crazed wolf shark). And is it just me, or does Tal Verrar feel even more intense than Camorr? Even if the average bod on the street seems less knife-happy, a lot of the buildings seem to be designed to intimidate and/or murder you. How are you liking the new setting?
Wendy: The danger in Camorr seemed more overt. We were introduced to the deadly gangs and the Capa first and given the sense that betrayal of the Secret Peace could easily bring about death. But Tal Verrar is more cold and calculating than it is outright brutal, it seems. Definitely more intimidating.
Tiara: I think both Camorr and Tal Verrar’s elite try to keep up some pretense about their city, but Camorr seems to revel in their brutality more than Tal Verrar does. Tal Verrar seems geared more toward subterfuge and controlled violence. There are no nobles foaming at the mouth for blood in the water like in Camorr. The organized crime in the city seems to be ruled more by the upper class than those living at the bottom of the barrel, and punishment seems to be doled out not just based on physical brutality but for psychological effect as well (such as forcing grave robbers to be locked in steel masks and armor to protect the graves they tried to rob).
It’s like The Warriors versus The Godfather with the two cities. Mess versus Finesse. Tal Verrar is the kind of city where a priest could be the assassin you’re fearing. You’d never see him strike before he blended back in with the others much like in Assassin’s Creed. It seems like the type of place that would leave a person in dread, anticipating some bad thing, which can be worst than knowing what waits for you. The city seems to reflect the elegant danger that the people who run it seem to emanate. I think this setting will provide a welcomed contrast to Camorr.
Wendy: Jean setting himself up as “Capa” to the local kid gangs. He was ruthless and productive, but they were still kids and Locke’s accusation of him trying to be a new Father Chains was apt. And yet, this was a passing moment in the lives of the Gentleman Bastards. When it’s time to move on, it’s time to move on (though, experience in this series points to the fact that nothing that occurs in flashbacks, interludes, or, well, ever, is to be forgotten. We could see the Brass Cove again…)
Tiara: Locke arguing with Jean about his romance novels. It has such a familial familiarity that I’m all too familiar with because it reminds me of loving arguments my husband and I have about our book interests. My husband doesn’t read as much as I do, but my dear husband, who tends to strike people as an intimidating bear of a man, would be right at home reading Jean’s romance novels. I’m a sucker for a romance, too, but my husband has read stuff I wouldn’t dare touch. LOL.
Tiara: The Bondsmagi showed up pretty early in this book–earlier than I thought they would. I expected them to come into play in this book, but thought that we would get more of a buildup and things would begin to focus in more on the conflict between the Bastards and the Bondsmagi (that sounds like a title for a fantasy romance–The Bastard and the Bondsmage, better that Fifty Shades of Gray). However, based on what I’ve read now, I think this is a significant problem that’s not going to be tied up in one book, which I can appreciate as well. They took on the threat of being mortal enemies with the Bondsmagi, and it wouldn’t feel right for it to wrap up so neatly in one book, especially factoring in the Bondsmagi’s power and influence. I feel like this issue with the Bondsmagi is going to continue to follow them into the next book and maybe even the fourth book.
There’s also this nagging feeling I have about the Bondsmagi and Locke himself. The last book made sure to keep it fresh in our minds that Locke’s heritage is secret. If the Bondsmagi do continue to play a significant role in these stories, even from the background as I think they will, then what are the chances that Locke’s story will somehow entwine with the Bondsmagi? That would be exciting!