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Red Seas Under Red Skies    by Scott Lynch order for
Red Seas Under Red Skies
by Scott Lynch
Order:  USA  Can
Orion, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Red Seas Under Red Skies follows The Lies of Locke Lamora as the second in a stunning new fantasy series starring adventurers addicted to the big con. In the first episode in the city of Camorr, Locke led his Gentleman Bastards in a scam aimed at a powerful noble. At the same time, the unkillable Gray King, with the help of a Bondsmage, plotted his own takeover. The violence that followed tore apart the Gentleman Bastards, and though Locke made an incredible death offering 'in blood and gold and fire' for those who were lost, he was left devastated, badly wounded, and feeling terribly responsible.

As the first book closed, Locke and the other wounded survivor, mathematician/brawler Jean Tannen, sailed unsteadily into the sunset. We now learn that - after Jean took extreme measures to explode Locke out of his depression and self pity - they wended their way to Tal Verrar, planning the biggest sting of all against Requin, owner of the Sinspire, 'the most exclusive, most notorious and most heavily guarded chance-house in the world'. Locke informed Requin that he and Jean had been hired to pillage the Sinspire's heavily guarded vaults, but that he, Locke, wanted revenge against his partner, and to turn his coat and work for Requin.

Just as this ploy gets going, the connivers are arrested by the Archon of Tal Verrar. He poisons them, offering the antidote as a carrot to force them to do his bidding, which involves taking to sea as pirates and raiding shipping to shift the balance of power in the city away from the Priori councils and back in the Archon's favor. When Requin finds out that they've met with the Archon, Locke names the tyrant as their original employer. And as if all this were not complicated enough, the Bondsmagi are still casually sending assassins and toying with them at a distance. Locke's own comment on their situation is that 'We're becoming quite accustomed to being led around by our noses in the dark.'

Posing as a pirate captain on the Sea of Brass is not a huge success for Locke. However, after a mutiny, they join female pirate Captain Drakasha and feisty Lieutenant Delmastro, who takes a shine to Jean that he returns with interest. The clock's ticking and they need the antidote to the Archon's poison, as well as a longer term solution. It's quite a conundrum for Locke and Jean, but readers root for them to find a way out of their latest difficulties. Does Locke rise to the occasion this time? Read Red Seas Under Red Skies and you'll find out - it ends on another cliffhanger that leaves me anxious for the next episode in this brilliant Gentleman Bastard sequence.

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